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Utah’s Pac-12 South Hopes take a Big Hit with a 38-20 Loss at Arizona State

NCAA Football: Utah at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 15 Utah Utes (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12) came into November looking like the clear frontrunners in the Pac-12 South, but they no longer control their own destiny with a 38-20 loss at the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12). The loss gets even worse, early reports are that quarterback Tyler Huntley is done for the year with a broken left collarbone after leaving the game in the second half.

I went on for over 2,000 words why this November would be different, but this represents yet another frustrating November loss for the Utes with another huge injury that changes the trajectory of the season. If Huntley cannot go down the stretch, Utah will be forced to play freshman Jason Shelley, who struggled to move the ball after in came in in relief for the injured Huntley.

The Utah defense gave up 536 yards to ASU (only Oregon State gave up more). The defense had no answers for wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who set a career-high with three touchdown catches. Harry hauled in nine total passes for 161 yards. The Utah rushing defense that had been stout all year was torn up by running back Eno Benjamin, who had 175 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

This game started off weird with a questionable targeting call that came on a third and long. Instead of a field goal attempt, Arizona State scored a touchdown to go up 7-0. Utah moved the ball on their first drive and should have had first and goal at the one (or a touchdown) but Jaylen Dixon could not make the catch, and Arizona State intercepted the ball and ran it back to almost midfield and again scored a touchdown to go up 14-0. This weird stretch could have easily seen Utah up 7-3 instead of being down 14-0, but it just seems like Utah + November + the state of Arizona = weird results. Utah would score 17 unanswered points to go up 17-14, but ASU would get a touchdown and go into halftime up 21-17. The teams would trade interceptions and punts to start the second half, but Huntley going down really hurt the offense. Shelley did finish his first drive admirably, leading Utah to a field goal to go down by just one 21-20. However, after that, the Arizona State offense took over, scoring 17 unanswered to finish the game. Utah’s defense played poorly, but the lack of offensive production down the stretch certainly did not help.

Zack Moss rushed for 128 yards on only 18 carries. Many will question why Moss did not see the ball more, especially after Shelley came in (he had only 10 carries in the first half and only eight in the second half). The ASU defense loaded up to stop the run when Huntley went down, and receivers were getting open, the quarterbacks either struggled to throw the ball to them accurately or the receivers struggled to haul in the catches. This loss really stings because of the loss of Huntley and the damage it does to Utah’s Pac-12 South hopes. ASU deserves a lot of credit, they played really well, but this is not the same Utah team we saw in October that was ferocious on defense and unstoppable on offense.