by Daniel Olsen
The Utes started the season with a shaky 1-2 record. They were a couple of plays away from a 2-1 start, but weren’t able to get the win over the San Diego Aztecs in the 33-31 loss in triple overtime. What happened? It’s time to take a deep dive into some things the Utes struggled at that they can improve on in conference play.
The Offensive Line needs to step up
As noted by Hans Olsen in part of his excellent film review, the Utes haven’t been getting much protection on the offensive end. They let a Mountain West team in San Diego State beat them. This is the first loss to a Mountain West team since the Utes were in that same conference.
When the other team blitzes, the line needs to adjust and slide in the way of the defenders. Otherwise, it’s a free path to a sack. The Utes look a little green in the trenches. The good news for them is the rest of the PAC-12 South does too.
The team needs to rally around Cam Rising
With Charlie Brewer leaving the team, Cam Rising is the quarterback that breathed life back into the Utes last week. While they nearly got the win last week, the Utes can’t be satisfied with that. Impressive games only count if they result in a win.
In overtime, Rising did his job by scoring a touchdown. However, his kicker missed a clutch attempt on the next possession. Rising is a guy who was on the scout team last year. He is a player that the Ute players want to rally around. That can’t just be his receivers. The offensive line, running backs, receivers and defense all need to rally around him to turn the season around.
Think one step ahead
The Utes seemed to be playing checkers while their opponents have been playing chess. On this particular play, they tried a screen on third down. The Aztecs read it mid play and caused a fourth down.
It’s time for the Utes to get creative. They can’t let other teams read them like a book. This is the first time they have lost to a non-power team since their in-state rival Utah State beat them in overtime in 2012. The Utes haven’t lost a game in regulation to a non-power team since they were in the Mountain West.
If the Utes can get better offensive line and trust Rising to make difficult decisions then they will be successful. This will allow them to get creative with play action, option and other more complicated routes. They can’t just always run the ball over the throats of other teams. The Utes may be struggling, but they aren’t done making noise in football either.
Featured image courtesy Getty Images