Ducks prepare for streaking Utes
SALT LAKE CITY — The last two victories in the nation's longest winning streak have included signs of problems on offense for No. 18 Utah.
The Utes continued to win but had plenty of work to do this week before Saturday's game at Oregon.
Utah (2-0) won its 16th straight last week, beating San Jose State 24-14 in a game that was tied at 7-7 in the fourth quarter. The Utes gained 499 yards but scored only three touchdowns.
"It's only two games in, so it's not panic time, but it's just something that has shown up in both games where we've got to be more effective in those situations," coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Whittingham was referring to Utah's red zone offense. The Utes have been stymied several times, sometimes by themselves and other times by the opponent.
In the season opener, Utah State stopped Utah on three straight plays from the 1-yard line, completing the stand on fourth-and-goal by stuffing quarterback Terrance Cain's sneak attempt.
The Utes turned it over on downs at the goal line again last week at San Jose State. The Utes caught the defense off guard on fourth-and-goal by snapping the ball to Matt Asiata, but the running back's throw to a wide-open Cain in the end zone was way too high. Had Asiata gained just 1 yard on third down, there would have been no need for the failed trick play.
"It was just things that were right there for our taking that we didn't capitalize on," Whittingham said. "It's a lot easier to fix than if you're just getting stoned and can't move the football. We're moving the football. We've just got to get some things ironed out."
Utah got inside San Jose State's 20-yard line five times and managed only two touchdowns and a field goal.
The Utes also missed three field goal attempts and fumbled twice in San Jose. Now Utah takes the streak to Oregon's Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks (1-1) have won 28 of their last 30 nonconference games.
"We know we won't be able to play like that against a team like Oregon," cornerback Brandon Burton said. "Not to down San Jose State at all, they were a great team. They came out prepared. We just need to prepare better and stay focused."
So the Utes have had two games that could have been blowouts, but weren't because of mistakes. Utah has still averaged 509 yards of offense while holding the first two opponents to an average of 303.
"On film they look like a fast, aggressive bunch, especially on defense," Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said. "It's going to be a challenge because they are good team, but so are we."
The other concern for Whittingham this week was turnovers — giving and getting. Utah has lost four fumbles and thrown one interception and hasn't been doing much to balance out the ratio. The Utes have come up with two interceptions in two games, but have yet to recover a fumble on defense.
During Utah's 13-0 season last year, the Utes forced 31 turnovers.
Cain will be making his third career start on Saturday and may not have Asiata to carry the ball Saturday because of a shoulder injury.
"We've got to get our offense some short-field situations. You can't expect the offense to consistently go 80 yards on a defense like Oregon's," Whittingham said. "That will be even magnified this week — for our defense to come in there with some of those takeaways and give our offense some of those situations."