No. 21 Utah tries to regroup after falling out of contention
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Eight months of work toward a singular goal has come to an end for No. 21 Utah and each player seems to be dealing with the loss in his own way.
Oregon traveled to Salt Lake City and upset Utah 30-28 on Saturday, ending the Utes' hopes of winning the Pac-12 South.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham made no secret that winning the division was the objective for 2016 and the next step in the growth of the program. He said Monday that winning a 10th bowl game in 12 seasons was another goal, but that's more of a given considering the state of the program. Winning the Pac-12 championship was another target, but Utah (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) needed to win the division first.
So how does one deal with sudden disappointment?
Senior receiver Tim Patrick was clearly still upset Monday but is looking forward to facing No. 9 Colorado and the chance ''to show the nation who we really are.'' He noted that a 10-win season doesn't replace the motivation for a championship.
''I want them to feel how we felt after Oregon,'' Patrick said. ''You always have to find something to play for. We're playing the No. 9 team in the country at their place. They're going to be jumping because it's going to be their first time having a chance to go to the Pac-12 championship. I like playing the spoiler.''
Cornerback Justin Thomas was more upbeat than Patrick but said playing the spoiler role didn't mean much to him. The senior said they're playing for pride.
''I was kind of down, hurt, obviously,'' Thomas said. ''You've just got to move forward because you can't do anything about it and try to win that last game. You can see Tim is not feeling it at all. It takes time, they'll be back.''
Quarterback Troy Williams was introspective after the loss. He thought back to transferring from Washington and spending a year without a scholarship at Santa Monica College before transferring to Utah.
''I just tried to remember how blessed I am to be here,'' Williams said. ''How blessed we all are to be in this position – win, lose or draw. A lot of people would kill to be at this university playing football. I just try to think about that and take that into consideration. Everybody was pretty set on winning the Pac-12 South. Now we just have to focus on going out there and getting a W.''
Running back Joe Williams refused to even discuss the Oregon loss during postgame interviews.
The loss was more frustrating than any other this season, Whittingham said.
There was anger in the locker room after losing to No. 6 Washington but everyone knew the division title was still attainable. Not only did the Ducks end a potential title run, they are a sub-.500 team that won on a touchdown pass with two seconds remaining that was ruled out of bounds before the call was overturned upon review.
''(A hangover) is always a concern when you have an emotional game like we had,'' Whittingham said, ''and something that ends like it did. Such a disappointment. … But this team has shown the ability all year long to bounce back and play well. So we expect to do that. You're competitive and you want to win and that's who you are. If you're not that way, you don't belong in our program.''
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