Adams: Utes’ season full of missed opportunities and bad luck

Kendall+Thompson+scrambles+down+field.+Thompson+left+the+game+in+the+first+quarter+with+an+injury.+The+Ducks+beat+the+U+51-27+at+Rice+Eccles+Stadium+on+Saturday.+%E2%80%94+Conor+Barry

Kendall Thompson scrambles down field. Thompson left the game in the first quarter with an injury. The Ducks beat the U 51-27 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday. — Conor Barry

Kendall Thompson scrambles down field. Thompson left the game in the first quarter with an injury. The Ducks beat the U 51-27 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday. — Conor Barry
Kendall Thompson scrambles down field. Thompson left the game in the first quarter with an injury. The Ducks beat the U 51-27 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday. — Conor Barry

 
After a 51-27 defeat to the hands of No. 4 Oregon late Saturday night in Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Utes now sit at 6-3, with a 3-3 conference record. But oh, what could have been for Utah.
What if Dres Anderson catches a late deep-ball throw from Travis Wilson to win the Utes first conference game against Washington State? What if Andy Phillips makes the field goal from 35 yards out against Arizona State in a fight over control of the Pac-12 South? And what if Kaelin Clay just held on to the football a second longer on a 78-yard strike and score from Wilson on Saturday night to help the Utes play spoiler against the Ducks?
The 2014 campaign was shaping up to be a special one for Utah until some uncharacteristic and rare things began to happen. Even while playing in a conference that sees teams beating up on one another on a weekly basis, Utah had a legitimate chance to compete for the South title.
How things have changed in the last two weeks.
Clay’s dropping of the pigskin before crossing the plane was not the only unfortunate thing to happen to this Ute squad in the game against the No. 4 team in the land either.
Heading into this game, it was a mystery of who was going to start under center between last week’s starter in Travis Wilson or Kendal Thompson. In yet another change, Whittingham opted to go with the Oklahoma transfer over Wilson to start the game.
However, it was all downhill after Thompson led the the Utes down the field on the first possession of the game for a touchdown. On the next drive for Utah, Thompson went down to the turf with a knee injury. Things looked promising after he walked off the field under his own power, but all that promise was dashed when Thompson returned to the sideline in street clothes, out for the rest of the game. Things got worse after the contest when Whittingham confirmed Thompson will miss the remainder of the season.
Utah was hit with another injury later in the game when receiver Tim Patrick went down in the back of the end zone. With the absence of leading receiver and offensive captain Dres Anderson already hindering the offense, the last thing this unit needed was to see another one of its receivers get hurt. They will have to live without Patrick because Whittingham also confirmed the receiver will not return this year.
Both of those losses may have some lasting effects on an already-hurting team, but the Utes have been fighters all season long. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, this team is just some consistent quarterback play away from being a top 10 team in the nation and maybe even better, if it weren’t for some odd gaffes at some inopportune times.
With the injury to Thompson, the decision who to play quarterback should be easy for Whittingham, but the head coach already mentioned after the game how Connor Manning and Brandon Cox will both be competing for the backup spot. Whether Whittingham feels comfortable putting either of those two in a game is yet to be seen, but I think it’s safe to assume that this is Wilson’s team now.
As for the strange occurrences, including Clay’s drop at the goal line, they will continue to cause Utah fans to wonder.
No matter who will lead the team the rest of the way and no matter how the Utes finish out this season, it’ll be hard for Utah fans to look back and not ask themselves, “What if?” The 2014 Utah Utes – the team that could have been great.
 
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