Rock bottom

By and

It was a Homecoming to forget. The proving grounds proved too much for the U football team once again.

Facing their first ranked team of the year in front of their first sellout crowd of the year, the Utes were taken apart by the No. 22 Boise State Broncos Saturday in a 36-3 loss.

There was no silver lining — the Utes were dominated in all facets, turning the ball over four times and, on the other end, succumbing to the physicality of the Bronco offense. Eric Weddle said it best: “I don’t know if I’ve ever been beaten like this.”

But the end result was indisputable, and the Utes’ three-game winning streak is over while the Broncos remain undefeated. And now, the doubts that have surrounded the team even during its string of three straight blowouts will only get louder. As players and coaches begrudgingly attested after the game, Saturday’s loss wasn’t the product of circumstance or just “not getting the bounces.”

It was Boise State piling up 398 yards of total offense to the Utes’ 178; it was a passing game that managed just 51 yards and eight completions all game long; it was a run defense that finally met its match.

“We just got beat today,” Weddle said. “They were the better team on this given day, and you’ve got to respect that, and you’ve got to give them credit.”

What began as a defensive battle turned into a cakewalk for Boise State by the end of the second quarter. Jared Zabransky’s 3-yard scoring toss to Brad Lau on the second play of the second quarter — which capped off an 11-play, 80-yard drive — snapped a 3-3 tie and ignited a stretch of 33-straight unanswered points. With the team down 16-3, Ratliff threw his second interception of the afternoon — doubling his output from the first four games of the season combined — with just under four minutes to play, and Colt Brooks made him pay, returning it 12 yards for another Bronco touchdown.

“Their defense was great. They came out ready to play. They did a lot of stuff?it seems like everything was covered,” Ratliff said. “They were in the right spot every time, and they didn’t make very many mistakes.”

The futility of the passing game was a handicap the Utes couldn’t begin to overcome. To be fair, the Broncos made their share of mistakes. Eric Weddle intercepted two passes on the afternoon, and he and Steve Tate forced a second-quarter fumble deep in Ute territory to thwart another scoring chance. But Jared Zabransky, Ian Johnson and Co. did plenty to make up for it.

“They’re a very physical team. They’re probably the most physical team we’ve played all season,” defensive end Alex Puccinelli said. “They’re ranked, and they had a little swagger to them, talking a lot up front. But that’s just football.”

Johnson didn’t reach the 100-yard plateau, but he didn’t have to. His 88 yards were enough as he led a ground game that posted 188 yards, controlling the clock and wearing down a Ute front seven that is typically stout against the run.

“They came in wanting to run the ball, and they ran the ball on us, and we just didn’t make the plays,” Puccinelli said. “We tried some new things on defense-putting me and Martail (Burnett) in on the ends to get more speed. But we just couldn’t get it done today.”

Meanwhile, Zabransky completed 15-of-21 passes for 210 yard as the Broncos walked away with their fifth win of the season.

Boise State is now 11-0 all-time against the Mountain West Conference, while the Utes’ non-conference struggles continue. Despite their modest 3-2 record, their two biggest challenges have resulted in two of the program’s worst defeats in years. In losses to UCLA and Boise State, the Utes have been outscored a combined 67-13.

“Bottom line is, it’s one football game. It’s a non-conference game,” Whittingham said. “It does absolutely nothing to derail our conference championship aspirations. There are a lot of things we’ve got to take a hard look at?we can’t sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Kim Peterson

Running back Darryl Poston loses his helmet after colliding with Boise State defense.