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It was a somber locker room after then-No. 13 Utah’s 35-6 loss to then-No. 8 Oregon.
A crucial Pac-12 matchup with conference championship implications on the line, all of the pomp and circumstance with “College GameDay” (though Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff tried to shield his players from the hype and keep them in their routines), a full and passionate crowd at kickoff — Utah’s players had to be feeling like a million bucks running out of the tunnel.
That emotion did not last long as Oregon jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the early second quarter, then essentially put the game away in the middle of the third quarter, taking a 35-6 lead, which would be the final score.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and the Ducks’ offense, including running back Bucky Irving, diced up Utah’s vaunted defense for much of the game, and even when the Utes got stops — forcing a fumble and two punts in the first half, Utah’s offense couldn’t do anything with it. The Utes failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2018, a 10-3 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game, and quarterback Bryson Barnes threw two interceptions.
Utah was outmatched, outphysicaled and outplayed.
Ute wide receiver Devaughn Vele and linebacker Karene Reid agreed that Oregon was the best team they’ve faced so far.
Coming off of a beatdown like that, there’s really not much that a head coach can say to his team that they don’t already know.
“When you get beat like that, you don’t want to go in and berate your team and browbeat them. What happened out there was enough,” Whittingham said. “Just got to let them know you still believe in him, which I do, believe in the coaches. I mean, it’s one football game, we don’t want to overreact, but we didn’t play very well.”
Utah is back at Rice-Eccles Stadium next week, trying to start a new home winning streak after its 18-game streak was snapped on Saturday afternoon.
“Adversity in tough times like this reveal character. And I believe we’ve got a lot of character in our locker room and a lot of guys that are very prideful. We’ll come back and respond and work even harder this week and work to get back on track,” Whittingham said.
Up next is Arizona State, which snapped a six-game losing streak last night with a 38-27 win over Washington State to improve to 2-6 overall and earn its first Pac-12 win of the season. Quarterback Trenton Bourguet threw for 247 yards, while DeCarlos Brooks ran for 67 yards and three touchdowns and Cameron Skattebo ran for 121 yards and a score.
After a crushing blow, Utah is going to have to pick itself up off the mat and quickly forget about the defeat after film review on Monday. With a tough schedule to close the season — after Arizona State, it’s at No. 5 Washington, at Arizona, and vs. Colorado — Utah can’t afford to have a hangover from the loss.
“I feel like at the end of the day, you got to bounce back from the loss. We can’t dwell on this. We got ASU coming up next week. We got to watch the film, get over this game and move on to the next. We can’t be sitting dwelling on it,” Barnes said.