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Whittingham quotes from weekly press conference

Hopefully this week goes better than last.

Coach held his weekly press conference, where he talked about last week's loss, Air Force and the injury situation.

Looking at Air Force this week, it's going to be strange not seeing Fisher DeBerry on the sideline. He's been there for 20-plus years and it's going to be odd to play an Air Force team without him.

Yes, strange, but a good strange. I didn't like DeBerry and even though I respected him as a coach, I thought he was pretty much a complete ass.

Their offense is a lot different than the triple option they used run. It is now a hybrid of the triple option, the west coast offense and the spread. They hired their offensive coordinator from Nevada-Reno so they have implemented a lot of his stuff. They played well last week but we know that they didn't use everything in their playbook.

This is basically what I said in my preview. Look for a dramatically different offense from Air Force and I highly doubt that was on display during their victory over South Carolina State.

Now, our charge is to get on the right track. This is our conference opener, the earliest one we've ever had. The Mountain West Conference is the bottom line for us. Our goal is to win the conference and this week is going to be our first step in that direction.

If, and that is not a forgone conclusion, Utah can get a victory against the Falcons, they should start conference play 3-0 (Air Force, UNLV and SDSU). That would mean by the time Brian Johnson came back, the Utes could most likely be at the top of the conference. Good news, but they'll have to get it done against the Falcons for this to happen.

Whittingham on the early conference game

Ideally, we'd rather play all of our non-conference games before heading into the conference portion of the schedule. However, there is no advantage or disadvantage to mixing the two together. Our schedule is quirky this year. We go back and forth between non-conference and conference games. But, I see no advantage or disadvantage to it. We just play them as they come.

I disagree. The advantage is the fact Utah opens up its conference play with three of the weakest (at least last year) opponents. They should be favored in every one of those games, Brian Johnson or not. If they win those games, it will soften the blow of not having Johnson and could make it possible for a run at the conference championship. 3-0 in conference play by early October would be nice and a very attainable goal.

On Grady starting

The option element we have is going to be different with Tommy Grady at quarterback. He has a great arm, great size and great poise. So we need to tailor the offense to his skill set.

Our plan was to use the run a lot with Brian Johnson. But, it isn't with Grady. It's not going to be a wholesale change with Grady at quarterback, but our running game is going to be a little different.

Grady might have a good arm, but he has struggled finding open receivers. That's my biggest concern right now about Grady and one I hope he can over come against Air Force. As for changing the game plan, this is a smart move, because we can't run the same offense we ran in the second half of the Oregon State game.

It'll also be interesting to see what Utah can do with their running game. If they can't find anything on the ground, I doubt this offense is efficient enough to make this game with Air Force competitive.

On the running game

I'm not going to say we're back at square-one, but we're back at square-one. We still have Darrell Mack, Darryl Poston and Ray Stowers. We don't have any more live work except for games now. But, over the next couple of weeks, we hope to see some separation between the running backs and, naturally, the one that steps up is the one that is going to see the most time.

This is a big issue with me, because I think Utah underdeveloped the running game throughout fall camp. Whittingham even stated they were focusing on the passing game because he didn't expect it to be an issue and because of that, we're now left with basically rebooting the ground game. That's the fault of the coaches and the fact Stowers, Poston and Mack did not get decent enough live reps could really set this team back against the Falcons.

On how the running game will be different now

The game has been the same for the last 100 years. If you can't run the ball, it's going to be difficult to win. If you can't stop the run, it's going to be difficult to win. Our tailback has to support the quarterback now. He takes pressure off of our quarterback. Last week, when Tommy Grady dropped back, Oregon State had our receivers covered. They were locked down. They took them away. So, we need the run game and our pass protection to be there in order for our quarterback to succeed.

He's right here, but talk is cheap. Utah's running game has been fairly ineffective since Whittingham took over and I question whether that will just abruptly change this week. If there is a weakness on offense, this is it. Of course, if Grady struggles passing the ball, Utah will have to fall back on their running game and that could be a problem if it's as bad as it was Thursday night.

On putting the opening week behind the team

We have to rebound. We had some unfortunate injuries at Oregon State, but no one feels sorry for us. We have to move forward with the knowledge that this opens up opportunities for others to step up. This is a chance for Tommy Grady to show everyone what he's got. He has never had a chance to take all the snaps with one's, and he's never played with a game plan tailored to his capabilities.

I'm glad Whittingham isn't using injuries as an excuse, that's a good move. No one is going to pity Utah for losing key players. The team can't pity themselves and I know for a fact Air Force won't be, so it's up them to rally behind Grady and ride him to victory. Let's hope that happens.

On scouting Air Force

I wish we had two to three games to scout them. It was different to see an Air Force quarterback drop back and throw. But, Shaun Carney is a good thrower. We judge quarterbacks based on their efficiency and he was at 150 percent. That's very good. He's an efficient quarterback.

Utah has questions, but so does Air Force. People automatically focus on the Utes' issues, but you can't ignore the fact Air Force played a D1-AA team last week. The Falcons should have won and they did, but how much do we really know about them? As Whittingham said earlier in his press conference, they most definitely did not run their entire offense, so how much of that will be new against Utah? It's impossible to scout the talent of this team after just one game. That should be a positive for the Falcons.

I'd have to say about one-third of what they ran was something we haven't seen from them before - we saw some things from them in a spread formation. I'm glad that we got a tape on them because they definitely did some things we had not anticipated them doing and that we have never seen them do before.

This offense will be different and that could be good for Utah, as they struggled at stopping DeBerry's wishbone. However, with minimal game footage, the change could also be an issue if the Utes don't know what exactly they're going to run and therefore can't prepare properly for it.

This is a must win for Utah to salvage their season. Hopefully, like in years past, they play well with their backs against the wall. A victory, especially a dominate one, will have me optimistic about the possible outcome of this season. A loss and well, I don't even want to think about that.