Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media for his weekly press conference following Utah's 62-20 win at Oregon on Saturday. The Utes have a bye this week to get healed up and ready to play the Cal Golden Bears for the Homecoming game.
"It was a good road win for our team. I thought our guys were completely ready to play. They had a lot of energy. They had a lot of focus. You could see it during the practice week. It wasn't a surprise that they played well. Obviously, we didn't think the outcome was going to be the way that it was, but we felt that we had a great week of preparation in all phases, on the field and off the field, and everything that goes into getting ready for a game. All three phases played exceptionally well on Saturday. It was a tough environment. Autzen Stadium is a tough place to play. It's a great crowd. It's hostile so I thought our guys handled that very well. It was good to see us play our best football because we hadn't done that in the previous three games. We were able to put together a complete game. It wasn't perfect. We have things to work on with kickoff coverage maybe at the top of the list. It was good to see the execution at the level that it was and guys flying around, having fun and really enjoying themselves. They played hard. They played efficiently. That was a positive. Congrats to Tom Hackett and Travis Wilson. They were both named Pac-12 Players of the Week, respectively for special teams and offense. That continues our string of Pac-12 Players of the Week. That means we have guys who are performing and doing some good things.
"We have the week off with some down time for the players to get rejuvenated. We have an eight-game stretch after this week of all Pac-12 games, obviously. They're all Saturday contests so we have to get ready for the gauntlet and the grind that is the Pac-12, which begins next week. Obviously, it already started with Oregon but after the bye week. The bye week comes at a good time in a respect that when you break the season in half, you consider that fall camp is the start of the season, we're right at about the halfway point. I know we're only four games into the season, but it's about halfway. It's a good break for our guys right now. We need to maximize the time during this break by getting healed up and getting our legs completely back and just getting ready for that eight-game grind."
Senior quarterback Travis Wilson was not 100 percent healthy for the game against Oregon, but he had arguable the best game of his career at Utah.
"We felt good [about him] all week long. He was good in practice. He was still in pain. He's still not 100 percent by any means. Toward the end of the week, it became apparent that he was going to be able to be the guy. He played exceptionally well. It was [Wilson's] best game as a Ute. Right now, he's leading the nation in QBR (ESPN.com Total QBR: http://espn.go.com/ncf/qbr) quotient or index that is produced by ESPN's team of analytical and stat guys. They put a formula together and it's probably the best barometer of how you're playing as a quarterback. It takes into account rushing, the sacks you've taken, the throwing aspect of it, the competition level. It's an extensive formula and Travis is No. 1. That's great and a big reason why we're 4-0 is the play at quarterback.
"[Wilson being able to play] changes the whole dynamic of the offense. He was so accurate and so good with his throws [at Oregon]. The receivers stepped up. ‘Scottie' [Kenneth Scott] had a big game for us. That loosens everything up for [Devontae] Booker and everyone else in the run game. It makes us a complete offense. When we throw the ball like we did Saturday, it makes us a complete offense and not a one-dimensional offense."
Utah is ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2010 and received their first first place vote in the AP Poll since the 2008 season.
"You're starting to get some perspective [on the national landscape]. Weeks 4 and 5 are when you starting getting a little bit of a perspective. There are comparisons that you can make, some common opponents between teams and that type of thing. It certainly means more now than it did two or three weeks ago, but still we don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. We have our own goals and things we want to accomplish. We just have to take those on our own timeline and not worry about the external stuff."
On the timing of the bye week, Whittingham said,
"I get asked that question most years. All I can say is that we try to make it a positive regardless of when it falls. You have no control over when it falls. If you had control and you could pick a spot, maybe you'd put it a little bit differently, but we try to make it into a positive as much as we can. There's an argument that says you played so well that you'd rather keep the momentum going and play the next week, but we have no way to change that so we look at it in a different light and say we're going to make the most of it this way."
On the team's bye week agenda:
"We're giving them a lot of time off this week off of the field. Recruiting is never not going on, it's going on constantly every day of the year. We'll have a chance to send our coaches out on Thursday. They'll be out Thursday, Friday and Saturday visiting schools, watching games and doing their evaluations. Then obviously we'll come back in and put our full attention to Cal Berkeley. We'll get a great start on Cal today, tomorrow and Wednesday. We'll analyze all of the film breakdowns and then get on it full time after the recruiting weekend."
After recording only three sacks in the first three games, Utah recorded five against the Ducks and put constant pressure on the quarterback.
