Another Monday. Another Utah Football press conference. Although the Utes are coming off of four-straight losses, coach Kyle Whittingham seemed optimistic that the team would get it together, or in his words “find their swag” in time for Friday’s matchup against the UCLA Bruins.
"Another tough loss, another disappointing loss. The short version would be that we didn't run the ball well enough and we didn't defend the run well enough. That is the big overriding factor in the game and the outcome of the game. They ran the ball on the perimeter at will. We had struggles in the Arizona State game on the perimeter, but this was a different kind of struggle. This was more of a speed issue. We didn't adjust well and we didn't make in-game changes and adjustments that we should have done, so we as coaches have to do better. We played the pass well, they threw for 69 yards but it wouldn't have mattered if they threw zero yards, it wouldn't have changed the outcome. If you can't stop the run, there is not a whole lot else that matters. We threw the ball well on offense, nearly 300 yards, but we had less than 100 rushing the ball. That is our issue right now. If you look at our main issue right now, it is that. The inability to stop the run the last several weeks and the inability to run the ball with efficiency and enough production. We have other issues as well, but those are the primary issues. We have UCLA coming in on Friday night back in Rice-Eccles. It is a short week, so we get back on the practice field today and get back to work. Some positives from the game, our guys played hard. We seem to be missing that edge. You need that edginess to you when you play and even though we are playing hard, we don't seem to have that edge that can really make that difference. I can't really define what that is, but it's just an edge to your team. UCLA, I think they are in the exact same situation we are, so it will be two teams in search of a win and needing a win, so we will go at it Friday night."
Coach Kyle Whittingham said the team’s red zone issues seem as if they have been going on for an eternity:
“It goes back to last year. We just have to make plays down there and as coaches, put our guys in better positions to make plays. It’s driving me nuts. It’s been driving me nuts for quite some time. It has not been rectified.”
When asked how he thought Darren Carrington handled going back to Oregon to play against his former team, coach Whittingham said he thought Carrington handled the situation well:
“He had a nice game. He performed well. I don’t think he pressed. We obviously had the one fumble return for a touchdown. That was a huge play but we missed a block and there was a guy right in his face. There’s no excuse to ever fumble but there were a couple reasons why that happened. Other than that play, I think he played very well.
It’s noticeable that this Utah team is lacking confidence. It’s something coach Whittingham said needs to help the team with:
“Mojo. Swag. Confidence. Edge….there seems to be something missing. We have to get that back.” … “We have to find it.”
Is this a rebuilding year for the Utes after losing offensive line players to the NFL?
“I try to never look at a year as a rebuilding year and maybe that’s wishful thinking. I don’t play that card and I don’t ever try to use that as a crutch. But, we did rebuild that offensive line. They are doing some good things. it was a step back on Saturday but we go back to the practice field to try and progress. If you say ‘where are we right now and is this where we’d hope we be?’ — not quite, but it hasn’t been a disaster. Usually the line of scrimmage is a big plus for Utah and this year it hasn’t been.”
Will the Utes even make it to a bowl game this year? Friday’s game against the Bruins could be a deciding factor. Coach Whittingham says getting to a bowl game is their focus right now:
“We’ve shifted to make sure we try and get these seniors to a bowl game and that’s the point of emphasis. The goal right now is to make sure these players, these seniors get in the opportunity to play in a bowl game this year. They’ve done so much for our program. They’ve won over 30 games the last 3.5 years and have been an instrumental part in our success. They can’t do it themselves. The underclassmen have got to be stepping up and make sure that it happens as well.”
The Utes will face a battered UCLA team on Friday and will try to use this game to “bounce back”:
“They’ve had their issues with the run-game as well. Their game last week against Washington was very similar to our game against Oregon. I think Washington threw the ball like 13 times and rushed for 330 plus yards. It was almost a carbon copy. The same issues on defense, UCLA had the same issues. I’m sure they’re working hard to fix it like we are.”
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen left Saturday’s game early with a hand injury. There’s no word yet on if the Utes will face Rosen on Friday. Coach Whittingham offered his thoughts on the quarterback:
“I think he’s tremendous and he’s the whole package. Look at the way he operates in the pocket, his release and his arm strength — he looks like an NFL quarterback right now. He’s a tremendous talent. Whether he plays Friday night or not, I don’t know.”