Coach Kyle Whittingham has already put the Utes’ loss to Washington State behind him and is looking ahead to Saturday to when the Utes take on Washington. He addressed both topics in his weekly presser.
Kyle Whittingham opening statements:
“Can’t win a football game turning the ball over seven times. That’s the obvious takeaway from Saturday. It’s a shame too because that was one of our better, if not our best, defensive performance of the year. I thought the defense was outstanding and did a great job in sudden change and handling adversity. There were 4, 5 or 6 short-field situations that they found themselves in. For the most part they did an outstanding job. You just have to keep working on things offensively. Obviously taking care of the ball is job one. We have to do a much better job of that. To be minus five and to still have it be a one-score game speaks to some of the good things we did in the game. I think if we would have just been even in the turnover margin then things would have turned out our way, but that’s a big if. Special teams is pretty much a non-factor, although, we did have that one big kick off return that put us in the short field situation. We weren’t able to capitalize on it but that was good to see the kick off return game continue to make strides and be productive…” “Now we find ourselves in the same situation we’ve been in for the last several weeks — trying to get our seniors to a bowl game. We’ve got two games left. Obviously you need to get to six. We’ve got the Washington Huskies this week. They’re coming off of a tough loss as well. They got beat by Stanford. I’m sure they’re not going to be in a good state of mind. An angry football team. We’ve got our work cut out for us. They are a talented team. They’re strong in all three phases. They’ve probably got the best punt returner in the country, probably the best of all-time in the Pettis [Dante Pettis] kid. They’ve got an outstanding quarterback. It will be a tough match up for us but we will be ready to go on Saturday.”
Is the team going through growing pains?
“We knew there were some position groups that had a complete turnover — offensive line and secondary, then also breaking in a new starting quarterback. I am not going to say it was completely unexpected. You always hope for the best and hope things will go smoothly. Obviously, we’ve had some growing pains as you’ve mentioned. That’s part of the process.”
Comparing and contrasting Washington and Washington State’s defense:
“[Washington] A lot different MO as far as their scheme. They don’t slant and move much at all. They’ve got an outstanding front three. They’ve got a tackle that’s as good as anyone in the country, number 50 [Vita Vea ]. He’s a tremendous player. They’re talented linebacker, talented with the secondary. Even though they did lose their top corners to injury, the guys they’ve got playing now are doing a fine job. They’re more line up and punch you in the face, whereas Washington State was beat you with movement and slants and athleticism.”
How do you balance letting Tyler Huntley be himself but not force things at the same time?
“He’s a dynamic player. He’s a guy that makes plays and makes things happen. But by the same token, the number one job of the offense, other than scoring points, is to protect the football. We have to do a better job of that. We weren’t doing a bad job of that until this week. This week the floodgates opened. He’s got playmaking ability and he’s very athletic as we said. You don’t want to completely take that away from him…” “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football and Tyler playing in the scheme. I don’t think Tyler is being completely reckless, I don’t see that. I think he understands the value of protecting the football as well as anybody. We just continue to coach and try to get better in all areas.”
Whittingham’s thoughts on 6-6 teams going to bowl games:
“There’s so many bowl games you have to fill them. I think if they didn’t take 6-6 teams you couldn’t fill them. i think that’s why the qualifying parameters are as they are because you have to fill the games. There’s a good argument that you should have a winning record to go to a bowl game but then you’re going to have to cut down the number of bowl games which might happen, I don’t know. As things are set right now there’s no way around it because if you don’t I don’t think you can fill all the spots.”
What makes Dante Pettis such an effective returner?
“A lot of things. First of all, he’s got tremendous quickness in the ability to make you miss. All great punt returners are able to make an X number of guys miss on a punt return. He catches the ball well. He makes good decisions. He’s very courageous. He’s got great vision and he sets up his blocks very well. He’s very fast. I don’t know how fast he is but he’s really fast…” “He’s really good, I know that.”
What is the moral like amongst the team?
“Defining moral is like chemistry and hanging together and fighting through the situations perfect. The guys are all on the same page. As far as everyone being disappointed and angry, that’s certainly there as well. Nobody is thrilled with being 5-5. This isn’t where we wanted to be but as far as defining moral — just their midst and handling business, I think it’s very good.”
Do the Utes have to adjust not having Darren Carrington?
“You have to adjust to not having your top receiving threat. He’s been on our top guy and our go-to guy this season. That threat is gone. I thought Ray Singleton came up and picked up the slack. When someone is out it’s someone else’s opportunity to make plays.”
Does anything change schematically when Darren Carrington is out?
“No. No schematic differences. Maybe not as many deep shots. You might change up your ratio of things but not how you run the routes or structure the routes.”