Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media for his weekly press conference following Utah's first loss of the season to USC. Utah's next opponent is Oregon State, which features three former Utah coaches: head coach Gary Anderson, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki. This game will be interesting to watch to see how Utah responds after their first loss of the season.
"We have to rebound from our loss last weekend. That's the task at hand this week. We have to refocus and get ready for our next opponent. As far as the USC game, the real bottom line is that you can't go minus four in the turnover margin and have a chance to win against a team like USC. That was the biggest factor in the game. We really got deflated with about 11 minutes to go in the second [quarter] when we were up 14-7, driving with a third-and-three and had an interception that was returned down to about the 4-yard line. That really seemed to be the turning point in the game. We never really fully recovered from that, which is unfortunate. We should have been able to handle that. We played hard, but we were never really able to seize momentum after that it seemed. That was the biggest turning point in the game. We did have some outstanding individual performances. Gionni Paul had 17 tackles. He played very well. Britain Covey had an exceptional game. Special teams rebounded. We did some really good things on special teams after a not-so-good performance the week before. There are some positives to take away from the game, but obviously the bottom line is that we didn't get it done. Big picture, we're still a game in front in the [Pac-12 Conference] South [Division]. We still control our own destiny as far as that goes. We have to put [the USC game] behind us and move forward. That's what we have to do right now."
There are three familiar faces on the coaching staff at Oregon State, Whittingham was asked about his relationship with them.
"[Oregon State Head Coach] Gary [Andersen] and I have maintained a friendship going on 30-plus years now. It's business as usual for us. I have spoken to [Oregon State defensive coordinator] Kalani [Sitake] a few times as well. I try not to bother [Sitake] during the season, obviously, and vice versa. As far as [Andersen] goes, we speak just about every week.
"It's all about players. Players are 90 percent of it. Coaches are not dumb. They're going to change signals, make modifications and do whatever they can, but they know what we know and we know what they know. I don't think that's as big of a factor as people make it out to be."
Utah failed to recover from interceptions against USC and were not able to make big plays of their own.
"We have to make more plays. It seemed like we weren't able to make any momentum-changing-type plays after that. You just have to have the right mindset. You have to be able to handle adversity. In the Pac-12, there's going to be adversity every week. Up to this point in the season, we had done a pretty good job of handling that. I'm not going to say we did a horrible job on Saturday, but we just never seemed to get the momentum back in our favor after that interception."
Currently, every Power 5 conference except the Pac-12 has at least one undefeated team.
"My guess is that there won't be any undefeated teams in the Power 5 [Conferences] at the end of the season, maybe one. When you look back, it's really hard to go undefeated. We don't really care about anything but this week, but historically, it's really hard to go undefeated."
Utah has to rebound from the loss to USC and not let it cost them more games.
"I know you can't let one loss affect the next game. That's for certain. USC is a good team. I would say they're the best 4-3 team in the country. I'd make that statement with pretty much 100 percent confidence. We lost to them at their place. We didn't play our best football and we know that. Life moves on. We have to be ready for the next game, the next opponent and the next challenge. Like I said, we still control our own destiny. We can't let this [loss at USC] affect us in a negative way. There can be no hangover in this next game from last week.
"After any emotional game, or physical game and [Saturday] was a physical game by the way, you're in danger of letting that spill over and you don't want that to happen."
Whittingham was asked about how his team has handled the loss at USC.
"It's a big disappointment to lose a football game. It should be something that hurts and really has an impact on you, but you have to really be able to shake it off and move forward. If you didn't care, you're just able to let it roll off your back, and then you have a bunch of guys who aren't really all in. Our guys are all in so the loss stings, but you have to see the big picture and you have to understand where you sit. Like I said, it's really hard to go undefeated anymore. You could back to the last five or six years, there are not a whole lot of teams that have been able to do it. We still have an opportunity to accomplish all of our goals. Moving forward, we need to do that."
USC managed to have a nine-minute possession in the third quarter that ended in a touchdown and was key in helping USC win the game.
"We got out of the first drive in the second half, it was their ball coming out of halftime. But in the second drive [of the third quarter], we had several third downs in a row and let them off the hook. It was more our inability to make a play on our end on third down. One was a third down and 14 where we got a hands to the face penalty and there was a third-and-12 and third-and-four. They only converted five third downs the entire night and three of them were on that drive. That was critical because we needed to get out of that, being down 11. We got out of the first one, like I said, but we didn't do anything with it [on offense]. The second drive was when they got in the end zone and that's when the game started to get a little bit different. There was a different complexion on the game. We went away from the run game too early. We needed to give [Devontae] Booker more touches than we did."
Devontae Booker only got 14 carries the entire game against USC. Prior to the game, he was averaging the most carries per game in the nation with 27 per game.
"We went away [from giving him the ball] too early. I don't know if it was the second quarter as much as the third quarter where we should have stuck with more run game. I think he ended up with 20 touches the entire game and it needs to be 30. We should have done a better job of getting him the football. It was a coaching error."
The big news about the receivers is that the team is trying to get a medical hardship for wide receiver Tim Patrick.
"We're trying to get a medical hardship for Tim Patrick. That's why we took him off of the depth chart. We thought he was going to be ready last week. He had a couple of good days of practice, but then had a setback. Now we're to the point where we think he's going to be best served to try to get this waiver. As far as the receivers, we still threw for over 250 yards and completed 67 percent of our passes, and did some good things [at USC]. It was the interceptions that were the big problem. I don't think it was anything the receivers were not doing. A perfect day for us is 250 yards rushing and 250 yards throwing. That's perfect. We just didn't run the ball as well as we needed to."
The Utah defensive line did get good pressure on USC, but they were faced with bad field position and being out on the field for long periods of time.
"We came up with four sacks. If we did that every week, we'd probably lead the nation or be among the top three or four. We did get good pressure. We just happened to have a few of the sacks come early. I thought we did a pretty good job on defense. They had 117 yards rushing, less than three yards a carry, which we'll take any day. They had about 250 throwing yards. The thing on defense was that we got put in bad spots. The biggest problem defensively was the field position that they were facing a lot of the time."
Overall, the team is happy with where they are after seven games this season.
"If you had told us in August that seven games in, we'd be 6-1 with a one-game lead in the [Pac-12] South [Division], I think we would have taken that. We're not disappointed with where we are. Obviously, we're disappointed with the loss on Saturday, but we think we're in pretty good shape. Our only objective right now is to be 1-0 this week. That's the whole objective. It boils down to a five-game season and it starts with Oregon State. Our whole focus is to come away with a win this week. We'll worry about whoever is next after that."