Big plays doom Ute defense in loss to Arizona

first_img Coach Whit says Utes didn’t coach or play well in lopsided loss to Arizona Sunday morning QB: Stars and stats from No. 17 Utah’s blowout loss to No. 15 Arizona Related When it rains, it pours: Utes get washed away by Arizona Doesn’t matter, next man up. It was no factor. – Kyle WhittinghamSALT LAKE CITY — All year long, the Utah defense has bailed out the often-anemic Ute offense, which has led to several close victories.The Ute offense struggled yet again Saturday against Arizona, but the dam finally broke on the Ute defense as it gave up a season-high 520 yards, including five plays that went 33 yards or longer, accounting for nearly half of the Wildcats’ total offense.“We gave up too many big plays,’’ said safety Brian Blechen. “We made it too easy on them by blowing a coverage or missing a gap. That just gives them confidence to get rolling. Too many times we were shooting ourselves in the foot.’’Coach Kyle Whittingham agreed that the Ute defense came up short against the Wildcats, particularly against the run, where the Utes allowed 298 yards, including 220 by Nick Wilson.“In the running game we were soft on defense,’’ said Whittingham. “They’ve got a good scheme. We got reached on the edge three or four times, didn’t play that very well. They’re a good offense, but we didn’t play very well on defense either.’’The Arizona big plays included a 51-yard pass from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill in the first quarter; a 49-yard pass from Solomon to Trey Griffey and a 33-yard run by Wilson in the second quarter; a 43-yard pass to Samajie Grant in the third quarter; and a 75-yard run by Wilson in the fourth quarter.When asked what the problem with the Ute defense was, Blechen said, “I don’t know what it was exactly. They were finding ways to crease us. Usually the box is solid with our D-line and linebackers and tonight they did a good job and when we gave them lanes, they capitalized on it and ran hard.”NEXT MAN UP: The Utes were missing one of their better defensive players, middle linebacker Gionni Paul, who is out for the season with a foot injury. But Whittingham wouldn’t use that as an excuse.“Doesn’t matter, next man up,’’ he said. “It was no factor.’’With Paul out, the Utes started Jason Fanaika at the middle linebacker spot and also played Jason Whittingham, who has been out for eight games with an injury. Fanaika was second on the team with nine tackles, behind Jared Norris who had 11.WET WEATHER: All week long the expected bad weather was a topic of conversation in Utah and Arizona.After a steady downpour in the morning, it was dry for the start of the game before the rain came down hard in the second quarter. After another brief respite, the rain came back in the third quarter and continued throughout the rest of the game.“I think both teams played in the same weather,” said Ute tight end Westlee Tonga. “It’s not like they’re in a different stadium or anything. It’s just something you have to deal with.’’Perhaps the play where the weather had the biggest effect was the first play of the fourth quarter when the Utes were at the Arizona 28-yard line on third-and-3, trailing 21-10. The next snap went through quarterback Travis Wilson’s hands, resulting in a 7-yard loss and taking the Utes out of field goal range.“It was my fault and I should have had better focus and done my part better,’’ Wilson said.UTE NOTES: With the loss, the Utes ended the season 3-3 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. … Saturday’s margin of 32 points was more than the total in the Utes’ other three losses this year. … Representatives from the Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl were on hand for Saturday’s game. … With his 28-yard field goal in the third quarter, Andy Phillips improved to 20 of 24 on the season. He is two off the season record of Louie Sakoda, set in 2008. … Although there were a lot of empty seats because of the weather, the official attendance was 45,824, Utah’s 31st-straight sellout.last_img

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