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What went wrong for Utah against Oregon State?

SHARE What went wrong for Utah against Oregon State?
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Oregon State wide receiver Trevon Bradford (8) skirts around Utah cornerback Faybian Marks (23) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

AP

More Pac-12 chaos ensued Saturday night.

This time, it happened at Reser Stadium. And this time, the end result didn’t favor Utah.

Oregon State ran all over the Ute defense as it rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to earn a wild 42-34 shootout victory. 

It marked Utah’s first Pac-12 loss of the season and snapped its three-game winning streak. 

In this Pac-12 After Dusk showdown, there was a crucial blocked punt, a high-profile ejection and tons of big plays on both sides, but in the end, OSU came out on top, accumulating 468 yards of total offense, including 260 on the ground. Running back B.J. Baylor had 152 yards and a touchdown by himself. 

“Outstanding job by Oregon State. Heckuva football team,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “They ran the ball way too efficiently. It’s tough to win a football game when you’re soft against the run. They also had some passes up the field … So give them all the credit.”

The Utes, meanwhile, rolled up 455 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough against OSU’s offensive onslaught. 

“Typically, that wins it for us,” Whittingham said. “It’s a rarity that that kind of offensive production doesn’t lead to a victory because our defense has been so consistent over the years.”  

Since joining the Pac-12, the Utes (4-3, 3-1) have won only two games when surrendering 35 or more points. It happened in 2012 (42-35 against Colorado) and in 2016 (52-45 against UCLA). 

Utah quarterback Cam Rising completed 22 of 36 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns and he rushed 10 times for 73 yards. Running back Tavion Thomas rushed 21 times for 74 yards and a pair of TDs.

But the Utes squandered too many scoring opportunities in the red zone. 

“We need to finish in those situations,” Rising said. “We need to make sure we do what we need to do as an offense to get the ball in the end zone.”

Quarterback Chance Nolan completed 14 of 19 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns while engineering a potent Oregon State (5-2, 3-1) attack. 

“I think they have the best offense in the Pac-12. They run the ball better than anybody, they score more points than anybody, they convert on third downs better than anybody,” Whittingham said.

“Their offensive line is extremely efficient. They run that stretch play as well as anyone in the country. They’re well-coached. They have an identity and they know exactly who they are and what they want to be, and they stick to that.”

While the Utes are no longer all alone in first place tie in the Pac-12 South standings, they are tied with Arizona State for first.

Utah wasted no time getting on the scoreboard Saturday, going 75 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Rising to Micah Bernard.

Utah’s defense came up big on OSU’s first possession as Mika Tafua sacked Nolan on 3rd and 6, backing up the Beavers to their own 2-yard line.

On their next drive, the Utes increased their lead to 14-0 when Rising threw a touchdown pass to Brant Kuithe.

But OSU’s run game started to get revved up, as it went on a scoring drive that ate up 6:27 off the clock and cut the deficit to 14-7 with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.

Utah went up 17-7 on its next possession, a 17-play drive that lasted 7:37. The Utes settled for a 29-yard field goal by Jordan Noyes. That continued a streak of seven straight possessions that resulted in a score, but ended a streak of six consecutive possessions resulting in a touchdown dating back to last week’s win over Arizona State. 

Moments later, however, the Beavers made the score 17-14 thanks to a 68-yard run by Baylor, which set up a one-yard TD. 

Utah’s offense drove deep into OSU territory again but it was stopped just short of the goal line. A 21-yard keeper by Rising and a 45-yard completion from Rising to Devaughn Vele set the Utes up inside the 10.

On 4th and goal from the 2, Rising completed a pass in the flat to Kuithe, but he was tackled by Alton Julian at the 1 — a missed opportunity for Utah. 

“That was our weakest area on offense tonight,” Whittingham said. “I wouldn’t have changed any of those calls on fourth down. I don’t question the decisions we made. We just didn’t execute as well as we needed to.”

On OSU’s ensuing possession, though, Brandon McKinney sacked Nolan and forced a fumble that was recovered by Junior Tafuna just before he went out of bounds, giving Utah’s offense the ball back.

With 1:43 left in the half, the Utes struck again. Rising scrambled for 16 yards, then Thomas ran for a 3-yard touchdown to make the halftime score 24-14 for Utah. 

Oregon State cut the deficit to three, 24-21, early in the third quarter, scoring on its opening possession of the second half. 

The Beavers seized their first lead of the game with 7:26 remaining in the third quarter when Cameron Peasley’s punt was blocked by OSU’s Riley Sharp. Luke Musgrave scooped up the ball and scored from 27 yards out to put Oregon State ahead 28-24. 

“Maybe the biggest play of the game was the blocked punt for a touchdown. That was huge,” Whittingham said. “But it wasn’t the only thing that prevented us from coming out on top. It was pivotal.”

Still, the Utes responded quickly, scoring on a 75-yard drive culminated by Thomas’ 1-yard TD run to make it 31-28 with 5:01 left in the third. 

Later in the quarter, Utah’s All-American linebacker, Devin Lloyd, was disqualified for targeting. One play later, OSU regained the lead at 35-31 on a 10-yard TD run by Trevon Bradford. 

The Beavers blocked their second punt of the game early in the  fourth quarter, but it was negated by a penalty on OSU for having two players wearing the same number on the field. 

That gave Utah new life inside Oregon State territory, but Noyes missed a 52-yard field goal, keeping the score 35-31 for the Beavers. OSU didn’t let up, adding another touchdown to go up 42-31 with 9:49 remaining. 

The Utes had a chance to cut into that deficit but they were stopped on the OSU 2-yard line with six minutes remaining. 

Noyes booted a 33-yard field goal with 2:38 left to make it 42-34. Utah’s ensuing on-side kick attempt was recovered by OSU to essentially end the game. 

The Utes host UCLA next Saturday.  

EXTRA POINTS: Oregon State placed roses on the 22-yard line before the game to honor Aaron Lowe, who died Sept. 26. OSU also held a moment of silence as a tribute to Lowe.