"We've got to come back and we've got to regroup," McKay Jacobson said. "Thankfully we have another game this next week and we need to prepare and hopefully we'll be ready to show the improvements."
However, that was the mantra of last week's message, and still the team came out again surprisingly unfocused and made many mental errors. The Cougars handed their rival a gift-wrapped win, and the outcome of the Utah game shocked everyone.
"Yeah, I would say it's not what we expected," said Jacobson, who has yet to score a touchdown in three games. "We definitely felt like our offense was a lot further along than what it's shown so far."
In the glory days, and not-so-distant past, the Cougar offense commanded respect in the hearts of defensive coordinators by inking up stat sheets and lighting up the scoreboard with many touchdowns. Other than Ross Apo, no Cougar players on offense have scored a touchdown so far this season.
"We've yet to score points to win, and offensively we have yet to score enough points to win our last two games," Jacobson said. "That's really on us players, and turnovers will kill you, so we want to get out there."
In three games – or 12 full quarters – the Cougar offense has only managed to score three touchdowns. Against UCF, the Cougar offense has to find their way into the end zone more than just one time in order to come away with the win.
"Yeah, I think we've underachieved our expectations," said Jacobson. "Now we just have to regroup and refocus and recommit ourselves."
During the Utah game, the offensive tempo was still inconsistent at best. The only constant within the offense was watching the receivers consistently line up on the wrong side of the field time and time again, which was a problem during the Ole Miss and Texas games. So, what's the issue?
"I think it's a mental thing, really," Jacobson said. "You know, finishing drives, taking care of the ball and a lot of those mistakes were physical mistakes. I think there were a lot of mental mistakes."
Could the youth of the offensive players, coupled with a new offensive philosophy, be partly to blame for some of those mental issues and poor level of execution? One would think there could be an argument made there, with a focus on execution taking a bit of a hit for a greater emphasis on unpredictability.
"That's a great point," said sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps. "I think at the beginning of the season that could have been the case as we were trying to do a lot of getting our guys to some spots that was making it tough for them. Really, we simplified it and that hasn't been the case since the Texas game or this last game.
" I think we've simplified it enough, and I think at the end of the day I've got to make the throws and execute in order to be a successful football team. I really like where this team is at. It's just a matter of going out there and playing, and playing like we're capable of down-in and down-out. That's really what's going to make the difference. If we're able to do that, then it's going to be lots of fun this Friday."
Last week prior to facing Utah the team refocused on fixing mental mistakes and improving their tempo and execution. They also worked on establishing the run game, which never got going. The question is now whether the Cougars focus on improving their current offensive philosophy or whether they will change that philosophy.
"I think there may be a combination of both," said Jacobson. "I'm not exactly sure, but I have full faith and confidence in our coaches. I feel they did prepare us for this last game, and I would say really it's on the players.
"We did not go out there and we did not make it happen. We did not execute and it was on us. We need to go out there and we need to change and get better, and really it's all mental. It's all mental things we need to change. I think we have the ability to do some stuff but we haven't done it yet, so that's where we need to make some changes."
It seems there needs to be calculated steps in regards to establishing and building upon this Cougar offense in order to reach measurable success. As of now, it's very difficult to understand what achievable goals the offense is shooting for other than the same focus as that of previous weeks.
"We haven't really had any conversation like that," Jacobson said. "Just after the game, kind of talking with some people, we just really feel we need a chance to respond. This [Utah] game is over and I think a lot of us were just – at least for me I can say – shocked. Did that just really happen?"
Yes it did, and that was something on the minds of Cougars fans as well. Fans believed that this offense, with all its talent, would have progressed further despite the stronger opponents. Hopefully against UCF, this Cougar offense will begin to live up to expectations. Refocusing, regrouping and recommitting themselves to the here and now is how McKay Jacobson feels the team will respond.
"It was the toughest loss I've ever been a part of," Jacobson said. "It was really tough to take, but we've got to move on because we know that Central Florida is going to be getting ready for us. We just have to refocus, regroup and recommit ourselves.
"We've come up short a couple of times this year but I don't think that's going to change how we go about things. I think we'll need more resolve and more focus, but I think we're going to go out there and play hard as we always do. It's not always easy to do when adversity comes, but I think we'll come back and finish the year strong."