No. 10 Utah struggles on offense again in 21-7 loss to No. 19 Oregon State

Oregon State running back Damien Martinez (6) celebrates with teammate Tanner Miller (61) after scoring a touchdown against Utah during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)
No. 19 Oregon State rebounded from a loss to Washington State with a convincing win over Utah on Friday night. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

No. 10 Utah’s offense had another dreadful performance without Cameron Rising in a 21-7 loss to No. 19 Oregon State.

The Utes mustered just 198 total yards of offense as Oregon State didn’t have much trouble keeping Utah out of the end zone. And when Utah got close to the end zone in the third quarter, it immediately went backward.

Utah made its way to the Oregon State 5-yard-line after the Beavers took a 14-0 lead and promptly lost six yards on a sack and then 12 yards on a snap that went through quarterback Bryson Barnes’ legs. Barnes then threw a brutal interception on third down as linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold dropped into zone coverage and picked off the pass.

Oregon State extended its lead to an insurmountable three touchdowns early in the fourth quarter as Silas Bolden ran 45 yards for a TD on fourth and 1. Utah stuffed the line of scrimmage around the ball in anticipation of a run up the middle but QB DJ Uiagalelei pitched outside to the right to Bolden, who ran untouched into the end zone.

Rising hasn’t played all season

Rising was in street clothes on the sideline Friday night as he missed his fifth game of the season. Rising hasn’t played so far this season since tearing an ACL during the Rose Bowl in January and his absence has been felt.

The Utes opened with Barnes as the starter, but he was replaced by Nate Johnson during the second week of the season against Baylor. Johnson took over as the team’s primary QB but was replaced by Barnes during the second half of Friday’s contest as Utah simply couldn’t move the ball through the air. Johnson was 3-of-12 passing for 35 yards at the time.

In addition to Rising, Utah is also missing TE Brant Kuithe. He tore an ACL in September of 2022 and has been practicing with the team. However, like Rising, he hasn’t been cleared to return to the field.

Kuithe and Rising are one of the best QB-TE combinations in college football. Kuithe had 50 catches for 611 yards and six scores in 2021 while Rising threw for over 3,000 yards and 26 TDs in 2022.

Their absences have been felt for more than just one game, too. Utah scored just one offensive TD in a 14-7 home win over UCLA in Week 4 and hasn’t scored more than 24 points against an FBS-level opponent all season. A lack of a passing game is a big reason why as Johnson and Barnes have combined for fewer than 800 yards through five games.

Both Johnson and Barnes got banged up on Friday night, too. Barnes took a big hit to his midsection in the fourth quarter while Johnson was hobbled with what appeared to be an ankle injury after replacing Barnes on the following drive.

Johnson finished 8 of 23 passing with 101 yards and a meaningless late touchdown strike. Barnes completed 5-of-8 passes for 40 yards and an interception.

Oregon State is a Pac-12 contender

Friday night’s loss isn’t a shock for the Utes. Utah was an underdog entering the game thanks to Rising’s uncertain status and this is an Oregon State team that’s still a contender for the Pac-12 title despite a Week 4 loss to Washington State.

The Beavers boast a strong running game with Damien Martinez and Deshaun Fenwick while Uiagalelei has played better than he had over his last two seasons at Clemson. With no ranked opponents on the schedule over the next five games, it’s not impossible to think the Beavers will be 9-1 before games against Washington and Oregon over the final two weeks of the season.

Even if Oregon State enters the final two weeks at 8-2, the Beavers should still be in the thick of the Pac-12 race. And if the Beavers are in contention for the Pac-12 title over the final weeks of the season, they’ll find themselves an easy team to root for given the way the conference fell apart around them in 2023.

Utah’s path to another Pac-12 title is suddenly a lot harder, especially if Rising is a ways from returning. After a bye week and a home game vs. Cal, the Utes have USC, Oregon and Washington over a four-game span. All three of those teams are currently ranked in the top 10 and it’s hard to see Utah having a chance against those offenses if Rising is unable to play.

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