Utes feel the road woes

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-Like many young teams with inexperienced starters, the Utes are quickly learning that there is a big difference between the friendly confines of Rice-Eccles Stadium and the many issues that come with being on the road.

For the second time in as many road games, the Utes lost away from home, putting their road record at 0-2 in 2005.

The 31-17 setback Saturday exposed more flaws in a team that was picked in the preseason to successfully defend its back-to-back MWC titles.

“Right now, we’re just a good football team,” Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Until we can win a tough game on the road, all we’re going to be is a good football team.”

As in the overtime setback to TCU on Sept. 15, Utah was plagued by mistakes that it hasn’t been making in games played in Salt Lake City.

This season, the Utes have committed 150 yards of penalties in the two road games, as opposed to 130 yards in three home dates.

They have also been plagued by turnovers on the road, throwing two interceptions and fumbling eight times, five of which were recovered by the opposing team.

“If you can’t win on the road, you’re going to be 6-5 or 5-6, a mediocre team,” Ute safety Casey Evans said. “Our goal is to be great, and obviously we aren’t too close to that right now.”

The Utes had not lost back-to-back road games since October 2002, when they fell to San Diego State 36-17 and to New Mexico 42-35 in double overtime two weeks later.

The only solace the Utes could take in their most recent loss is that it didn’t hurt their conference record, leaving them still in the hunt for their third-straight title.

“The reality is that this had nothing to do with our goal to win the Mountain West Conference championship,” Whittingham said. “Two goals we had going into the season were to beat Arizona and win the conference championship. We still have that right there in front of us; we just need to take care of business.”

The Utes will get a chance to start taking care of business right away. They head to Fort Collins on Saturday to battle Colorado State, which is coming off a 41-23 win over Air Force, in the Rams’ MWC opener.

The remaining road dates are trips to UNLV on Oct. 22 and to Provo on Nov. 19 to end the season against BYU.

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