So there are the Utes trailing 17-14 with 10:09 left in the third quarter. And somebody forgot to remind the special teams staff that the Ducks have a guy named De’Anthony Thomas as their deep man return specialist. 13 seconds later the Ducks took the 23-14 lead that propelled them to the 44-21 final.
If the Utes were going to pull this one off, they were going to need a little help from the Ducks, and they didn’t get it. The Ducks took care of the ball, and made very few mistakes. The story of the game for the Utes were the noticeably missing players. Travis Wilson may not be back again this year with a concussion, and reportedly continuing bleeding on the brain. Also noticeably missing was Kelvin York who’s straight ahead running style would have been affective against the Ducks.
The Utes came into Saturday on a three game skid, and faced a daunting challenge if they wanted to break that streak. The Ducks were fresh off of their first lost of the season, a 26-20 stinger at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal. The Utes hoped to catch the Ducks a bit demoralized after their National Championship hopes were seemingly crushed. The storyline coming in was the quarterback situation for both teams. Oregon’s Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota was questionable after suffering a knee injury against Stanford but played, and played well connecting on 13 of his first 15 passes. Utah’s Travis Wilson did not make the trip to Eugene with the team due to a concussion in last week’s loss to Arizona State.
The Utes defense faced a Duck offense that averaged 55 points per game going into the loss. The Ducks high flying offense featuring a stable of running backs including junior De’Anthony Thomas, Sophomore Byron Marshall, and Freshman Thomas Tyner, dynamic recievers such as Senior Josh Huff and Sophomore Bralon Addison, and a Heisman candidate Quarterback in Sophomore Marcus Mariota. The ducks are 3rd in the nation in scoring offense and average nearly 600 yards a game. The defense was up to the challenge, giving up only 188 yards rushing. the killer for the defense was the big play. They gave up big scores on several occasions, including a 57 yard pass to Bralon Addison to the Utes 7 and an 87 yard kick return for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter.
The positives that the Utes take from this game is that the offensive line played better, and Jake Murphy is back and made a few great catches. The defense held the Ducks to 10 yards rushing in the first half, and if not for a couple of big plays on the ground held the Ducks to virtually no sustained rushing attack. The bad news for the Utes is also what seems to be the story of the Ute season. The Washington State Cougars looked earlier in the year to be one of the Utes easier matchups, but after they upset Arizona in Tucson they seem to be hitting their stride in time for the matchup in Pulman. Adam Shultz had some moments, and will likely look to improve on that this week as it is extremely unlikely that Wilson will suit up again this year.
The Utes need these last two games to become bowl eligible, and this week seems to be the tougher of the remaining two games although the Colorado Buffalos did pick up their first Pac-12 win of the season against the abysmal California Bears. All the Utes can do is continue to play as a team, and continue to play hard as they did late in the game against the Ducks with a final score late in the fourth quarter to cover the point spread.