Utes stuffed short

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The Utes were so close to victory on Saturday night against Air Force, they could have reached out and touched it. That is, unless they were running the ball.

Utah running backs Eddie Wide and Darryl Poston each had an opportunity from inside the one-yard line to keep the game alive late in the fourth quarter, but both were stuffed short of the goal line and the Falcons escaped Rice-Eccles Stadium with a 20-12 victory.

“It’s kinda rough talking about it, you know,” Poston said. “The team and the coaches had confidence in me to get that in the end zone and unfortunately I didn’t. It’s sad because throughout the last couple weeks and the summer, everyone was always questioning the running backs and me. Being able to get that six inches or a yard really would have reinforced the fact that the running backs are back.”

The touchdown would have given the Utes an opportunity to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but the ball was turned over on downs after a swarm of Falcons stopped Poston short of the goal line.

“That really bothers me,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “More than anything else in that football game, that bothers me. We got two shots. One from the one-yard line and one from the six-inch line and we couldn’t get in.”

As was the case against Oregon State in the season opener, the Utes struggled to piece together a consistent running game. The combination of Poston, Wide, Darrell Mack and Ray Stowers were able to muster just 73 yards on 33 carries.

“Our running game was a little bit more effective than last week but not effective enough,” Whittingham said. Thirty-three carries for 73 yards — that’s not gonna cut it.”

Following a season opener where the Utes lost starting quarterback Brian Johnson for four weeks and running back Matt Asiata for the season, the Utes were dealt another huge blow in terms of injuries on Saturday. Junior wide receiver Brent Casteel left the game in the second quarter after being blindsided by a Falcon defender. Casteel jogged off the field, but a halftime MRI showed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The injury will sideline Casteel for the rest of the year.

“It’s unfortunate,” Poston said. “It’s football and it happens constantly. I mean, it happened to me. But what it comes down to is that we can’t dwell on it. We’ve got to move on.”

Casteel was one of the Utes’ top offensive weapons from a year ago with 600 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, as well as 262 rushing yards.

In addition to Casteel, the Utes also lost defensive tackle Gabe Long. The senior sprained his knee and is expected to miss three to five weeks. Senior middle linebacker Joe Jiannoni sprained his ankle just before halftime, but remained in the game and is expected to play against No. 13 UCLA next week.

“We’ve kind of been hit with the injury bug a little bit, but do you know how much UCLA cares about that?” Whittingham said. “None. They’re going to go for the jugular.”

The Utes will have to try to find other options if they want to avoid their first 0-3 start since the 2000 season. While Utah has failed to win a game in the first two weeks, the Bruins are undefeated, having recently beaten BYU 27-17 in Pasadena, Calif.

“We’ve got to just learn from (the loss),” Jiannoni said. “What can I say? It’s a loss. It’s a terrible loss. We prepared tremendously, so hard for this team and it’s a heartbreaker for us to lose because we thought for sure coming in that we would get this one.”

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Tyler Cobb

Brian Hernandez earns a facemask call from officials as he is brought down by Air Force defense after catching a pass in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s football game.