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Utes look to fix errors, rebound from TCU loss

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson, left, scrambles past Texas Christian linebacker Robert Henson for a gain in the first quarter of Thursday's game in Fort Worth, Texas. The Utes lost, ending an 18-game win streak.
Utah quarterback Brian Johnson, left, scrambles past Texas Christian linebacker Robert Henson for a gain in the first quarter of Thursday's game in Fort Worth, Texas. The Utes lost, ending an 18-game win streak.
Donna McWilliam, Associated Press

FORT WORTH — For the first time in nearly 23 months, Utah walked off a football field without a victory. Thursday's 23-20 overtime setback at TCU snapped the Utes' 18-game winning streak.

"What we talked about in the locker room is how we'll handle this loss. We'll see where we head from here," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "How we handle this and how we rebound will be a big factor in how the rest of our season goes."

It's crucial, he added, while expressing the belief that no team in the Mountain West Conference will go undefeated this season.

"If we take care of our business, obviously, we'll still have a chance to win the conference," Whittingham said. "Our backs are against the wall, but we'll be ready to play next Thursday."

That's when the Utes (2-1, 0-1) play host to Air Force in an ESPN game at 5:30 p.m.

"We're going to watch film, correct our mistakes and come out next week with a vengeance," said safety Eric Weddle.

The two-time defending MWC champions are determined to win a third. It has and will continue to be their primary objective.

"There is a much more level playing field this year. There are some tough teams, and it's going to be a dogfight the rest of the season," said quarterback Brian Johnson. "It's going to be hard for anyone to go undefeated. We just have to keep preparing each and every week."

The Utes have plenty to work on after their subpar performance in the muggy Texas weather.

"It's a temporary setback, but we have to come back," quarterback Brian Johnson said while noting that the team's lengthy winning streak had to end sometime. "Now it's time to start another one. We have to bounce back from tough games like these."

TCU's defense put the clamps on Utah down the stretch — often rushing three defenders and dropping eight back. The Utes managed just four first downs in the second half while gaining only 66 yards passing and 61 rushing.

"They've got a good team. They beat Oklahoma and it wasn't a fluke," Johnson said. "They were a good cover team. They have one of the best defenses in the nation. They showed it tonight."

Until Dan Beardall's 34-yard field goal in overtime, Utah had not scored since a 1-yard touchdown run by Johnson with 10:10 left to play in the third quarter.

"I really commend the defense," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "They kept Utah out of the end zone a couple of times, and then we fought back."

The Utes led 17-7 before the Horned Frogs rallied. Freshman Aaron Brown led the way with 163 yards on 17 carries in his first college game.

TCU scored 10 points in the third quarter to pull even and eventually force overtime. Weddle said he was disappointed with how Utah played defense in that stretch.

"Overall we didn't play very good and TCU played well enough to win," said Weddle.

The winning score came on a third-down — a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tye Gunn to Michael DePriest. Though some controversy developed about whether or not an illegal pick was used on the play, officials never threw a flag and TCU prevailed — handing the Utes their first loss since a 47-35 setback to New Mexico on Oct. 25, 2003.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com