Kyle Whittingham explains decision to stick with Bryson Barnes in Las Vegas Bowl loss
Kyle Whittingham said after Saturday’s 14-7 loss to Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl that Brandon Rose simply is not ready to go into a game and Bryson Barnes, the staff felt, gave the Utes their best chance to win.
In the final game of the season, Utah was unbearable on offense. The Utes finished the game with 211 yards of total offense, including just 73 through the air. Barnes, who decided to enter the transfer portal after the regular season but stuck with the team through the bowl game, went 8-for-13 passing for 55 yards and two interceptions. Utah gave up five sacks and averaged just 3.2 yards per play for the game.
“Tough to win a football game scoring seven points and losing the turnover margin 3-0,” Whittingham said after the game.
Utah had 13 possessions in the game. The first two ended in three-and-outs. The next two ended with interceptions. Then came four more possessions that failed to move the ball past midfield and ended with punts. Then a fumble on the opening play of a drive. Then another punt.
Utah had one scoring drive all night — an eight-play, 60-yard possession that was aided by an 18-yard pass from Luke Bottari on the first play of the fourth quarter. Bottari had come in for Barnes after Barnes’ helmet was knocked off. His 18-yarder was the longest completion of the night for the Utes.
And they went right back to Barnes after.
Was there a discussion about making a move?
“We talked about it,” Whittingham said when asked. “But when Bryson was ready to come back, we decided that Bryson gave us our best chance to win.”
With Utah struggling to get in gear, fans questioned how close Rose — who at one point in camp was the leader for the No. 2 job behind Cameron Rising before an injury — was to seeing the field. He did not play during the season in the hopes of saving the year as a medical redshirt.
Whittingham said Saturday night’s no-show had nothing to do with a redshirt.
“He is just not ready to do that yet. He’s just not grasping the offense and decision-making. He’s still in his learning stage,” the Utah coach said. “He’s got a lot of things going for him, he’s got a big arm and he moves around pretty good, so it’s not indicative of where he could be at some point in time, but he’s just not ready to be thrust in there right now.”
Utah finishes the year at 8-5. From this year’s quarterback group, Barnes and Nate Johnson are leaving. Cameron Rising is expected to be ready to go for the 2024 season after missing all of the 2023 campaign, and Utah fans will be glad to see him back on the field whenever that day comes.