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Utah football notes: Utes working on red-zone woes

Utah Utes place kicker Andy Phillips (39) kicks a field goal in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.
Utah Utes place kicker Andy Phillips (39) kicks a field goal in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.
Jeffrey D. Allred,

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to red zone offense, the crimson-clad Utah Utes are a bit color blind. Entering Saturday’s game at Colorado, they’re 113th in the nation — scoring at a 75.6 percent clip with 24 touchdowns and 10 field goals.

“You win the game with points. They keep track of points to determine who wins, not yards,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “So therefore when you get in the red zone and you get a chance to score you’ve got to capitalize, and we have not done enough of that this year.”

The Utes are 11th in the Pac-12 in red zone offense, ahead of only Arizona. By comparison, they’re seventh in total offense with 4,790 yards (435.5 per game average).

“I don’t really know what the NCAA stat is. We only count touchdowns. So the way we count it in our program is a touchdown in the red zone is all that counts,” said co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “So if you get a field goal, that’s a loss to us. We hold a pretty high standard. We want 67 percent touchdowns in the red zone and anything else is a loss.”

Roderick added that’s “just how it is around here.”

When it comes to touchdowns in the red zone, Utah is doing so at a 53.3 percent rate with 17 rushing scores and seven via passes.

NEXT LEVEL: Junior defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei acknowledged that he’s talked to his family and position coach Lewis Powell about possibly entering the next year's NFL draft.

“I’ve thought about it, but in midseason I try not to think about it just because it’s not really important right now,” he said. “If I don’t get my playing done then it won’t really matter what happens at the end of the season.”

Lotulelei, though, has yet to seek input from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee as to where he might be taken.

When asked about underclassmen like Lotulelei, offensive lineman Garett Bolles and safety Marcus Williams, who may be considering the NFL, Whittingham noted there’s a process to such matters.

“It’s a case-by-case situation and the short answer is we’ll address those as soon as the regular season ends and make sure we do what’s in the best interest of the individual player,” he said.

SAN DIEGO GUYS: Utah receiver Tim Patrick had a hometown take on Oregon receiver Darren Carrington II’s game-winning touchdown reception against the Utes last weekend.

“He’s from San Diego,” Patrick said with a wry smile. “So I’m not surprised he made that catch.”

Patrick tops Utah with 606 receiving yards, while Carrington II leads Oregon with 530.

EXTRA POINTS: Utah is 10-9 in games when it plays another nationally-ranked team . . . Donovan Thompson is listed as the backup at both linebacker positions this week. The true freshman has played in seven games and has 11 tackles . . . The Utes haven’t lost to the Buffaloes in Boulder since a 30-24 setback in 1957.