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3 takeaways from Utah’s 33-31 triple-overtime loss to San Diego State

A crazy game ended with Connor O’Toole not quite being able to hold onto the ball in the end zone, dropping the Utes to 1-2 on the season.

Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid  and San Diego State safety Cedarious Barfield try to catch a pass intended for Kincaid in the end zone.
Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid (86) and San Diego State safety Cedarious Barfield (27) try to catch a pass intended for Kincaid in the end zone during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Carson, Calif. The pass was incomplete.
Ashley Landis, Associated Press

Utah lost in triple overtime to San Diego State 33-31, coming up short after a comeback effort by Cam Rising, who was inserted into the game with about five minutes left in the third quarter and erased a 14-point deficit in about six minutes to force overtime.

A crazy game ended with Connor O’Toole not quite being able to hold onto the ball in the end zone, dropping the Utes to 1-2 on the season.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Cam Rising changes the game, should start moving forward

Charlie Brewer struggled in the first three quarters of the game. A lot of that was on the offensive line not playing well while he was in (more on that later), but even when he did have some time, he wasn’t able to find a big play and had a few off-target passes.

Utah was not able to sustain drives when Brewer was in. Not including Utah’s kneel-down drive to take the game into halftime, seven of Brewer’s nine drives ended in a punt, one ended due to an interception (Brewer threw into double coverage) and one was a field goal that was helped by two SDSU penalties on third or fourth down after Utah failed to convert, extending the drive.

Brewer was 19-for-32 for 104 yards with an interception and was pulled with five minutes left in the quarter, with Rising taking his place.

After three fruitless drives under Rising, he was able to mount a comeback, scoring two touchdowns in six minutes. The first touchdown drive was 63 yards as Rising went 7-of-8 and finished the drive with a pass to Britain Covey. The second drive went 74 yards in about two minutes as Rising completed three crucial third downs, including a touchdown pass to Theo Howard. Rising’s successful two-point conversion tied the game.

Rising wasn’t perfect in overtime, especially on the second drive, but it was apparent why Utah named him a captain to start the season. He was able to rally the team when it mattered.

Offensive line struggles much of the night, especially in the run game

For the second straight game, Utah’s opponent won the battle in the trenches when the Utes had the ball. Brewer had little time to operate for much of the game, the Utes surrendered three sacks and eight tackles for loss, and Utah’s running game struggled.

Utah’s running backs were met in the backfield by SDSU quite a bit, and as a result, the Utes had just 70 rushing yards. Micah Bernard was the only Utah running back with positive rushing yards, with 47 yards. Being able to consistently run the ball well is a hallmark of Utah’s offense, but the offensive line wasn’t good enough on Saturday night for that to happen.

Special teams miscues hurt Utah

Utah’s special teams allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the second time in three games, and kicker Jadon Redding missed an extra point in the fourth quarter and a 37-yard field goal in the second overtime, which would have won Utah the game.

These miscues are usually uncommon for a Kyle Whittingham-led team, but they’ve shown up twice in three games and they were a big factor in the Utes’ loss.