Three Takeaways From Utah’s GameDay Loss To Oregon

Oct 28, 2023, 5:40 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2023, 10:50 am

SALT LAKE CITY – All eyes were on Salt Lake City as College GameDay rolled into town to watch No. 8 Oregon take on No. 13 Utah. Unfortunately for the Utes, they walked away with their first home loss since 2020.

There is a lot to like about this Utah football team while also admitting they have been severely, and unexpectedly limited by a plethora of injuries. That was apparent in Saturday’s contest with the Ducks where the Utes came up short, 35-6.

Utah has put up an incredible fight so far this season that fans should be proud of. Even five years ago the Utes would have been toast long before now. Here are three takeaways from Utah’s GameDay loss to Oregon.

Takeaway No. 1: There Is Only So Much Patching You Can Do

As mentioned above, what Utah has managed to do without key starters either for the whole season or parts of the season has been impressive.

The creativity and coaching have been really good for the Utes to be in the position they found themselves in on Saturday.

The unfortunate thing is, at some point there is a limit to how much the coaches and players can patch things together and that was evident against Oregon, even if the players and Kyle Whittingham will never use that as an excuse. (This author will do that a little for them because it is a valid point.)

“Nobody cares if you are injured,” Whittingham said in post-game. “I never want to play that card. Whatever you got available, you’ve got to make the most of what you have available. Sure, we are missing a lot of good players we wish we had, but there are other teams in the country in the same boat.”

There is zero shame losing to this Ducks team. Sure, in an ideal world, Utah would have been able to hang a little closer or pull off the win, but this is a legit Oregon team. They are built to compete with just about anyone in the country.

If the injury bug had been kinder to Utah, we likely would have been saying the same thing about them. It’s just not reality for 2023 and that is ok.

Takeaway No. 2: Utah’s Defense Struggled More Than Expected

Utah’s defense has been incredible this year, but this was not one of their better efforts.

In his post-game comments, Whittingham mentioned this very well may have been the Utes’ worst tackling game of the year, though they still need to watch the tape to be sure.

A quick scan of the stats that Oregon racked up seems to support that line of thought though.

Quarterback Bo Nix finished his day 24-31 for 248 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Nix added four carries for eight yards and one more touchdown on the ground.

On the ground, Bucky Irving was a menace carrying the ball 14 times for 83 yards and one touchdown. His counterpart through the air, Troy Franklin was 8 of 10 catching the ball for 99 yards and a touchdown.

Altogether, the Ducks ran 58 plays for 390 yards of offense- 248 of those yards were through the air and 142 yards were on the ground.

Many of Oregon’s chunk plays that moved the chains could have been prevented if the Utah defense had a better tackling day to prevent the yards after contact it felt like the Ducks gained with ease.

Takeaway No. 3: Turnovers Were A Killer

The Utes have been pretty good in 2023 protecting the football on offense while taking the ball away on defense.

Saturday was rough in that regard for the Utes.

The offense suffered two untimely interceptions, while the defense only managed one fumble recovery.

Whittingham has always touted the team that wins the turnover battle is usually the team that wins and that proved very true against the Ducks.

Bonus Baby Takeaway

Utah is going to need to shake this game off the way they did against Oregon State a few weeks back.

While the Utes a likely out of the Pac-12 Title race with two conference losses (unless we have some madness like last season) they do sit at 6-2 with the opportunity to qualify for a good bowl game if they can keep winning.

It won’t be easy.

They still have to face a Washington team that beat Oregon, and an Arizona team that has been giving a lot of really good teams some fits.

Still, as Whittingham said in post-game, this is a team filled with high character guys who show up when adversity is at its highest.

They wouldn’t be where they are now if that weren’t true.

“Adversity and tough times like this reveal character and I believe we have a lot of character in our locker room,” Whittingham said. “We have a lot of guys who are very prideful and will come back and respond and work even harder this week. They will work to get back on track, but when you get beat like that, you don’t want to go in and berate your team. Brow beat them. What happened out there was enough. You just have to let them know you still believe in them, which I do.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Three Takeaways From Utah’s GameDay Loss To Oregon