Jake Bentley rolled out to his left and saw wide receiver Britain Covey running open with nothing but daylight ahead of him. All he had to do was put the ball out in front of Covey and not only would Utah convert on third-and-6, the play would've been a great response following Washington's first touchdown of the game.
That never happened though.
Bentley not only under threw Covey, but he lobbed the ball with enough air time that Huskies safety Elijah Molden was able to snag the interception and return the ball just outside of the red zone.
The Huskies would go on to kick a field goal, before following it up with two touchdowns that eventually led to Utah squandering a 21-0 lead that half, falling 24-21 on Saturday night.
“The decision I made to try to get it to Brit wasn’t very smart. It had a snowball effect on us,” Bentley said. “I’ve got to play better. We have to play better as a team, and we will. We’ll continue to build on the good things that happened in this game.”
That interception has been just one in a series of plays — not all involving Bentley — that have severely hampered Utah this season. Through two games this season, the Utes have committed nine turnovers (five against USC, four against Washington), seven of which have come from quarterbacks Cam Rising and Bentley.
Bentley has been the biggest culprit this season, throwing two interceptions in each game thus far while losing a fumble against the Huskies. However, he has accounted for three total touchdowns this season as well.
“We’ve got to continue to learn from our mistakes. Our defense is doing a great job of getting the ball back for us,” Bentley said after the Washington game. “We’ve got to stop giving it back. That starts with me. It’s frustrating, for sure, because you feel like you let the team down.”
The defense has been phenomenal after the offense turns it over, only giving up scores on three of the nine possessions. More than anything though, the turnovers have been drive killers, taking points off the scoreboard.
“Those were backbreakers. Those two certainly didn’t help our cause. I firmly believe we probably would have scored when Ty fumbled there in the red zone,” Whittingham said. “But he did some really good things for us. He’s an electrifying player. I’m sure Jake wishes he had that throw (to Covey) back.”
So what's happening? Why are the Utes turning the ball over at a rate this program is very unaccustomed to doing?
Two of the turnovers have been fumbles by true freshman running back Ty Jordan, the second of which was a backbreaker against Washington with the Utes driving in the second half.
Jordan is dynamic with the ball in hand a true homerun threat every time he touches it. But these are also his first two college games, and without going through a true fall camp, it's hard to simulate the difference in physicality from high school to college. It's widely believed that Jordan will get these mistakes ironed out and become better.
Bentley has really been an interesting case as he's shown flashes of being very very good, as evidenced by his first half against the Huskies in which he went 9-for-11 for 87 yards and a touchdown through the air and 39 yards and a score on the ground. But he's also struggled mightily, particularly throwing the ball deep, as evidenced with his five turnovers in two games.
Some of his struggles can be attributed to the porous play of the offensive line, as Bentley has consistently been under pressure against opposing lineman. The Utes have given up six sacks and 12 tackles for loss in the two games this season. Constantly running for his life, Bentley has been prone to rushing throws which have led to the mistakes.
On the other hand, Bentley has struggled throwing the ball downfield. His inability to push the ball down the sidelines has allowed defenses to stack the box against Utah's running game and making the team very one dimensional.
“It was the same problem we had last week offensively, turning the ball over with four more turnovers,” Whittingham said. “When you play good teams like USC and Washington, you’re not going to win turning the ball over. The biggest difference in the game is four turnovers.”
Utah now has one week to figure things out before Oregon State comes to Salt Lake City. The Beavers are entering the game on a high after upsetting No. 15 Oregon 41-38 on Friday night and another victory will make them bowl eligible.
If the Utes can take care of the ball, there's no reason they can't take down the Beavers and push towards a potential bowl game — something the program desperately needs to get the extra practice time.
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