"All of our coaches did a great job of preparation and game planning. Our defensive coaches had an excellent plan in place. We upped the dose of pressure last week. We looked at our first three games and we weren't our usual aggressive selves on defense. We figured we needed to get back into the mode of higher pressure. A lot of those were coverage sacks. The coverage on the back end did a great job of making the quarterback hold the ball. We came away with five sacks and numerous hits on the quarterback other than the sacks so we just took a good look at what we had been doing in the first three games and where we typically want to be and decided that we need to up the dose of pressure and show them a few pressures that we hadn't shown this year and they got a lot of mileage out of those. The disguises on the back end were very good and we also got a lot of mileage out of bluffing pressure and dropping back into coverage. There were several third downs where we showed pressure early, backed out and then played coverage."
Despite the big win, the Utah football team cannot get ahead of themselves. They still need to take it one game at a time.
"First of all, you can't think you have all of the answers after winning a big game and then start thinking that you've arrived because you haven't. You don't want to get ahead of yourself. We have to understand that we played a good football game. We would like to build off of it. We want to repeat the things that we did in the preparation process leading up to that game because that was a biggest key. The game was won long before Saturday. The game wasn't won on Saturday. It was won Monday through Friday. Our guys have to understand that. We have to get back to work. As soon as you back off just the least little bit, and think that you have answers and then start projecting that you're going to do this or that, then someone is going to smack you. You have to keep your focus, keep your work ethic and keep your same preparation model and process then attack it one at a time, one by one."
Utah used ‘trick' plays effectively at Oregon like Devontae Booker's touchdown pass, Tom Hackett's fake punt and Boobie Hobbs' punt return.
"Typically, we have a good idea going in of what our opponent may be susceptible to based on how they play. If their DBs are particularly aggressive, you may call a perimeter run. You look for things that may give you an idea that a special play may work. During the course of a game, you look to see if they're reacting the same way. A lot of it is also circumstantial. You may have to be on a certain hash mark or a certain position on the field because their dose of whatever it is you're looking for goes up in that circumstance or in that situation. There's a lot that goes into it, but it's all planned. It's not just, ‘Hey, this trick play looks good. Let's test it out on these guys and see if it works.' It's a calculated risk."
There are a lot of things that Whittingham likes about his team.
"There are a lot of things. Their work ethic, maturity as well as the leadership and ownership they have taken. They care about each other and that's with the staff and the players. There's a genuine love between the coaching staff and the players. That's really the culture we've built here, a family-oriented program. We're all family and we all take care of each other. This team really exemplifies that."
Utah has struggled passing the ball for much of their time in the Pac-12, but their passing attack with Wilson has looked much improved this season.
"Travis [Wilson] is throwing the ball exceptionally well. We're protecting really well. We've only have one sack that we've given up this year. The receivers are starting to become more of a factor each week. They're coming on as a group. [Kenneth] Scott is a constant. He's always ready to play and has been with us a long time. He knows the deal, but some of those other guys who haven't played as much are starting to progress as well. But it really starts with the quarterback and the protection. That's where it really starts."
Expect to see more from true freshman tight end Caleb Repp, who burst onto the scene with two catches for two touchdowns against Oregon.
"We expect him to be a bigger factor moving forward. Right now, he has two catches and two touchdowns right now. He's a matchup problem for defenses. He's a ‘tweener - not quite a tight end but not a wide receiver. He has great height. He's 6-5 and about 210 pounds. He runs exceptionally well. He's a 4.5 40 guy so he can really go. He might have caught Oregon off guard a little bit. They probably weren't sure who he was and what his role was and how to treat him. Going forward, when you have good players you want to play your good players. We want to get as much out of each guy as we can. Each guy has his role and there will be a role for Caleb. Going forward, we'll just see how that expands."
Whittingham is very happy where the team is health-wise.
"I'd say we're in pretty good shape at this juncture. We're four weeks in and this week off will do us a world of good. I would say we couldn't ask to be in any better health at this point in the season."
On the offensive coaching staff, Whittingham said,
"I think they're doing a great job. [The Oregon game] was by far their most production of the year. Our staff works well together. We seem to have a lot of synergy. They work well together and do a great job. It's a very functional staff. But just like the players, we can't just pat ourselves on the back. We have to keep working, grinding and keep trying to find ways to do things better. There are always improvements that can be made, but I'm very pleased with how the entire staff operated on Saturday. The play calling on both sides of the ball, offense and defense, was just very smooth. With Oregon's fast-paced offense, you have to have your calls ready, players lined up and I didn't think that we were disoriented at all. We kept up with the pace."