Well we can throw the college football playoff scenarios out the window now. Those aren't happening after Utah's inexplicable loss to an Arizona team that was undermanned and used their backup running back and quarterback for much of the second half and overtime as the Utes fell 37-30.
It was a different type of game for the Utes, one where the defense was unable to make the big plays we've seen all season when they had to. It was a game where, despite Arizona having a poor defense, Utah ran the same simple plays over and over that allowed the Wildcat defense to keep everything in front of them, and didn't force them to think much or adjust. It was a game where the defensive injuries showed with a severe lack of pressure against one of the worst offensive lines in the conference that produced zero sacks. It was 'that game' for Utah's 2015 season.
While the loss was a tad surprising, mostly considering how poorly Arizona has played recently due to their rash of injuries, the overall Utah performance really wasn't that surprising considering the holes we've seen in the past few weeks as injuries have started to mount. Utah was the more talented team on Saturday night, and you could see that on the field. Arizona just came up with the bigger plays (thanks to some incredible catches), and in a rare occurence, Utah was outcoached.
It's hard to say exactly what Utah was doing on offense on Saturday. It's as if they saw four plays on film against Arizona that they assumed would work and didn't want to deviate from the plays under any circumstances. There was success, but much of that success was setup by Travis Wilson's legs where he was often the catalyst in picking up yardage in key situations. The bubble screens? Over and over and over and over. Success? Not so much? The sweeps to Booker? Arizona caught on after a half. The deep balls? Non-existant. The corner fades to Kenneth Scott? I think the Wildcats figured that one out too. I just can't make sense of what Utah was trying to do, and I don't think they could either. I guess that's what happens when the number of offensive playmakers on your team can be counted on one hand.
Defensively, it was another odd game. Gionni Paul was inexplicably absent, racking up only two tackles. Norris had six, but looked dinged up and a bit slow. Arizona attacked Dominique Hatfield all game with plenty of success. No pass rush, and when utah did get upfield, they often overpursued and left their lanes, letting Solomon step up and pick up 6 or 7 yards on the ground with the linebackers dropping in to deep coverage trying to help a struggling secondary. Utah needs to get healthy quickly or UCLA will eat them up over the middle of the field with a combination known as Rosen to Duarte.
Let's not pretend that this didn't happen, but it's also fair to put somewhat of a positive spin on this one. Arizona needed big plays courtesy of some outstanding catches, poor play calling from Utah on both sides of the ball, an injured Devontae Booker, a depleted defense, and still needed two overtimes to beat Utah in what I think was the Utes' worst performance of the season. If Utah plays slightly better and makes one or two more plays, they win this game, despite playing what I'd call a D+ performance. No excuses for the performance, but the silver lining is that the defending conference champs needed a Utah dud to take them down. Old Utah teams get blown out. We'll call it a form a progress, regroup, get ready for the Bruins, and keep working towards the initial goal this season of winning the Pac 12 South.