Last week, Utah football coaches were mad at their offense, and the players were mad at themselves for losing at Fresno.
Today, after losing 20-19 to Southern Methodist University on Saturday at Rice Stadium to drop to .500 for the season and in the WAC, the Utes are probably feeling more despair than anger. Now they know there's something really wrong. Again.Kind of like at the end of last season, when they lost three out of four. Except that last season, the answer was probably more clear. The problems were leadership and selfishness on the part of a few individuals.
This team is not selfish, and it has players who try to lead, so the frustration is mounting.
"This is a very tough situation for all of us," said a dejected coach Ron McBride. "Generally speaking, in my career, if we lost a game, my teams have come back and found a way to win the following week.
"This is all pretty amazing to me."
McBride added: "But you've got no choice but to continue to fight back to what you believe in and find a way to go forward. You can't bury your head in the sand and say all your problems are going to go away, because they're not."
At 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the WAC, the Utes are most likely out of any postseason action already. "Unfortunately, that's how it feels," says redshirt freshman quarterback Darnell Arceneaux, who directed Utah's offense for the final three quarters Saturday after starter Jonathan Crosswhite struggled with two interceptions and several dropped passes.
Arceneaux tried to head off any controversy by saying Crosswhite is still the starter, an opinion supported by coaches, who on Monday named Crosswhite the starter for this week.
"Never count us out," Arceneaux warns. "This Utah team is strong. We're a family. We stick together. I think we're going to bounce back from these two losses.
"It's hard knowing you're not in position to win the WAC or go to a bowl game," he said. "It's hard to have any motivation to go out there. My motivation is, this Utah football team is my family, and I feel like I let them down. The next chance I get to play, I'm going to go all out again and redeem myself."
McBride likes guys who feel that way. "If you're a really good player, when you lose a game, you feel you're responsible. You feel you could have made a difference. That's the kind of guy you want directing your offense.
"You want guys who take it personally," McBride says.
After playing their last nonleague game this Saturday at 2 p.m. MDT at Oregon, which has lost three straight, the Utes hit the meat of their WAC schedule, finishing with New Mexico, Tulsa, Rice and BYU. Tulsa is winless, but the other three have better records than Utah.