November 05, 2014

After continued struggles with their passing game, the No. 20 Utah Utes are turning again to a quarterback competition in preparation for fifth-ranked Oregon this weekend.

Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson are separated by an ''or'' on the Utes' depth chart.

''The quarterback position is a competition this week - it's opened back up,'' coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''We'll have them compete in practice this week and see what transpires and go with the guy that we feel is going to give us the best chance to win.''

The renewed competition between the two quarterbacks means the Ducks won't know who they're going to face until game time on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) are coming off a 19-16 loss in overtime to Arizona State. Wilson, who started the game, threw for just 57 yards but hit Devontae Booker with a 4-yard scoring pass early in the third quarter for Utah's only touchdown of the game.

The Utes have just one passing touchdown in each of the last two games.

''As an offense we need to help our defense out more,'' Wilson said. ''Our defense has been playing great every single week. We need to put some more points on the board and help them out.''

Utah falls last in the Pac-12 with an average of 175.2 yards passing per game, ranking the Utes 109th among FBS programs nationally. The team has 11 passing touchdowns this season, second to last in the conference.

''We'd like to throw the ball a lot better than we have been. And when I say that, not literally the quarterback throwing the ball but more production in the throwing game,'' Whittingham said. ''If you had to determine one thing that's really held us back this year, it's the lack of production throwing the football. That's been an ongoing problem, and we've got to get that solved.''

Wilson started the first five games of the season before Thompson, a transfer from Oklahoma, started against Oregon State. Wilson won back the job and tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kaelin Clay with 8 seconds left to give Utah a 24-21 victory over USC.

Overall, Wilson has thrown for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns, while Thompson has thrown for 301 yards and two TDs. Both quarterbacks have also rushed for a score.

The Utes' passing game has been hurt by the loss of dynamic wide receiver Dres Anderson to a season-ending knee injury. The senior team captain was hurt in the fourth quarter of the victory over the Trojans after pulling down a pass that gave the Utes a first down on their way to the winning touchdown.

Anderson led Utah with 355 yards receiving and four touchdowns this season.

''He was their man but they've got other guys that I'm sure are going to be ready to jump to the opportunity. You can't take it easy just because their star receiver is out,'' Oregon defensive back Erick Dargan said.

The Utes are looking to junior Kenneth Scott, who has 26 catches for 258 yards and three scores, to help in Anderson's absence.

No matter who emerges as Utah's starting QB - or his go-to receiver - on Saturday, the Utes will still face a considerable challenge in the Ducks (8-1, 5-1) who this week rose to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Oregon's defense stymied Stanford in a 45-16 win last weekend at Autzen Stadium. Dargan had an interception, forced a fumble and had 12 tackles.

The Ducks' passing defense is ranked ninth in the Pac-12. Oregon is allowing opponents an average of 291 yards in the air per game and 14 overall touchdowns.

''If you can't throw the football, they're going to load up the box, just like ASU did,'' Whittingham said. ''They had 10 men within 7-8 yards of scrimmage almost every snap. We've got to have a way, as an offense, to loosen up the defense, and the only way to do that is get the ball up the field throwing it, and we haven't been able to do that the last several weeks.''

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