Utes can’t hang with Ducks’ firepower


Devontae Booker fumbles the ball. Oregon recovers. The Ducks beat the U 51-27 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday. — Conor Barry

Devontae Booker fumbles the ball. Oregon recovers. The Ducks beat the U 51-27 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday. — Conor Barry
Devontae Booker fumbles the ball. Oregon recovers. The Ducks beat the U 51-27 at Rice Eccles Stadium on Saturday. — Conor Barry

After the clock struck midnight at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Utes were left wondering what could have been in their game against the 4th-ranked Oregon Ducks.
Although the game ended in what seemed to be a 51-27 blowout of the Utes by the Ducks, Utah was very much alive at times and even looked to have complete control over the Pac-12 favorites early in the first quarter. But again, that’s only what could have been.
It began with the Utah offense, led by new but familiar starting quarterback Kendal Thompson, driving down the field for the opening score with a bevy of fresh and innovative offensive plays and formations that took the Ducks by surprise early on. On the final play of the drive, Thompson pitched the ball to Bubba Poole on an option play for the eight-yard touchdown that put the Utes up 7-0 with 10:25 left in the first quarter.
The next offensive possession for the Utes is where things started to go south.
Somewhere in the span of five plays, Thompson sustained a knee injury that culminated in him crumpling to the ground after throwing an incomplete pass to receiver Tim Patrick. After walking off of the field, Thompson spent a brief time on the trainers’ table before being sent to the locker room where his night, and his season, was officially ended.
Travis Wilson came into the game in relief of Thompson and seemed to put the Utes in a fantastic position in his second offensive drive. But again, that’s only what could have been.
On third-and-five from his own 21-yard line, Wilson threw a perfect ball to receiver Kaelin Clay who evaded a lone defender and ran 78 yards into the end zone to give the Utes what would have been a 14-0 lead. The only problem was that Clay didn’t have the ball.
As he ran toward the end zone, Clay intentionally dropped the ball a full yard and a half before reaching the goal line which was noticed by the refs and a few straggling Ducks. As Utah players celebrated in the back of the end zone, safety Eric Dargan scooped up the ball at the goal line and followed his convoy of blockers 100 yards to the end zone for the touchdown.
Fans at Rice Eccles Stadium witnessed a rare 14-point swing as what could have been a 14-0 lead turned into a 7-7 tie game with one simple lapse in judgment and awareness.
“I take full responsibility for what happened tonight,” Clay said after the game. “I will take the criticism and the blame. It was just one of those things. I got excited and let the moment just get away from me. Again, I take full responsibility for this.”
That lone play completely changed the course of the game as the Ducks were able to rattle off 17 unanswered points before Utah kicker Andy Phillips was able to stop the bleeding with a 32-yard field goal to send the Utes into halftime down 24-10 at home.
The Utah offense led by Wilson was able to make a game of it in the third quarter, but the Utes suffered another huge blow when former walk-on receiver Tim Patrick was carted off of the field with a season-ending leg injury in the end zone.
After Patrick went down, the offense was basically limited to Wilson, Clay and running back Devontae Booker as its lone weapons which the Ducks were able to key in on, forcing two interceptions from Wilson who until Saturday had not thrown a pick all season long.
The lack of offensive diversity, paired with a tired defense and a negative-three turnover margin was too much for the Utes to overcome as Mariota and the Ducks pulled away in the fourth quarter on their way to another win against a ranked opponent.
“Oregon is a great football team,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game. “The Ducks may be one of the best teams in the nation. They have a bunch of playmakers and probably the best quarterback in college football. I thought we played well early in the game … but you just can’t play a team of that caliber and expect to win with the mistakes we made. I liked the way we hung in there, but some of the things we did down the stretch weren’t good enough to help us win.”
There are no breaks in the Pac-12 as the Utes will travel to Palo Alto, Calif. next week to take on a Stanford Cardinal squad that is looking for revenge after their loss at the hand of the Utes last year in Salt Lake City.
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