Utah feels Dres Anderson’s absence, snaps winning streak in 19-16 loss to ASU

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Preston Zubal

Moments after the Utes’ 19-16 defeat to Arizona State, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson sat behind a podium taking questions. Wilson had just finished the night going 12-for-22 with just 57 yards. When asked about the offense’s inability to start, he answered the way many Utah fans have been feeling.
“I have no idea — I mean, things happen,” Wilson said.
Since entering conference play, Utah’s “things” have been three-and-outs, stalled drives, dropped passes and very few trips to the end zone. And they have been happening, well, almost every drive.
All year Utah has used its defense and special teams as a crutch, and that was the case again on Saturday. The difference between Saturday’s game and the Utes’ now-snapped, three-game winning streak was a critical error by one of the units that have led Utah to victory.
Andy Phillips’ missed field goal in overtime was an unmasking of sorts.
“[We] on offense [have] to make some more plays,” Wilson said. “We have to help out our defense, and we’re not doing that so far, and that’s something we need to improve upon. Only scoring one touchdown in the second half is not going to win games, so we have to improve a lot on offense.”
Improvement has been needed since entering Pac-12 play, and the team is starting to run out of time to figure it out.
Missing Dres
Utah played its first game without leading receiver Dres Anderson, who had surgery last Wednesday on his knee and will miss the remainder of the season. His absence was felt.
The Utah passing attack has been grounded before this season, but without Anderson, the Utes didn’t have a receiver who spread the defense wide. The Utes gained only 57 yards through the air, and all of that was on underneath routes.
“He’s a great weapon to have and a great wide receiver,” Wilson said. “This whole team misses him, and he would have been needed.”
Head coach Kyle Whittingham knows he’s gone, but also knows the Utes have to move on and figure out a way to move the ball through the air without their top pass catcher.
“He’s a heck of a football player,” Whittingham said. “He’s talented. He’s our deep threat, but he’s not there, so it’s a moot point. We have to carry on and next man up. It makes no sense to talk about ‘what ifs,’ but there’s no ‘what ifs.’ ”
 
Rice-Eccles Stadium
Last week, Twitter was ablaze when Utah athletic director Chris Hill backed off his talk of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium. A look around Arizona State’s stadium could offer some insight why.
The Sun Devils’ stadium hosted a game of two top-20 teams in a pivotal battle for the Pac-12 South Division title race, yet there was a sea of empty seats.
Arizona State’s home stadium can hold upwards of 65,870, but just over 53,000 attended the matchup Saturday night. The Sun Devils renovated their stadium recently and actually took away seats.
Evan Webeck, from Arizona State’s newspaper The State Press, explained that unless it’s Notre Dame or a big matchup with Arizona, the stadium rarely sells out. He said the Sun Devils didn’t quite reach sell-out level in the Pac-12 Championship game last season.
Utah fans have shown they are a football-loving bunch, but with a successful Arizona State team in the bustling metropolis of Phoenix struggling to fill its stadium, it may make sense for Hill to be hesitant to expand Rice-Eccles.
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