After evaluating the 26-17 loss at BYU last Saturday, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham couldn’t remember the last time his team had been physically dominated on the defensive side of the ball in a single half.
He noted that the Utes gave up only 49 rushing yards and 119 total yards in the first half. But the Cougars gained 170 yards on the ground in the second half.
“They wore us out in the second half. That’s when they really started to wear us down and push us around,” Whittingham said. “They did a great job of sticking to their game plan and continuing to run the football and softening us up.
“Usually, we don’t soften up. That’s very disappointing to see that we were pushed around in the second half. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that’s happened.”
The Utes’ offense had its own troubles, including two turnovers, dropped passes and an inability to finish drives.
“There were two different issues. On offense, our main issue was mental mistakes. We didn’t get beat physically. We blew assignments,” Whittingham said. “On defense, it was just the opposite. We were assignment-sound but we got physically moved around.
“… Offensively, we’re still not able to get into a rhythm. We’re not getting out of the huddle in time. We were scrambling to get out of the huddle to get the play call. Everybody needs to be more in sync. We’ve got to continue to try to fix it.”
Whittingham underscored that the defense needs to improve.
“On defense, when you don’t have any sacks or any takeaways, we thrive on that. We’ve made a living at that for years,” he said. “We had zero sacks and zero takeaways (against BYU).”
The coach added that his defense will face a similar challenge when the Utes take on San Diego State Saturday (5 p.m. MDT, CBSSN).
“The offensive line is physical,” Whittingham said of the Aztecs. “We’re going to see every bit as physical of an offensive line as we did last week. We need to rise up and play much better.”
Quarterback Charlie Brewer completed 15 of 26 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice.
Whittingham acknowledged that Brewer didn’t have a lot of time to throw against BYU.
“He’s capable of playing better,” he said. “We didn’t do a lot to help him out.”
Overall, Whittingham said the Cougars outplayed his team.
“The short version is, they played well and we played very poorly,” he said. “That’s what it boiled down to.”
Still, there were several positives that came out of Saturday’s game.
He liked the performance of running back Micah Bernard, who carried the ball 12 times for 146 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Whittingham also singled out the play of left tackle Bam Olaseni.
“Bam didn’t start but he gave us really good reps,” he said. “Some of his best football at left tackle. Those were two bright spots.”
Defensively, Whittingham was impressed with the play of linebackers Nephi Sewell and Devin Lloyd.
“Other than that, it was a poor performance by us,” Whittingham said. “It’s my responsibility to get guys ready to play and we weren’t good enough. My job is to make sure we are good enough. We have our work cut out for us this week.”