The mightily shorthanded and 22nd-ranked Utah Utes had a horrible start Saturday on the road against the 17th-ranked Arizona Wildcats and couldn’t muster a rally en route to a 42-18 loss. They moved to 7-4 on the season.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Utah’s defense was awful in the first quarter
Having gotten Arizona to a third and 15 on the first drive of the game, the Ute defense that was missing roughly half of its regular starters had a chance to get off the field quickly.
The Wildcats, however, gained 36 yards, and three plays later, they found the end zone on a trick play.
That was just the beginning of the early defensive woes for Utah, as the team gave up another touchdown in the first quarter and a third within the first seven seconds of the second quarter.
In addition to the points, the Utes gave up a whopping 196 yards of total offense in the first quarter, with 154 of them coming through the air.
What’s more, Arizona gained 10 first downs during the first quarter and converted both of its third downs.
In short, the Wildcats got whatever they wanted offensively early, and it put the Utes in a hole they could not climb out of.
Utah’s offense was subpar
The Utes have been inconsistent on offense all season, and on Saturday, the subpar version showed up.
Utah outgained Arizona on the day, but it ended up with just one touchdown to show for it until less than a minute remained in the contest and the outcome had already been decided.
The Utes did wake up some offensively as the game wore on, but, as with the defense, it was bad early.
In the first quarter, Utah had just 23 yards of total offense, 17 passing and six rushing. Things got better in the second quarter, but the Utes still had trouble sustaining drives all the way to the end zone.
On one drive in particular in the second quarter, Utah got in the red zone but then quarterback Bryson Barnes threw an interception.
Finally with 52 seconds left before halftime, the Utes found the end zone as Barnes connected with Devaughn Vele to cap a 10 play, 92-yard drive to make the score 28-7.
Having gotten in such a big hole, Utah became very one-dimensional on offense, which led to Barnes throwing a whopping 53 times on the afternoon (he completed 31 of those passes for 320 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions).
Special teams wasn’t good enough either
We’ll start with a positive note here, as Cole Becker made his only field goal attempt and Jack Bouwmeester fired off two punts for a total of 106 yards, but one big, bad play in the first quarter really set the tone that it was going to be a long afternoon for the Utes.
Following Arizona’s first touchdown of the game, Utah went nowhere on its ensuing drive and Bouwmeester went on to punt.
The Utes’ protection was awful, however, and Wildcat Anthony Ward broke through to block the punt. He then gathered it and scampered into the end zone to give Arizona the 14-0 lead less than 6:30 into the game.
Utah never recovered.