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Whittingham quotes from weekly press conference

2-0 with a solid win over UNLV, next up rival Utah State and this is what Kyle Whittingham discussed in his weekly press conference.

Opening statement:
It's certainly nice to start the conference schedule off with a win against UNLV in our home opener. We had a great crowd on hand - the third-largest crowd in Rice-Eccles history. There were a lot of positives going on that night. We came away with the win but there was some similarity to our first game where our offense was effective in one half and not as effective in another half. We came out a little sluggish in the first half. Three of our drives stalled on a critical holding call, a turnover and a dropped pass on third down, but we also scored on two drives. It was not all bad for a half of football offensively but it was certainly not what it was in the second half. The second half was very good. Brian Johnson was very sharp and execution across the board was very sharp.

It's good to see Whittingham realizes the Utes have yet to play a full game. If he can somehow manage to fix this problem, Utah will be an extremely good team this season. Also, addressing the penalities is important, since they can be drive killers and really hurt you in tight games. Those holding calls have plagued Whittingham's teams ever since he got here, so I'm not optimistic that will change anytime soon. 

Defensively we did a pretty good job. We allowed a couple of sustained drives. Frank (Summers) is a good back. He had some success early in the game but we buckled down in the second half. We were much more physical in the front seven on defense than we were in the first half. It was another positive performance by the defense. We didn't create any takeaways and we've got to start making that happen. That doesn't do our offense any favors.

On defense, I think the Utes played well for most of the game. There were three UNLV drives that punished the D, but only one came in the second half. That last one was a mix of  the defense letting up with a big lead and penalities giving UNLV a second chance to score. I was surprised the Utes' defense forced zero turnovers. I would have expected at least an interception. 

On injuries and the defensive tackle position:
We lost Lei (Talamaivao), who was Kenape's (Eliapo) backup. He has season-ending surgery this afternoon, but he has a redshirt year. For the time being we will have to look at Koa (Misi) or Derrick Shelby inside. We may leave the ends as they are and try to find another combination inside. Nai Fotu may play more defensive end. Dave Kruger may come out of his redshirt year and play defensive end. We will get that solidified this week, probably by Wednesday. When you start moving defensive ends inside, all of a sudden you are short defensive ends.

Ugh, injuries, injuries, injuries. It looks like Utah's defense is really taking a hit from the string of injuries in these first two games. I'm not going to get down too much, but hopefully they don't continue to plague this team...especially after what happened last year. 

On Utah's running game: 
We like what we've got with the 1-2 punch of Darrell (Mack) and Matt (Asiata). Darrell was much more effective against UNLV and Matt had a long run called back at the end. It is working out as we hoped it would. We hope to get over 100 yards combined from both guys.

I'm loving Utah's running game this year. Both Mack and Asiata look good and hopefully they keep it up. And who knows, maybe Asiata could step in and play quarterback if Johnson needs a rest.

On concerns about the slow start against UNLV: 
We did some dumb things - a turnover, penalties. With the clock change, the number of drives is cut down. You get a penalty and you shoot yourself in the foot a few times and there is a little more dramatic effect. We want to execute cleaner. UNLV came out and played well on defense - I have to give them some credit. They were making plays. In the end, we scored 42 points, and you're not going to lose many games when you score 42 points.

The slow start against UNLV is a concern, especially if it happens again this week. Not that I think it'll give the game to the Aggies, but if the Utes start out slow Saturday, it would be the third game in a row they failed to play all four quarters. It won't hurt against USU, it could be the difference between a 4-0 start and a 3-1 start the week after against Air Force. Hopefully they'll come out and pound the Aggies from start to finish. That might be the biggest thing to watch for in this game, whether or not the Utes can sustain success for an entire game. 

On Utah State: 
Their main quarterback (Diondre Borel) is athletic. It used to be that we played an athletic quarterback two to three times a year. Now, every week we are facing a guy who can run the football well. The run game and the option game are our main concern from an offensive standpoint.

Utah is expecting Borel, even though I don't think Brent Guy has made him the starter yet. He's not the most talented quarterback Utah will face this season, but he's probably Utah State's best option. 

On playing at Utah State: 
Utah State is a great place to play. Whenever we play there it is a packed house. A lot of our fans travel up there. We have great support at that stadium also. I really, really like the field. They have a great surface and their facilities have really been upgraded.

This goes back to the debate we had earlier this summer on the Utah-Utah State series. A plurality of fans (41%) said we should keep the series going, while the second largest number (20%) said we should drop USU for BCS teams. If anything, these every other year games give the Utes a chance to schedule an extra home game, while almost assuring Utah a road win when they travel to Logan.

Anyway, hopefully Utah doesn't overlook the Aggies and returns to Salt Lake 3-0.