SALT LAKE CITY — Calvin Throckmorton was forced to demonstrate his versatility during an extremely challenging evening for Oregon’s offensive line.
Throckmorton started the game at center for Jake Hanson, who was suspended in the first half for a targeting penalty against UCLA.
In the second half, Throckmorton moved to right guard. He finished the game at left tackle after Steven Jones was knocked out of the lineup with an injury.
Oregon’s patchwork unit allowed Justin Herbert to get sacked four times during the 32-25 loss to Utah on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“You can see it in guys’ faces,” Throckmorton said of the frustration with the team’s performance and the attrition on the offensive line. “It hurts. It’s a physical game. It comes down to being able to use that as a driving factor this coming week in our preparation.”
Throckmorton has now started at right tackle (first six games), left tackle (previous three games) and center this season. During the 2017 season, he made three starts at right guard.
The Ducks (6-4, 3-4) lost starting left tackle Penei Sewell to injury against Washington. Jones, another true freshman, had to be helped to the bus with a towel over his head and sun glasses on after suffering what appears to be a serious concussion.
Hanson joined the group at center in the second half. Throckmorton replaced Dallas Warmack at right guard to start the third quarter. Brady Aiello (right tackle) and Shane Lemieux (left guard) played throughout the game at their normal positions.
“We handled the moving around about as good as we have, but have to be better,” Hanson said. “It wasn’t good enough to win. The offensive line play wasn’t as good as it needed to be to win.”
Oregon struggled in the run game until Travis Dye sparked the team with nine carries for 66 yards. Starter CJ Verdell left the game with an injury after averaging just 2.5 yards per attempt.
“We were definitely able to get things going in the second half, which was good,” Hanson said. “Then it seemed like we were getting a couple big runs here, a couple there, and penalties and negative plays did not give us the consistency we needed.”
Utah finished with 12 tackles for loss.
Linebacker depth tested
The Ducks are running out of linebackers. Sampson Niu, who was the replacement for the injured Kaulana Apelu and Isaac Slade-Matautia, left the game after a violent collision in the red zone in the first half.
Keith Simms came in and finished with eight tackles.
“Sampson did a great job stepping up for Lana and Isaac, and Keith did the same thing, came in and played great,” said linebacker Troy Dye, who also had eight tackles. “Keith did a fantastic job. You’re going to watch the tape and see him flying around making plays.”
Outside linebacker Justin Hollins limped off the field on the first drive of the game band was attended to by trainers in the third quarter but the fifth-year senior gutted it out.
Outside linebacker La’Mar Winston let a mistake by Utah quarterback Jason Shelley, a potential game-changing pick-six, slip through his hands in the third quarter. Later in the second half, safety Nick Pickett was unable to make a play on an errant pass in the end zone.
Oregon’s defense did not have an interception or a fumble recovery, but Kano Dillon’s blocked punt set up a 3-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Travis Dye to give the visitors their only lead.
Even though Sewell remains out of the lineup indefinitely due to injury, the coaching staff let the freshman from Saint George, Utah, make the trip back to his home state.
Defensive end Austin Faoliu and Dillon, who were left back in Eugene for the road game at Arizona due to injuries, were back on the travel squad.
Sun Devil suspension
Arizona State’s Merlin Robertson, who leads the team in sacks (five) and is second in tackles (59), will miss the first half of next Saturday’s game at Oregon after being called for targeting in the second half against UCLA.
The kickoff time for the 2018 Autzen Stadium finale will be announced Sunday.
Oregon was officially eliminated from the North Division race with Washington State winning at Colorado. … Two NFL personnel directors looking for a franchise quarterback, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and Miami Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannebaum, attended Saturday’s game. Buffalo Bills director of player personnel Dan Morgan was also credentialed. … Representatives from the Alamo and Holiday Bowls also attended the game.