Utah Utes and Jazz share a common trait
And not just that they are from the same state
This can’t be given a positive spin
On the road Utes and Jazz struggle to win
COMMENTARY – Utah seems to wilt when they have a tough row to hoe. They just can’t get the water to the end of the row on the road. You see, I grew up on a large parcel in West Jordan with a huge garden, lots of fruit trees, and the occasional farm animal – I can employ these country metaphors until the cows come home.
Going into last weekend, Utah was 11-0 when John White ran for 100 yards or more and was 0-10 when John White failed to reach the century mark. Sounds simple – just give John White the ball.
Oh yeah, the rest of the team also has to come to play.
John White rushed for 142 yards and single-handedly accounted for more than 75 percent of Utah’s offensive output as Utah only managed 188 yards of total offense. But it has now been conclusively proven that John White cannot do it all by himself. Utah is now 11-1 when John White runs for 100 yards or more.
There is more than enough blame to go around as receivers dropped passes, the offense was 1 of 13 on third downs and 1 of 3 on fourth downs, a punt return was fumbled, there was a drive-killing interception and the defense allowed Keith Price to sit back and pick the secondary apart.
The coaches have to share in the blame as well. Granted, the players have to actually play the game and the coaches can’t play for them. However, the coaches have to prepare the players and coach them to play and execute, regardless of the venue. When there is a consistent failure to execute and perform on the road, then coaching legitimately is called into question.
Is it really as simple as playing poorly on the road, or does it go deeper?
It is time for a reality check as to what this Utah team is and is not. The Utes are now 4-6. The combined record of the four teams Utah has beaten is only 15-26 – generously stated as an average record of 4-6. BYU, at 6-4, is the only team Utah has beaten that can even boast a winning record. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the six teams that have beaten Utah have a combined record of 41-18, which basically breaks down as an average record of 7-3. Arizona State, at 5-5, is the dog of this group and they laid down a 37-7 beating on the Utes in Tempe.
The point is, Utah has fared poorly against quality teams, while picking up a handful of wins against not very good teams. The Pac-12 is stacked with quality teams, with six teams (half of the conference) in the Top 25. The sad part is that, at times, Utah legitimately gets beaten by the other team. But at other times, Utah simply beats itself. I think this team is better than its record, but at the end of the day its record will be how this team is measured.
Did I mention Utah did beat BYU? Does Chris Hill really want to give up this annual rivalry game and leave fans with nothing to hang their hat on if the Utes struggle in the Pac-12?
Utah can still salvage the season by winning its last two games and winning another bowl game. Will it be a season to remember? No. But it will be better than not even qualifying for a bowl.
Utah hosts Arizona (6-4) at home this weekend, and ends with a payback game against Colorado (1-9) on the road next weekend. Both games are winnable, but the Utes will have to come to play in both contests.
While dreams have been dashed as the football season winds down, hope springs eternal as basketball season gets underway. The new look Runnin’ Utes are already a vast improvement over last year’s squad. With another injury ending David Foster’s career at Utah, only three players on the roster played with the team last year – Jason Washburn, Cedric Martin and Alex Mortensen. Utah has a bevy of talented newcomers this year, including true freshmen Jordan Loveridge out of West Jordan (did I mention I went to West Jordan?) and Justin Seymour from Marietta, Ga., and 7-footer Dallin Bachynski, a sophomore out of Alberta, Canada.
I know I shouldn’t read too much into Utah’s drubbing of Willamette last week. However, last year the Runnin’ Utes struggled against even some of the cream-puffs on their schedule, so it is nice to see them dominate teams that they should beat.
Throw in the perennially powerful Red Rocks gymnastics team and Utah fans can still find something to cheer about. Hopefully, the football team will give Utah fans something to cheer about over the last few games of the season as well.
Dwayne Vance is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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