College football • Utes to focus on defense, ball security.
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The Utah Utes might be putting the brakes on their fast-paced offense as they continue to search for an answer to their offensive woes.
The Utes (4-4,1-4), who failed to score a touchdown Saturday for the first time since the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl, will consider slowing down the offense and try to win more with defense, much like Stanford does, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday.
"It's too late to make any wholesale changes but we have to look at the things we have done well and emphasize those and maybe stream line things even more than we have in the last couple weeks," Whittingham said.
It's also too late to use consider freshman quarterback Conner Manning an option, Whittingham said. Not wanting to take Manning out of his redshirt year, the Utes will stick with starter Travis Wilson and backup Adam Schulz as their options.
Wilson is coming off two of his worst games, throwing 8-of-24 for 66 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions combined in losses to Arizona and USC.
Wilson admitted he has endured a rough couple of weeks but didn't use his injured throwing hand as an excuse for his mistakes.
"I need to be a better thrower and take better care of the football," he said.
The Utes have the luxury of some extra time to experiment with the offense since they are off until they host No. 25 Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) on Nov. 9.
What the Utes don't have the luxury of is the use of some healthy playmakers. Tight ends Westlee Tonga and Jake Murphy remain out with injuries.
Whittingham said the Utes planned to use those two players extensively in the offense. Without any suitable replacements and a receiving corps clearly impacted by the absence of injured receiver Kenneth Scott, the Utes' offense simply doesn't have many options.
One the Utes will consider is using running back Kelvin York more. York finished with four carries for 21 yards against USC while leading rusher Bubba Poole had nine carries for 19 yards.
Whittingham said the Utes should have gone to York more.
"He'll get more carries than what he has been getting," Whittingham said. "He has earned that."
Despite the offensive issues, Whittingham said turnovers continue to be his biggest concern. The Utes have thrown 15 interceptions but the defense has grabbed just two. The Utes have lost two fumbles and have taken away eight, but they still need to create more takeaways, Whittingham said.
"The turnover margin is a team effort, it's not just an offensive thing," he said.
With four games remaining, the Utes say their goal continues to be playing in a bowl game. To become eligible, they must win two games of the contests they have remaining against ASU, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado.
The Utes had hoped to do more this year than just battle for a bowl spot, but that is the nature of playing in the Pac-12.
"No doubt we've gotten better since we've been in this league," Whittingham said. "But as far as the conference itself, it has gotten better at a faster rate than we have."