Kyle Whittingham addressed the media yesterday for his weekly press conference. He touched on the 20-19 win over BYU on Saturday. He also addressed how the team has to move on the following week and avoid a letdown like what happened in 2011, 2012, and 2013. He also talked about Utah’s next opponent: San Jose State.
Below is the complete release from the University of Utah:
"Okay, another rivalry game has come and gone. First thing is what a great atmosphere on Saturday night. I want to thank our fans, the MUSS and everyone who was there to support our team. It's been great and the support that our community has given our football team is fantastic. We can't say enough good things about our fans and how they take care of our players.
"For the football game itself, there was a lot of adversity that our team faced in that game. They faced probably four or five games worth of adversity during the course of that game. They didn't flinch. They handled it very well. They kept coming back. We'd have a setback, but like I said, they just continued to play hard and not let things affect them in a negative fashion. That was great to see. The mark of a really good football team is a team that can handle adversity and fight through some tough situations. We talk about that all of the time as a team. Being able to handle those storms when they arise during the course of a game is so critical to being the type of team that we want to be.
"We're moving on now to San Jose [State]. They're a good football team. They have a good offense. They scored a bunch of points on Saturday. The quarterback is good. The receivers are good. They're good across the board. Their running back is very talented. It's the first road trip of the year for us. A lot of the guys going on the trip have never been on an NCAA Division I road trip so it'll be a learning experience for them, but we have to handle it.
The key is that the rivalry hangover, I guess you could say, has been a factor for us. The first three years in the Pac-12 [Conference] in 2011, 2012 and 2013, we won the rivalry game and then lost the very next week. We have to avoid that this year. I'm not sure of the exact order, but I think it was Arizona State, UCLA and then Washington. Those three teams for sure, but I can't remember the exact order of it. The bottom line is that when we played the rivalry game early in the season, which we started doing back then, it had a negative impact on the next game. Our challenge this week is to not let that happen. That's a point of emphasis this week."
On if ball security will be an emphasis this week in practice after the BYU game:
"Without a doubt and ball security is always a point of emphasis. We have to do a better job of taking care of the football. Credit them for taking the ball away, but we had sloppy ball security and that's on us as much as anything else. That is going to be job one, just like it is every week.
"Emotions of a rivalry game could have played into it. You had guys who were maybe pressing a little bit. That could have had a bearing on it or had been a factor. Nonetheless, no matter the circumstances, you have to take care of the ball. That's the number one objective offensively, to take care of the football. The number one objective defensively is to take the ball away. Everything else builds off of that."
On the future of the rivalry game:
"Well, it's on t he docket for the next four years. I believe it's under contract for four more years. I'm just worried about this season so I can't really give you a great answer. I just know that we take it game by game. They're on the schedule next year so we'll worry about that when the time comes. The landscape of college football is going to continue to change and that may dictate the future of the rivalry more than anything else."
On an emotional letdown being the reason for lack of success following the rivalry game in past seasons:
"Well, that could be part of it. That's why we need to make sure we address it this week. Another part is that those were three tough Pac-12 games. Those were three very good football teams that we faced and like I said, San Jose State is very good as well. We have to get that corrected because it can't keep happening."
On if he saw his team improve from week one to week two:
"Definitely. The defense played very well. The offense was moving the ball until we hit those road bumps, the turnovers. We only punted three times. We have to get that addressed and the red zone efficiency is not anywhere near good enough offensively. If you had to identify our two main Achilles heels right now, they would be taking care of the football, at least in that last game, and for the first two games we have to be more efficient in the red zone."
On advice to junior quarterback Troy Williams:
"We just want to make sure we make good decisions and not try to make a play when there's not one there to be made. That's an adage that a quarterback has to subscribe to and follow. If there's nothing there, sometimes there's nothing there. You just have to live to play the next down, kick a field goal or whatever the situation may dictate. The key is to just let the game come to you, not try to force it and not try to make a play when it's just not there."
