Football: Team shares blame for losses

Trevor Reilly causes Taysom Hill to scramble out of the pocket at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sep. 21, 2013.  Photo by Chad Zavala
Trevor Reilly causes Taysom Hill to scramble out of the pocket at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sep. 21, 2013. Photo by Chad Zavala
For the second time in many years, the Utes are now dealing with the realization that they won’t be going to a bowl game to finish their season.

With its loss to Washington State on the road last weekend, Utah ended the season winless away from the Beehive State. The defeat also marked the Utes’ fifth consecutive loss.

“My whole entire life, I don’t think I’ve had a five-game skid in any sport,” said senior defensive end Trevor Reilly Monday afternoon at the team’s weekly press conference. “I don’t think two words were said on the entire plane ride home. That’s how it usually is after a loss, but this one hurt. I shut my phone off until about 15 minutes ago. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be here. I didn’t have a big impact on the game personally. I just feel bad for the alumni and the fans that we couldn’t deliver this year.”

While Reilly and the rest of the defensive unit have been quick to blame themselves for losses this year, the offensive players have consistently disagreed, saying it was their fault. However, head coach Kyle Whittingham has a different take.

“That’s the kind of guys they are. They love each other and we have a genuine family atmosphere on this football team and it really is very unified and that’s just how it is. The chemistry on this team is outstanding,” he said. “It’s on my shoulders. I’m in charge of this program, so there’s nowhere to point the finger but right here. All you can do is keep working and keep searching for answers and get things heading back in the right direction.”

Looking back on close losses

The best record the Utes can hope for is 5-7, which would equal 2012’s losing campaign, but Whittingham and players feel as though they were only a few plays away from a distinctly more successful run in 2013.

“You point to the losses and there’s a couple plays here or there,” Whittingham said. “That’s usually what close games come down to, is those four or five momentum-changing plays that decided the game.”

Among the games Utah dropped that were most winnable, Whittingham pointed to the seven-point loss to UCLA, the one-point defeat by Arizona State and even the fact that his team stayed close with Oregon until the third quarter.

“It seems like every game that’s been the case, and this past week was no different. We cut it to 43-37. We had momentum and I thought we were gonna pull that one out,” Whittingham said.

While Whittingham highlighted the close losses and how a few momentum-swinging drives led to the Utes’ demise, Reilly pointed out that on only one occasion did Utah capitalize on one of those moments to claim victory.

“A lot of those games come down to one play either made or nomade, and we’ve been on the wrong end of a lot of those,” he said. “Look at the Stanford game. They had to make a play at the end of the game. We made the play and we won the game, but if they would’ve scored that touchdown, they would’ve won the game. The whole season can come down to a total of about 10, 12 plays.”

All about the seniors

With bowl eligibility out of the question, there is one thing motivating the Utes above all else this week.

“It’s all about the seniors and sending them out the right way,” Whittingham said. “We expect no different mentality this week. It is all about getting the seniors out of here on a winning note … They’ve provided great leadership for us all season long … We’re gonna miss them.”

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