Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media for his post-game press conference after his team, the No. 24/23 Utah Utes (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) came back at the end to defeat the USC Trojans (1-3, 0-2 Pac-12) 31-27 in a rainy Friday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The full audio can be heard here.
Whittingham opened saying the following:
"We kept fighting for all 60 minutes and kept making plays. We didn't allow any sacks and converted a bunch of fourth-down conversions. Credit to the offensive line because they were helping our running backs hit up in there.”
"Troy Williams with the composure he showed, never flinched. Our defense, it was not the best performance but we did enough good things to get the win.
"I was disappointed on the Adoreé Jackson return because we served it up on a silver platter. USC has tremendously talented athletes all over the place, incredible talent. Our guys hung in there and slugged it out. Our assistants put the plan together and I'm proud of them.
No one panicked. The start to the second half was not ideal. We stalled and they scored to extend the lead. No one panicked and we stayed within the game plan and had enough to get the win.
Two themes that became clear from listening to Whittingham were the resilience of the team and the confidence he had the in offensive line to make the decision to go for it on fourth down four times. Despite being down most of the game, Whittingham said the morale of the team was never low. They kept fighting and pulled out a huge win. He said the push the offensive line was consistently getting made the coaches feel comfortable to go for it on fourth down, including once in kicker Andy Phillip’s range, which could have led to a tie game. Whittingham said though they felt they could convert, and did, and they wanted to win the game in regulation rather than go to overtime because the offense had momentum on the final drive.
On the fourth down conversions Whittingham said,
"I didn't convert anything, our players did. The surge we were getting and with the confidence, our offensive line had to get our running backs in there. We were doing it all night and went back to the well again.
"Our offensive line was so physical and USC was not getting in our backfield. We had a lot of confidence and that was the real reasoning behind going for it. We did a great job converting over and over.
"That was not a 'gimme' field goal and Andy Phillips probably makes that, but we had momentum. We were making plays and our guys were believing. I'm glad we were able to punch it in."
Asiata’s touchdown was a huge momentum changing play.
"It was huge and the complexion of the game changes there. There are four, five, six plays in each game that can change the outcome and you want to be on the right side of those plays. Luckily, we were."
Utah has a lot of new personnel after last season, losing quarterback Travis Wilson and running back Devontae Booker among many others.
"A lot of personnel have turned over. We have a new quarterback and that's the guy who touches the ball every play. Three running backs are now doing the work and taking snaps instead of Devontae Booker [last season]. Our receivers are stepping up and making plays and the difference in the confidence level is a big change."
The defensive issues that allowed USC to move the ball were the following according to Whittingham,
"We were losing gaps inside and they have some offensive linemen that are outstanding. They have hard tough runners and talent."
Whittingham praised Williams and said he has improved every game and took the biggest step forward tonight.
Whittingham said the game this year’s game against USC had a lot of similarities to the game against USC in 2014. He said he did worry that USC might return the final kickoff for a touchdown. He also spoke highly of USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
Make sure to listen to the full audio because Whittingham discussed many different aspects of the game.