CARSON, Calif .– During fall camp there were plenty of comparisons between this Utah team and the 2019 version that won the Pac-12 South Championship and moved up to fifth in the national standings. .
That season, the Utes abandoned a game at USC in mid-September and it appeared their hopes for a division title could be dashed.
Instead, Utah has won eight straight wins.
Last Saturday, the Utes fell to BYU, marking their first loss to the Cougars since 2009.
But it is still early in the season. Utah has proven it can bounce back from a loss in September.
That’s what the Utes will be looking to do starting Saturday (5 p.m. MDT, CBSSN) when they meet San Diego State at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Linebacker Devin Lloyd remembers that 2019 loss to USC and how it impacted the rest of the season.
“We lost to USC and we won (eight) straight up to the Pac-12 championship. It’s not like it can’t be done, ”he said. “At the end of the day, it’s more motivating but we still have to take it day by day. It’s our thing right now. We have to make sure that everyone gives their all.
Quarterback Charlie Brewer said his team should look forward, not back.
“Our goals are always ahead of us. We can still achieve what we want to achieve. Now we correct whatever we did wrong and move on. “
After last weekend’s setback, Utah learned a few lessons.
“My biggest takeaway is it’s similar to the 2019 loss to USC. It opens our eyes to a couple of things that we can do better, and I think we have to do better, if we are to be a great team, ”said receiver Britain Covey. “We will see how we implement this in practice. Honestly, thanks to BYU. They were very well prepared and they played an amazing game. It opened our eyes to what we need to do better.
Next week, Utah will kick off the Pac-12 game with a home game against Washington State. The Utes have several issues to resolve before this.
For example, Utah failed to register a single takeout or bag against BYU. Offensively, the Utes failed to maintain scoring orders and had two turnovers.
“I don’t even call (Saturday’s game) a tune-up game. Each of them is a war for us and we go there with the same mindset, ”said linebacker coach Colton Swan. “Every day we strive to improve. With every game, we strive to improve.
Swan wants to see the defense reestablish their identity this week with physical.
“We have to be physical at the point of contact and stop the race. We must own the trenches and the line of scrimmage. This is the identity of what we need to establish every game, ”said Swan. “They are mature and motivated. What last week did, they saw what it did to their mentality. They are motivated guys. They bounce back quickly. They want to strive for success. They are winners. This is the mentality to have.
Brewer said there is a lot of room for improvement in the offense and mistakes will be corrected.
“You have to see what went wrong and see how we can improve as a team and individually and prepare for the next one. We didn’t play well at all. Offensively, we played really sloppy. I’m going to have to play a lot better this week. I think the guys are motivated. We all felt awkward. I think we’ll have a really good week of training.
Running back Micah Bernard had an outstanding performance against BYU, rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown. The Utes are hoping for more of that this season.
“He had a great game with a lot of big points,” said Brewer. “I think he will be doing this the rest of the year.”
Coach Kyle Whittingham said this week his team has “improved in everything we do. We had too many mental mistakes in the game last week. We weren’t physical enough in defense.
Covey’s message to his teammates has been to put last week’s loss behind them and take care of business every week from now on.
“Anyone who says you won’t lose in life is just lying. You’re going to lose. It’s not if, it’s when. It’s so cliché, but it all depends on how you react, especially an early season loss. A mid-season loss is not as disappointing as an early-season loss. You start the season without thinking that you are going to lose a single game, ”Covey said. “Such high expectations. You lose one early on to your rival and it’s just devastating.
“Then you realize that it doesn’t affect anything in our conference game. Our goal is always to win a Pac-12 championship and go to the Rose Bowl, things like that, ”he continued. “And that’s where leadership comes in. It’s very similar to 2019. You saw what this team did. It’s so easy as a fan to overreact.
“You have to simplify it and say, ‘Where can we improve? You watch the movie and there were some things where it was so obvious, look, that’s why it didn’t work. I think the 2019 team had a great group of leaders. … You have to trust people. It’s about taking ownership of your work and trusting guys in their work. It’s hard. It’s like delegating. But the best leaders do.