The University of Utah blew a 21-0 lead against Washington State. The play-calling in the second half was devoid of imagination as the Utes tried not to lose the game.
By Rich Winter
Well, the Utes had another Pac-12 opener and the Utes have another Pac-12 opening loss as Washington State came from behind to win the game 28-27 after the Utes had opened up a 21-0 lead after a masterful first quarter.
There seems to be some discussion floating about the local newspapers and the morning talk-radio shows today about whether the Utes made the right call late in the game to not go for it on 4th and inches and instead punt the ball away to a red-hot Washington State offense that had been ripping Utah in the second half.
Salt Lake Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe offered these words in this morning's column.
"The Utes’ troubles, however, were not attributable to coach Kyle Whittingham or offensive coordinator Dave Christensen being too conservative. Nobody can say Utah played not to lose, in other words. The Utes just didn’t play well — which is the coaches’ fault, but game management was not the problem."
I live in Salt Lake City where all of the local sports people never tell it like it is. Seems like everyone is trying to play nice so that someone isn't offended by the cold harsh reality of the absolute truth.
The Utes, after racking up 21 points in the first quarter, got conservative in the second half and it cost them. It may cost them a bowl game or any measure of Pac-12 respect because you can't contend for squat when you lose to Washington State at home.
"No one can say they played not to lose"
In that fourth quarter as Washington State was starting to get uncorked offensively, the Utes put together two crappy 3-and-out drives. They were mirror images of each other.
Run middle - Nothing
Short pass complete but short of the first down
Run middle - nothing
Who does that besides Norv Turner in the NFL?
Everyone is saying the punt was the right call.
It might have been if you were facing New Mexico or Colorado State back in the Mtn. West conference days.
You're playing with the big boys now Utah and it's time to stop playing conservative football and get after people.
When you're facing a red-hot offensive team with a QB that can light you up, you keep him off the field. I'm sorry but that play-calling reeked of conservative, let's not lose the game type stuff.
When you have 4th and inches at the opposing team's 44 and your defense is gassed and you have red hot QB just waiting to get in the game for a come-from-behind road win, you don't punt.
What you're really saying to your offense in that 4th-and-inches situation is 'We don't trust you and you're not good enough to get the six inches that we need to grind out this game and get a win.'
You had a running back in Devontae Booker that was 24-182 and you didn't think he could get you six inches?
I get that Kyle Wittingham is a defensive coach and I get that a lot of his experience has been in dominating the old Mtn. West with good defense and smart, low-risk football.
This is not the Mtn. West and on a weekly basis you're going to face teams that can chuck it and get it done in a hurry. See Washington State's 4-play, 92-yard drive that took just 1:23 off the clock.
What the Utes needed in that second half was a little Urban Meyer trickery.
Ya can't win the Pac-12 or be competitive if you're always vanilla on offense.
I so want to get behind this Utes team as they make the transition from Mtn. West to Pac-12 to Pac-12 elite but it's so damn frustrating to give a home game away like this that the Utes had no business losing.
This isn't the Mtn. West and it's time the whole Utah football program puts on their big-boy britches and starts acting like they belong in this league.
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