Head coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. He recapped Saturday’s win over Brigham Young University and looked ahead to this week’s matchup against San Jose State.
“We’ve got the rivalry game behind us. It’s always an emotional affair so we’ve got to make sure we put it in the rearview mirror right away and focus all of our attention on San Jose State, which we fully intend to do starting today. We’ve got a home game this week, which is great – great to get back in front of our fans in another sold out Rice Eccles and our players really enjoy playing in front of our crowd. As far as the game last week, there was some good, some bad, but I think we improved overall as a football team from week’s one to two. We’ve still got a ways to go, but definitely move forward in a lot of respects. Some of the same problems surfaced again in week two – too many penalties – things like that. But overall I’m pleased with the effort. Tyler played outstanding, nearly 400 yards total offense. Defense was outstanding. We had good production there on defense – sacks, takeaways, big stop at the end to win the game, so a lot of positives but we definitely still have a lot of work to do. The kicking game was solid. Matt Gay, our place kicker was perfect again for the second week in a row. Mitch Wishnowsky punted like a Ray Guy Award-Winner that he is. He’s a great weapon for us. Overall, we’re still a work in progress as is every other team in the country at this point in time, but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction. We just got to continue to get better week by week.”
On Tyler Huntley’s involvement in the run game…
“He’s a true dual-threat quarterback, but as I mentioned after the game, probably a little heavy as far as how many carries he had. But the true dual-threats in this country, the Louisville kid (referring to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson), the quarterbacks that are the same style as Tyler and same production. That’s just how it is. He’s in charge of the offense and he’s going to be a big part of the run game each week. We’ll need to supplement some of that run game with running backs a little bit better. We leaned to heavily on Tyler last week running the football but he’s a really good runner.” … “The less hits the better. For longevity sake, we hope we can be a little more evasive and not take direct shots. Those direct shots are the ones that really start to add up. As long as he’s playing smart and looking for creases in the defense, I’ll think we’ll be okay.”
Opinion on Sunia Tauteoli being ejected from the game after he was called for targeting for a hit on BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum…
“I’ve got my own opinions that I’ll keep to myself. It was almost as if Sunia was already in the act of making the play before the slide started to materialize so he was caught in a tough spot. But I guess by the definition of the rule the call was correct and we’re going to have to live with that. Of course he’s back this week. He missed the first half and the second half so there’s no carry over which is a positive. Football has changed a lot. It’s all in the interest of player safety. You just have to live with it and move forward.”
During camp the Utes didn’t have many times that they got hit. Coach Whittingham says that could be one of the reasons players are having ball security issues.
“We’ve just got to coach it better. I think that’s the starting point, is being more demanding. The essence of coaching is teach and demand and we have to teach it right and demand it gets done the right way after we’ve taught it. Going back to the point of lack of live contact in fall camp, I was really concerned with the tackling on defense as well. We only missed two tackles on Saturday night, which is probably an all-time low since I’ve been here in Utah apparently it didn’t have any ill effect on that. It may be that when you’re not going live and people aren’t ripping at the ball constantly it may have gotten to some bad habits.
No matter what team you were rooting for on Saturday, I think everyone was confused as to how Tyler Huntley received a holding call. Whittingham said…
“It was on Troy McCormick. I waited at halftime for the refs to come off the field so I could get that explanation because they told us it was number 1 when it initially happened. So I waited and the ref came over and talked to us – talked to the other referees and they said it was on number 4.”
Another major concern for the offense is penalties. Utah had seven against BYU.
“The penalties seem to be on the perimeter. We’re still sloppy with our hands on the outside, meaning we’re getting our hands, outside the frame instead of keeping them tight. But like I said last week, I love the aggressiveness of the wide receivers. It’s an easier problem to correct -- trying to rein them in a little bit and get them to be more technique-sounded and get them to block. Some receivers don’t block and don’t like to block. Not here. If you’re a receiver here you block. That’s something that is a positive. We’ve got to try to curb the aggressiveness I guess and get them more rained in with the technique and the fundamentals.”
Marquise Blair is finding ways to get on the field. Here’s what Whittingham sees in him to put him in the game in key moments.
“He’s a very good football player. That was very evident from day one of fall camp. He’s done a good job of learning the system. We’re going to try to feed him more reps each week as the season goes on because he’s really good. We had a package last week – three down front – we had him as a starter in that sub package. He’s just a really talented player that we’ve got to find a way to utilize and we’ll continue to do that as we go through the season.”
Senior Boobie Hobbs is an emerging leader in the secondary. Coach Whittingham says he’s key to helping the younger guys progress.
“He plays a key position. That nickel spot is probably the most difficult spot on defense to play and the most demanding. He came away with a big interception and was solid for us all night long. He’s a leader amongst those guys. He’s also a real weapon for us punt returning. He hasn’t really got on track yet this season but before it’s all said and done, I think he’s going to have a very good year returning the football.”
It was asked if Demari Simpkins and Raelon Singleton have been marginalized in the offense or if that’s just how the plays have shaken out.
“I think it’s just how things have gone so far. They’re very talented and we’ve got a lot of confidence in both of them. Obviously Darren Carrington’s had two big games now with over 100 yards in both games, George Wilson had a nice game on Saturday night – that deep post was a momentum changer for us. I think that when all is said and done the ball is going to be spread around pretty good, but there’s going to be one or two guys that will be the leading receivers. Obviously Carrington will be one of those guys. Sampson Nacua is another receiver that’s a very reliable target that had some big plays for us Saturday.
And as to what stand out about San Jose’s offense?
“They’re a spread team. The running backs are tough, hard-nosed guys. They’ve got a receiver whose very fast, number 89. Their quarterback is a big kid, young kid, big strong kid. They’re a work in progress like everybody else but in the early stages of looking at them, they seem to have a lot of the same personnel groups that we have and very similar in their approach. We should have a good week of practice against each other.
As far as not completing touchdowns when getting into the red-zone Whittingham said it’s a combination of things.
“We were pretty good in the red zone in game one and then all of a sudden in game two we became not so good. Give [BYU] credit. Their defense was tough in the red zone. It was tough in the red zone against LSU. That’s something that has a lot to do with them as much as us. That being said, we’ve still got to get it solved and we’ve got to be better and we will be. I’m confident we will be.”
On Matt Gay’s accuracy…
“He’s been perfect. It doesn’t surprise me because we saw consistency during fall camp, but he has proved to be very cool under pressure. Nothing seems to bother him, which is a great trait in a kicker.”
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