Frogs should have put up a greater fight for Utes

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said the No. 4 Horned Frogs were the best team he had ever faced after the 55-28 beat down he and his Utah Utes suffered Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd in Amon G. Carter Stadium.

This is the same Whittingham who went undefeated in 2008 before rolling the Crimson Tide of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But Whittingham needs to be thanking the football gods that he caught the 10-0 Frogs on somewhat of an off night.

To quote Dennis Green, whose press conference theatrics have immortalized him in a Coors Light commercial:

“We let ’em off the hook!”

I’m in no way discrediting what the Frogs accomplished on Saturday. From the second they came out of the tunnel in their spiffy new Nike uniforms, they were ready to put a spanking on Utah that would have the Utes not wanting to sit down on their flight home. But the fact of the matter is the Frogs made their share of mistakes.

The Frogs have been nearly automatic inside the 20 this season, converting 43 of their 49 visits to the red zone into points. Two of those six failed visits came Saturday night.

The Frogs couldn’t capitalize on a Utah fumble at their own 16. Tyler Luttrell unloaded on Utah return man David Reed to force the fumble Malcolm Williams recovered. Four plays later, sophomore Ross Evans shanked a 26-yard field goal attempt and missed.

In the second quarter, junior quarterback Andy Dalton tried to squeeze a pass into junior wide receiver Curtis Clay. The ball was deflected and intercepted in the end zone. It was Dalton’s first interception since the Oct. 10 ice bowl at the Air Force Academy.

Senior running back Joseph Turner continued to run hard and pound opposing defenders. Turner carried the ball 11 times for 63 of the Frogs’ ridiculous 342 rushing yards, but he also put the ball on the ground three times. His third fumble was the only one lost to Utah.

The defense allowed more points than any other game this season with 28. In the past four games, the unit had surrendered a total of 25. More often than not, the defense was wreaking havoc on the Utes, forcing nine punts and only allowing 11 first downs.

The way I see it through my purple-tinted glasses, the Frogs could’ve, if not should’ve, put up another 28 points with ease. Yeah, that’s 83 points on the No. 16 team in the land. Three years of losses at the hands of Utah had me wanting to see triple digits. Yes I’m being greedy and nitpicky, but the Frogs have set the bar high.

In the long run, though, this needed to happen. As the team moves forward to play a pair of games in which they shouldn’t be challenged, they needed to see room for improvement, and you better believe head coach Gary Patterson will point that out.

Saturday’s game at the University of Wyoming has the recipe for a trap game. That means the team will have to get its mind off what it did to the Utes last Saturday and focus on what it needs to do to the Cowboys. The need to improve upon those mistakes, though few and far between, will aid in the process of getting their minds right for the next opponent.

The Frogs have shown a maturity level to match their talent all season long by not looking ahead or admiring their body of work. Patterson hasn’t let them buy into the hype built around them as BCS busters or potential title contenders. That won’t change even after they plowed through their biggest road block this weekend without playing their best football.

It doesn’t take scales and blood lines for this to be a very scary team, and the Frogs will continue to show that in the coming weeks.