During its 30-24 win over Oregon State last Saturday, Utah fixed its turnover problem.

After coughing up nine turnovers during their first two games, the Utes had zero turnovers against OSU.

While that was a positive development for the Utes, other issues popped up like a Whac-A-Mole on the offensive side of the ball and became starkly apparent — both at the beginning and at the end of the game.

The Utes drove into the red zone in each of their first three possessions but had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.  

That was a source of frustration for coach Kyle Whittingham

“We didn’t score, we got field goals. That’s a whole different deal. That was extremely frustrating. The first three trips in the red zone ended with field goals.” — Kyle Whittingham

“We didn’t score, we got field goals. That’s a whole different deal. That was extremely frustrating. The first three trips in the red zone ended with field goals,” he said. “The game should have been blown wide open earlier. It was our inability to function how we need to in the end zone, our ineptness in the red zone.”

Whittingham added, “We did leave points on the field. To us, a field goal in the red zone is a loss. It’s a negative. We’ve got to score touchdowns. Our touchdown percentage in the red zone is not good enough. That’s got to be something that we improve on and work on.” 

Tight end Brant Kuithe said improved play in the red zone is a point of emphasis when Utah visits undefeated No. 21 Colorado Friday (7:30 p.m., FS1). 

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“You saw in the red zone we didn’t execute very well,” Kuithe said. “But I think it’s getting a lot better and this week I think we’ll take a big jump.” 

As Whittingham noted, Utah squandered a chance to put the game away early. 

“We had three trips in the red zone early in the game — field goal, field goal, field goal, which can’t happen,” he said. “Nine-nothing is a heckuva a lot different than 21-0. We had a chance to break the game open early and didn’t do it. We had some wide open guys, we just missed them.”

Later, the Utes were staked to a 30-10 advantage over OSU early in the fourth quarter and it appeared the game was over. But the Beavers didn’t quit.

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Utah tried to keep the ball on the ground and run the clock. However, the Utes recorded three consecutive three-and-outs, giving Oregon State opportunities to rally. 

“We got too vanilla, too nonimaginative. We knew we wanted to milk the clock. It makes sense to milk the clock in that situation but when you’re milking the clock, there’s no reason for you to not stay creative and get some production,” Whittingham said. “It was awful to have three three-and-outs in a row at the end of the game to put the game on ice. We couldn’t do it. We had three three-and-outs in succession, which is unacceptable ... There’s not a coach that’s pleased with what happened at the end of the game. We’ve got to do better.” 

Utah gained just 21 yards of total offense in the final period, all on the ground. 

“It was disappointing that we ran the ball so well except when we really had to.” — Kyle Whittingham

“It was disappointing that we ran the ball so well except when we really had to,” Whittingham said. “The most disappointing series was when we had the ball at just about midfield with four minutes left. Ty Jordan rips off a 9-yard run on first down so we get second-and-1. In three consecutive times, we get stopped.”

On third-and-1, Jordan, who finished with 167 rushing yards, misread the hole created by the offensive line and was stuffed for no gain. 

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“We’ve got to be a little more creative on short-yard situations and have a few different alternatives than just running the inside zone play. That’s up to us as coaches to get that fixed,” Whittingham said. “There were things coming out of that game that we definitely need to work on and that was one of them — four-minute offense and short-yardage, which is inclusive in that.” 

Despite rushing for 229 yards against Oregon State, Utah wasn’t able to pick up key yardage in crucial situations. It’s something the Utes need to turn around in a hurry.

“I’ve got no confidence to go for it on fourth-and-short after the last few games,” Whittingham said. “It shouldn’t be that way because we have big, physical linemen and they run-block really well. We’ve got to take a hard look at schematics and what we’re calling and if we’re being too generic and give our guys a little bit better chance.”