Utah's offense collapses in 28-27 loss to Washington State

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SALT LAKE CITY — How quickly the tide can turn in college football.

Utah jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead over Washington State, only to watch its offense crash and burn in a 28-27 stunning home loss to the Cougars.

Utah finished just 7-20 on 3rd downs and only managed one offensive touchdown as its defense was tasked with slowing down Washington State's high powered air raid offense, which had the ball nearly ten minutes longer than the Utes.

Using the theme of the good, the bad and the ugly, here's a breakdown of the good, the OK (needs work) and the bad in the Utes' heartbreaking loss to Washington State.

The good --------

Kaelin Clay — Utah's prolific special teamer was at it again, returning a punt 58 yards for his fourth kick or punt return touchdown this season. Clay now has three punt returns for touchdowns, tying a single season school record held by Steve Smith in 1999.

Devontae Booker — the strong Utah running back broke off a 76-yard run on the Utes' fourth possession of the game. Booker had 24 carries for 178 yards on the night, doing everything he could to put the offense on his back. Interesting side note: Booker had originally signed with Washington State out of high school, but ended up at a junior college before landing with Utah.

Forcing turnovers — Utah won the turnover battle 3-1 yet still found its way in the loss column. Statistically, teams that win the turnover battle win around 75 percent of the time.

OK (needs work)

Special teams — Andy Phillips was 2-3 from field goal range, missing a 46-yarder wide left in the first half.

Tackling — Far too often the defense went for the big hit instead of wrapping up, costing the Utes yards as Wazzu finished 10-20 on third down.

The bad

Utah's offense — The Utes' first three drives of the second quarter totaled -1 yard and resulted in three punts. The fourth drive was decent, resulting in 57 yards on 12 plays, but the end result was zero points as Andy Phillips' first 46-yard field goal attempt was wide left. It wasn't until Utah's last drive (seven plays, 26 yards) that resulted in any points in the quarter, and that drive started at the Utes' 45-yard line because of a Gionni Paul defensive interception.

Utah's ineptness on offense resulted in the defense having to be on the field longer, having to do more to keep the team in the game. Utah had a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and a 27-14 lead in the fourth, yet still found a way to lose, mostly in part due to the offense not being able to move the football and keep its defense off the field.

The Utes still had chances to win, however, but crucial drops by open receivers ended Utah's attempts in the waning moments of the game. The Utes can't have that kind of offensive showing if they expect to be competitive in any Pac-12 games this season.

Fourth-down defense — Twice Utah had Wazzu backed up into fourth and long situations where quarterback Connor Halliday found a breakdown in the Utes' secondary and converted it into touchdowns. Facing fourth and nine in the second quarter, Halliday found Dom Williams for an easy 35-yard touchdown pass. Later in the game facing fourth and 14, Halliday again found Williams for a 20-yard touchdown. Those are two plays that certainly had a huge impact on the outcome of this game.

First-half penalties — Three Utah drives were ended largely due to untimely penalties. The Utes piled up 73 yards of penalties on seven flags in the first 30 minutes of play.

Robert Jackson is the cross platform sports and weather producer for ksl.com and KSL-TV. He has covered the Utes for KSL since 2008. You can catch him and co-host Brian Swinney Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. on the Ute Sports Report 1320 KFAN.

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