Head coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media for his weekly press conference. He quickly recapped the win over North Dakota on Thursday. He also talked about Utah’s upcoming rivalry game against BYU on Saturday in Provo, Utah.
"Quick look back at our opener against North Dakota. There were some good things, certainly a lot of things to work on coming out of that game. We had far too many penalties and that was probably the biggest disappointment. We have to play smarter and more disciplined football than we did on Thursday night. Defense, we talked about it. We need to generate more takeaways and get the ball back to the offense in some short field situations. A lot of positives like I said. I thought Tyler Huntley played very well in his first start. He was pressing a little bit too much early. He left the pocket on the very first play when it was a clean pocket and ended up getting sacked and then made one bad throw early in the interception, but other than that, he settled in and played very well relative to his first start as a power five quarterback. Darren Carrington II gave us a big outing with 10 catches for 127 yards. A lot of positives like I said, but plenty to work on this week as we get ready for the next opponent."
Sophomore running back Zack Moss had his first career 100-yard rushing performance on Thursday.
"Zack is a talented running back. He had his biggest game as a Ute on Thursday. It was his first chance to have extensive carries and he was very productive. He had over five yards per carry and held onto the football, which is good. We want to possess the ball, so I am very pleased with what he gave us."
Utah will feature many first-time starters facing BYU for the first time in the game on Saturday.
"First of all, they have to go through our preparation process like normal. We basically had two extra days because of the Thursday night game, so we gave them one of those days off. So, they are back in here today and today is essentially a Tuesday, so we got a jumpstart on the week. You just have to prepare, study film. All of those things we do every single week of the season have got to be done this week as well."
On Tyler Huntley…
"Tyler was a little bit excited early on, and as he settled in he was very good as the game went on. I think that is what you saw after those first couple of series is what he is all about. He is a dual threat. He came away with close to 300 yards of total offense. That is what he brings to the table. I thought he did a really nice job with his decision making. He has the ability to extend plays, which is one of the reasons why he earned the job. He is going to get better and better as the season goes on. As he gets more comfortable and more settled in and situated to the position, I think it is going to be a very positive production."
On how he has seen the BYU rivalry change throughout the years…
"It is still very intense. Two things that happened that really changed the feel of it in a lot of ways was that we are no longer in the same conference and now we play earlier in the season instead of having that build up all season long to the last game of the year. So, I think that it definitely has a different feel from a coaching standpoint, but there are still players on both teams that know each other and played against each other in high school, so it is every bit as intense. The fan situation is pretty similar, I can't speak for the fans, but it seems to still be generating the excitement that it always has."
Kicker Matt Gay had a strong performance in the game Thursday. He has a background as a college athlete; he was a soccer player for Utah Valley University before kicking for Utah.
"He certainly seems to be cool under pressure. It didn't faze him a bit to go in and start kicking after we missed the first one. Nothing is set in stone. He is the No. 1 guy right now, he is on a bit of a roll. Chayden Johnston is an outstanding kicker as well, so we will see how the season unfolds. Matt just came out of nowhere, kind of like Andy Phillips. He kind of just fell in our lap and with the situation he had on Thursday, he handled it very well. He was perfect on his field goals and perfect on his PATs. His background as an athlete, not just a kicker because has a pretty diverse background athletically, has helped him so far in these situations."
Whittingham was asked about what he has seen on film for BYU heading into the game.
"Well, they obviously had a tough outing against LSU on Saturday. It was a very good LSU team, very good defense. Like every team in the country, nobody knows exactly what you have yet. There is not a lot of knowledge of what kind of team you are. It is going to take several more weeks before people get perspective on the season and the different teams. When you can't run the ball, everything is hard offensively, so that was the case Saturday night. For LSU, that front seven is very stout, so it was difficult to run the ball. I think they are still trying to figure out what their strengths are and what direction they want to head. But this game is its own entity. It almost doesn't matter what happened prior to this game. It is always a battle and is always close game down to the wire, or at least the majority of the time, and regardless of what has happened in the past, the records of the teams, who is ranked, who is not ranked, it tends to bring out the best in both teams."
Whittingham was asked what he though about BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, a player who he recruited in high school.
