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Three Takeaways From Utah's Win Over Oregon State

Kyle Whittingham

Kyle Whittingham

Utah was not flashy in beating Oregon State 27-12 to remain atop the Pac-12 South. The Utes had to survive an offensive drought lasting two quarters before pulling away from the Beavers in the fourth quarter. Once again, it fell on the shoulders of Utah's defense to keep the team moving forward.

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Now the Utes move onto a larger challenge this week in traveling to Seattle to face Washington. Utah has never beaten the Huskies, going 0-8 all-time. Washington has beaten the Utes twice in Pac-12 play since Utah joined the league in 2011, winning by an average margin of 18 points.

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Here are three things we observed about Utah from its win over Oregon State:

1. Utah's offense can't sustain quick starts

For the second consecutive week, Utah's offense showed it was capable of big things in the first quarter before sputtering in later quarters. The Utes scored on their first two drives and had 176 yards of total offense in the first quarter compared to 39 yards for Oregon State. It was a much different story over the second and third quarters. Utah generated 92 total yards in those 30 minutes combined. The Utes punted on three of their next four drives after taking a 14-0 lead before finally scoring again on a 49-yard field goal from Andy Phillips in the fourth quarter. Utah can't afford to endure such offensive lulls and remain in first place in the Pac-12 South.

2. Impact plays have diminished for Utah's defense

Ultimately, the Ute defense did what it needed to do against Oregon State. The Utes kept points off the board. Still, for the second straight game, Utah did not force any turnovers. This is an odd development for a team that has led the Pac-12 in interceptions for the bulk of the season and is one of the best teams nationally in turnover margin. Utah also registered a single sack from sophomore safety Chase Hansen in the fourth quarter. It was Hansen's first career sack. Forcing turnovers and creating short fields will go a long way to helping Utah's offense become more potent again.

3. Lack of vertical throws is making Utah's offense predictable

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson had a productive evening statistically against Oregon State. Wilson threw for 198 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-17 passing. His .824 completion percentage was the sixth best in a single game by a Utah quarterback. Utah's top receiver in yardage, Kenneth Scott, gained just 44 yards on two catches. Many of Wilson's throws were screen passes behind the line of scrimmage or short throws into the flat that went for modest gains. The Utes seemed unwilling to take risks down field. Playing it safe offensively isn't going to cut it. When teams are able to contain running back Devontae Booker for stretches, not stretching the field through the air has made it tough for Utah to move the chains and put teams away early when they have a chance.

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.