During the past two games, Utah’s offense has scored a total of seven points in the first quarter.
Utah had a 38-point second quarter outburst against the Thunderbirds and a 21-point second quarter against the Aztecs.
“Obviously, we’re working this week on starting a little faster. We’ve sputtered a little bit in the first quarter in the last couple of games. That will be a huge emphasis moving forward.” — Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig
As the Utes jump into Pac-12 play Saturday (8:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at Arizona State, they know they need to start much faster — scoring more points in the first quarter.
“It’s been two games. I don’t think it’s crisis-mode right now or time to panic. We just haven’t started like we’ve wanted to,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “We had a drop in the first drive Saturday night. … It would be ideal to start better than that on offense. We’ll make a few adjustments in practice this week to try to jumpstart early and get it corrected.”
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said he’s pleased overall with the offense’s performance, but acknowledged that getting out of the gate quicker is being emphasized this week.
“Obviously, we’re working this week on starting a little faster,” Ludwig said. “We’ve sputtered a little bit in the first quarter in the last couple of games. That will be a huge emphasis moving forward.”
Ludwig added that “multiple factors” have played a role in Utah’s slow starts.
“There’s some execution, some play calls, there’s some things the defense is doing as well,” he said. “They have something to do with it. But I am pleased with the tenacity of the group and the way that they’re finishing things out.”
Against SDSU, Utah punted on its first two drives, and then failed to convert on a fourth-and-3, turning the ball over on downs. Then the Utes were forced to punt on their first possession of the second quarter.
“We just couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively,” Whittingham said. “We just found ways to kill drives.”
Then, as Whittingham said, the “floodgates” opened late in the period with three straight scoring drives to take a 21-0 halftime advantage.
Whittingham attributed some of the early struggles to SDSU’s active 3-3-5 defense.
“You don’t see that much anymore. It’s almost like a defense facing an option team,” he said. “You have to plan for it and practice for it. It takes a little bit of time to get acclimated to it.”
Tight end Brant Kuithe said it’s important to score points early.
“It’s starting out fast. We can’t start slow,” he said. “Last week we did that. We’ve got to start fast from the get-go. … You saw that we haven’t really scored much at the beginning. Especially going against ASU, the team that they have, no matter what their record is, we have to start fast. It’s a Power Five team and they have players on their team that can win games for them. We have to start off fast.”
Wide receiver Solomon Enis said the offense is working on faster starts.
“Just preparing in the sense that we have to get going fast. We don’t have that time and luxury to get things rolling the way we want it to,” he said. “Sometimes we have to get going right away. I think that’s the crucial thing that we have to work on this week.”
What changed for Utah’s offense in the second quarter against SDSU?
“The poise and composure of the group,” Ludwig said. “It would have been really easy to get flustered and frustrated and have things go really bad. But the guys stuck together and started making plays.”
There is an urgency for the offense to play strong from the beginning of games.
“We want to play great for four quarters. We’re going to address it in some of the things that we’re doing in practice,” Ludwig said. “We’ll start practicing a little bit faster. The one thing that our players do is, they respond to challenges.”
Whittingham wants to see the offense reach its potential.
“On offense, we weren’t as prolific as I thought we could have been,” he said. “Offensively, we’re a veteran group. It was disappointing how we ran the ball early in the game. We go typically as the run game goes. If we’re getting the run game in high gear, then the play-action game follows suit. Everything opens up. We ran the ball decent (Saturday) but not up to our standards. We were sub-200 yards. We’re a 200-yard-plus team when we’re clicking.”
A big part of Utah’s ability to reach that potential is starting fast — with a stronger performance in the first quarter.
Utah on the air
No. 13 Utah (2-1) at Arizona State (1-2)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MDT
Sun Devil Stadium
Radio: ESPN 700