"Well, I remember recruiting him in high school because he was a very good player in high school. Going way back, he was very accurate which seems to be his biggest asset. He had pin-point accuracy in high school. We played him in the bowl game a couple of years back, which was a weird game in itself. We jumped out to that huge lead and it was playing catchup from then on. He's got size. He's 6-3, 220 pounds and he is a big strong kid with a big arm. Nothing really got on track for him on Saturday because everything was difficult against that defense. So again, you have to wait a few weeks and see how things progress. We have respect for him because he is a quality quarterback."
Whittingham has known BYU head coach Kalani Sitake for many years and is close with him.
"I consider Kalani a close friend, I've said that many times. I've spent time with him in the offseason, which has certainly put a different feel on the game for me as far as that goes. But as far as the players, it is a big game and the players are intense just like every week."
The game will have a different feel without former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards around after he passed away late last year.
"He will be missed. He is a legend. When he talked, people listened. I miss him and I know they obviously miss him down there. So, having the first game without coach around, it will be different."
Whittingham was asked if there is an ideal time during the season to play a passionate non-conference rivalry game like the one against BYU.
"That is a good question and something that I don't have a good answer for. You just play them as they unfold as your schedule dictates. So, we don't have a lot of control over it right now. I think given the circumstances with the conference we are in and the situation with the two schools, I think it fits best right where we are at. I don't know how you could play it late in the season. I think with the conference schedule we have and how it is set up, I think early in the season is the best place to put the game."
Many of the current Utah players have not played in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Utah last played there in the 2013 season.
"There are very few of our guys that have been in the stadium, but I don't think it will have a big bearing on the game. It is just business as usual."
Whittingham was asked if he has changed how he prepares the team has changed for the BYU game since the last loss, which was in overtime in 2009.
"Nothing has changed in our approach. We prepare the same way, we practice the same way. We have a model in place that we use and we very rarely deviate from that. You have to sometimes depending on certain things like the health of the team, long weeks verse short weeks and so forth. But typically, we try to stay as close to the plan of attack as we can."
Utah was penalized many times against North Dakota, and they will play in a high emotion game against BYU.
"I think in the first game, there is a lot of excitement and we didn't hit much this fall camp. Very little. Less than we have ever hit since I became a head coach, so I was a little bit anxious to see how they would react. They were hungry. They were very hungry to get after it, but that still doesn't excuse the sloppiness of some of the plays. The positive, if there is a positive spin on those penalties, is that most of them were them being overly aggressive and trying to get after people a little bit too zealously instead of doing the things that we needed to do, particularly blocking on the perimeter. That was probably our biggest issue. So, they say you make your biggest improvements between games one and two, so we hope that is the case this week."
Whittingham was asked if there are any advantages playing against BYU's defense because of previously coaching with Sitake for many years.
"No I wouldn't say so, because they have changed schematically from what we do here. It has been four years since Kalani has been here, so I think there has been enough evolving and changes of the schemes that is no longer applicable."
Will this week be fun for Whittingham?
"Fun? Football is fun. I love coaching these guys and I love our football team. I love going out to practice. I can't wait for practice today and get them out on the field. It has been several days off since we have had them out there, so I am going to say yeah. I think coaching is fun. It has to be because it is so consuming. So, if you aren't having fun, you can't survive. So, you better enjoy it."
The offensive line replaced four starters from last season. Thursday was their first game action, and they did some good things and struggled with other things at times.
"The front that played together for the first time in an actual game situation got better as the game went on. I think the offensive line was a little on edge early in the game, but then I think they settled in and ended up playing well. We rushed for 270-plus yards and we didn't protect the quarterback as well as we should of which isn't always on the offensive line, but I thought that they did make progress."
LSU managed to show very little of their offensive game plan against BYU because they had so much success running the football.
"LSU is very methodical in their approach. They only ran about four plays, so they weren't real elaborate. They had a good scheme, I'm not trying to say their scheme wasn't good because everything fit and the runs complemented each other. But I thought LSU was very physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage. They weren't ripping off 20, 30, 40 yards runs. I think it was more of a grind than popping big plays here and there. Very methodical in what they did."