On Zack Moss being the starting running back on this week's depth chart:
"First of all, it will be a competition this week in practice. Nothing is set in stone. The depth chart is just a projection. After a week of practice, there's a lot that can change, not that there is a lot that usually changes, but nothing is completely determined. Zack Moss came in and gave us a spark. That was very evident when he came in and ran the ball. He deserves to at least get the opportunity to vie for that starting job this week. He was out for a considerable period of time, not being able to practice. He had an injury that was bothering him. He's still not in great shape and his potential has still not been reached yet so he's going to continue to get better. Like I said, based on his performance Saturday, he deserves a chance to be the guy, but he has to prove that in practice all week long.
"Before he got hurt in fall camp, he was showing signs of being a very talented running back. He didn't surprise us. We thought he had those capabilities, but it's only one game where he had 10 or 12 carries so he has to do it again. We saw glimpses of that through the early part of fall camp and then he went down. He was out for several weeks. When he came back, we weren't really sure if he was going to be ready this week to contribute or not. We gave him a few carries and it appeared like he was ready so we kept feeding him the ball."
On winning a game after committing six turnovers:
"That's not an easy feat, to win a game turning it over six times. Like I said earlier, we were able to win because of our resiliency and we have a lot of talent. That certainly plays a part. You have to have a lot of talent to overcome six turnovers. You don't want to make a habit out of it. Maryland in 2014 was the last team in college football that was able to do it. It's very few and far between that you get that done."
On junior linebacker Sunia Tauteoli being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week:
"I wouldn't say he's outperformed our expectations for him because we expected him to be a very good player for us. He's very active. He has great quickness. He's tough. He's not the biggest guy – a six footer and about 225 pounds – but he's very instinctive and very active. He plays fast. He's a quick-twitch individual and it's great to see him get that award. Ironically enough, he wasn't player of the week in our own system. [Senior cornerback] Reginald Porter played his best game as a Ute. He was phenomenal from start to finish and only gave up one throw. [Porter] was player of the week in our own in-house system, but it's great to see [Tauteoli] get that award. That's two weeks in a row now that we've had a player in the Pac-12 Player of the Week category, special teams last week and defense this week."
On five-man defensive fronts against BYU:
"We're getting mileage out of it. Going into the season, we knew that was going to be one of the packages that we would employ on defense. Getting your best 11 players on the field is always a priority for us and we are loaded on the defensive line. When you have that five-man front, you have five defensive linemen out there so you're getting one more quality pass rusher. [Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Morgan] Scalley has done a really nice job of molding that package and having enough variables in it where our opponents are saying 'Okay, they have five linemen. This is what we're going to get.' We have other things we can do off of it. We actually have some zones off of it as well. It's been good to us so far, but we'll see how it evolves though as the season goes on."
On if the offensive line has improved:
"Without a doubt. There was a great deal of improvement in the offensive line [against BYU]. There was much more physicality that we were looking for. We used that term all week last week and they performed much better. That 19-play drive in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty. When you get in a situation like that, where you have a lead in the fourth quarter, you have to run to win and that's what we did in that situation. Sixteen of those 19 plays were runs and that was exactly what we need to be. Not that we want to just hand the ball off over and over, but when we need to run, we have to be physical and be able to do that and we did that Saturday night."
On if this year's defense can be better than last year's:
"It could be. It's early and I don't want to be definitive. A shutout [in the season opener against Southern Utah], 19 points [against BYU] and then they scored seven points as well, so it was a net of 12 that they gave up on Saturday night. We've talked about the front all offseason and through fall camp and how high we are on those guys and they've been very good. The linebackers have been what we had hoped they would be, as we talked about. The secondary getting three picks in the [BYU] game were huge. So yes, they have a chance."
On performance of Justin Thomas against BYU:
"He wasn't as sharp as he usually is. He wasn't bad by any means, but he's usually more of a playmaker and makes more of an impact on the game. He didn't have his best game and my guess is he'll bounce back. He's a fierce competitor. He'll bounce back this week."
On benefits of scheduling San Jose State and Fresno State for non-conference games:
"[Recruiting] is part of the equation. The first part of scheduling is balance, making sure you're balanced in your non-conference games. There are only three games now that we deal with, non-conference-wise. Balance is in the equation, making sure you don't under-schedule or over-schedule. Your recruiting footprint is another factor, which both schools [San Jose State and Fresno State] are in. We've had a lot of success with players from northern California. The short answer is that yes, recruiting plays into the scheduling of those particular teams."