Utah Football: Utes Look For Midseason Turnaround

Stephen Dunn

The Utah Utes are hoping to turn their season around behind Travis Wilson and recover from a winless start to Pac-12 play.

1. Is Travis Wilson getting the start at QB the right move for this year? How much does this move realign expectations for the rest of the season?

Sean Reynolds, Block U: I think the expectations are pretty much the same. Utah fans were starting to concede the possibility of a losing season and that continues, even with Travis Wilson. Obviously you hope the team can win enough games to get to six, but after the bad start, and with a tough road swing, I think most fans agreed that a 2-5 start, which appears they're destined for right now, would make bowl eligibility difficult.

Utecentral, Ute Football Central: Some in the market feel that this move should have been made against OSU because they viewed Jon Hays as the best chance of getting a win against UCLA. While they may have been right, I felt the team needed a spark to turn things around on offense and Kyle Whittingham saw Wilson as someone who could provide a desperately needed lift to the team.

Does this mean that the team is throwing in the towel? Certainly not! Well...not yet. Hays was well beyond his peak as a Division I quarterback and did an admirable job in a very tough situation. Wilson is the closest thing to a "real" Pac-12 quarterback since Alex Smith for the Utes and it was time to begin a new chapter for this team that has had no identity on offense this year. Hopefully the Utes will be better the rest of the way as Wilson provides more options for the offense than Hays did and we all hope that this change will provide dividends for the 2013 season.

2. The word that best describes Utah football at the midway point of the season is _____________ because ________________.

Sean Reynolds, Block U: Disappointing. Most fans expected the Utes to contend with USC for the Pac-12 South and now it's possible we're the 5th worst team in the division. I think fans are also disappointed with the development of the defense, which was supposed to be the strength of this year's team and they have struggled at times.

Utecentral, Ute Football Central: DISAPPOINTMENT! Disappointment because this team was over-hyped locally and nationally. I think if the team and their fans knew what was in store for this through six games (2-4 record), the attitude and frustration level of the fans would be much different. Coach Whittingham warned that the offensive line and linebackers were a big concern, but I think most fans thought that it would all work out in the end because in the past it always did for the most part. The only difference is that in the past, they could get away with it against UNLV, New Mexico and Wyoming, but it doesn't seem work as much against USC, UCLA and ASU. Who would of "thunk" it?

3. What did you see that encouraged you from the UCLA loss? Did you see the team improve in any capacity?

Sean Reynolds, Block U: I think the offense moved the ball better than they had all season. That's a positive, because this has been a stagnant offense for most the season and to see sustained drives, even if they didn't end in points, is far better than watching three and outs on a continuous basis.

Utecentral, Ute Football Central: The few times the Utes rushed the ball against UCLA, they were mostly successful with John White and Kelvin York averaging over four yards per carry. The offensive line is getting better. I was also impressed with the potential shown by Travis Wilson as a true freshman getting his first start on the road in a hostile environment at the Rose Bowl. Once he figures out a few things, I think Utah finally has a quarterback with some serious upside.

4. What still needs fixing? What do the Utes need to improve on to become a better team that can start winning in-conference?

Sean Reynolds, Block U: The defense needs to improve because right now, it looks overwhelmed at times and definitely not as speedy as maybe it needs to be. I think the offense has to continue improving on the line and gain some experience, both in the booth, and at the quarterback spot. Hopefully that can happen this season and the Utes win some games, maybe even making a run at a bowl berth, but yeah, it's not going to be easy.

Utecentral, Ute Football Central: What doesn't need fixing? That's a shorter answer. Linebackers are the worst I've seen in ten years, defensive line is average when they should be much better, offensive coordinator is green and has had three starting quarterbacks in six games, the offense is ranked among the worst in the country and we have this big Japanese drum thing at the beginning of the 4th quarter that no one can figure out. This team and coaching staff must realize that the days of showing up and winning on talent are over. Each game in the Pac-12 is against tough competition and has to be fought hard for all four quarters.

5. Looking ahead to this week's game, what do you see Utah needing to do to pull off the upset against Oregon State? What's your score prediction for this week and why?

Sean Reynolds, Block U: I don't know if there is one set thing they need to do. Obviously, their defense has to get off the field on third downs, something that plagued ‘em last week against UCLA. The offense will also have to move the ball and turn sustained drives into points. But it's awful hard to ask a team to go on the road and win against a top-ten opponent. So, I don't think victory is likely ... even if I hope it's possible. My guess is that Oregon State wins 28-14.

Utecentral, Ute Football Central: Utah will have to play their best game all year to have a chance in this one. The coaches will have to coach their best game all year to have a chance in this one. Both of those scenarios are possible, but not likely. While I can see the Ute's pulling of an upset (maybe I just have a vivid imagination), I think Oregon State will pull away in the second half and beat the Utes 35 to 14. I just don't think this offense is ready to score the way they need to in order to keep up with OSU and I don't think the defense can shut down the Beavers to make 14 or 21 point by the Utes enough for a victory.
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