As a winless team in league play, the Utah Utes admit they are in unfamiliar territory. The way they are attacking their problems is the same as when they were winning keep playing hard.
"We have to pick it up; there is no other option here," offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom said. "That is just how it is. You have to fight your way out and keep working harder."
The Utes (3-4, 0-4), who host Oregon State (2-5, 2-2) Saturday at 5 p.m., acknowledge that playing in the Pac-12 has been a surprise. They knew it was going to be a challenge, but nobody imagined they'd be 0-4.
"We've been prepared for every game, but it has been an eye-opener," defensive lineman Dave Kruger said. "I guess you could say we underestimated the Pac-12 a little bit. We've been prepared week in and week out, but as you can see in our games, we have to execute better."
The problem is, no matter how hard they play or how prepared they are, the Utes are limited in the drastic changes they can make.
With Jordan Wynn out and Tyler Shreve not yet ready to play, there really isn't another quarterback option after Jon Hays.
The offensive line doesn't have the depth to make a lot of personnel changes and no consistent playmakers have emerged among the receivers. The defense is doing its best to carry the team, but injuries are starting to take their toll on that side of the ball, too, with backup linebacker Boo Andersen suffering a season-ending knee injury Saturday.
The whole situation has the Utes reeling a bit.
"I don't think anyone thought it was going to be easy, but no one thought we'd be in this position," Bergstrom said.
As bad as things looked Saturday in Utah's 34-10 loss to Cal, deemed Utah's poorest performance of the year by coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes can still be a better team if they cut back on turnovers and execute better, the coach and players said.
Hays threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball away, helping Cal score 17 points off turnovers.
"If we do not turn the ball over and score in the red zone, we are good enough special-teams-wise and defensively to be in ball games," Whittingham said.
Despite the turnovers, Whittingham reiterated that Hays is still the starting quarterback.
"I appreciate Jon Hays' toughness," Whittingham said. "Nobody feels worse over the outcome of the game and the turnovers than he does. He is completely immersed in what he does and a few of those turnovers were a product of him trying to extend the play."
Rather than big lineup changes here or there, simply cutting down on those errors and continuing to work hard are seen as the best ways for the Utes to improve.
Right now, there don't seem to be many other options.
"It has taken its toll," Kruger said of the losses. "It's a new experience, but at the same time you have to keep your head up and fight your way through it."
P Saturday, 5 p.m.
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