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Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference Recap: Colorado Week

Opening Statement (Listen to the full presser here)…

”I thought our guys played exceptionally hard on Saturday afternoon. It was great to see. They played hard and they played the full 60, and that is what it took against the Ducks. It went right down to the wire due to our red zone inefficiency. I think if we would have been efficient in the red zone, it wouldn’t have been close. Credit to Oregon there. I really manifest that last drive of the game. We were really controlling the line of scrimmage and we all but ran it down to the goal line. Only negative out of that was that we didn’t get the touchdown and had to settle on the field goal, but there were a lot of positive things in that game. The overriding thing in that game was their effort level. They were just bound and determined to go out and get a win and their play reflected that. Great performance from Matt Gay. He was the difference in the game. It is usually a case where field goals won’t win a game for you, but this case was the exception. He scored 20 points on his own, broke the school record with six field goals and tied the school record for points in a game by a kicker, so a lot of good things. It was also great to see Jason Shelley and Armand Shyne step up like that. It wasn’t just them, but to see those guys come in and perform like that was a huge plus for us. Colorado is a road game and senior day for them. They are playing for a bowl and so there are a lot of implications in this one. Obviously for us, there are implications. So, we need to have another very good week of practice and then go over to Colorado and play like we are capable.”

On Chase Hansen and Cody Barton’s chemistry on the field…

”They are both as hard of workers as you’ll ever find as far as preparation, they pay attention to detail with film study, and those guys often know what is going to happen before the ball is even snapped because of their preparation. They both have outstanding physical attributes. They are fast, they have size, quickness and instincts, so that is another big reason for their success. They are as good of a pair of linebackers that we’ve ever had here. They remind me of Johnny Paul and Jared Norris, but I think Chase and Cody are exceeding them even with production. They are captains and great leaders for us, so it has just been a huge plus. In fairness, when you have a defensive line that is as physical as we are and that controls the line of scrimmage, as a former linebacker I know it is great to play behind a crew like that. I think between all of those factors that is why we are getting that kind of production out of those guys.”

On Utah’s struggles in the red zone against Oregon…

”In hindsight, we probably should have gone a little more to the perimeter and should have thrown it down there some. But with a first time starting quarterback, you don’t want to turn the ball over down there, so that was the reason for being conservative. We wanted to come away with points, but touchdowns are more than twice as good as field goals. We were 2-for-6 in the red zone and we just go by touchdowns, and the game I think is blown wide open if we convert, but there was a little bit of a predetermined notion to just protect the ball and just come away with something given the circumstances.”

On how Armand Shyne has improved…

”It has never been a case of his ability to carry the football. That isn’t really something you can coach. But really in pass protections, you know making sure you are picking up blitzes that was the biggest emphasis. Making sure that when he doesn’t have the ball, he is working hard and doing things that we need him to do.”

On what he was most impressed by Jason Shelley…

”His poise and composure. The moment wasn’t too big for him. He was able to function just like he is in practice. He is unflappable in practice and that is how he was on Saturday afternoon. He took great care of the football. That is probably the number one thing. We had over 500 yards of offense if you take away that blocked punt, which it wasn’t the offenses’ fault that the punt was blocked. So, we had zero turnovers and if you can do that, regardless of what happens, it is probably going to be a good outcome.”

On why he feels like there is such good production out of the tight ends…

”Partly because they are athletic. The two guys that really produced on Saturday were the two true freshmen, Cole Fotheringham and Brant Kuithe. Those guys are athletics kids and can catch the ball, Kuithe especially. He is a little undersized and if you are going to be an undersized tight end then you better be able to catch the ball. He still has a ways to go on his run blocking, but between Cole and Brant and then Jake Jackson, they are more of a factor because they are performing better. They are more athletic, they are working hard. You earn the right to get the ball Monday through Friday. Not that the tight ends in the past have been lazy or anything like that, but those guys are really starting to come into their own. They had a big impact on Saturday and I hope that is the case moving forward. That is a big plus for us when the tight ends are productive because it gives us a better offense.”

On Colorado winning five straight games and now losing five straight games and what he sees on film…

”Well their level of competition went up. They had a good win against Arizona State early and then they ran into some really tough teams. Their primary play maker went down, but like I’ve said there are no excuses for injuries and you just have to move forward.”

On if he likes knowing that they have to win the game against Colorado to stay in the Pac-12 South race…

”I think our team plays best when our team has a chip on their shoulder. When they feel they have something to prove, our guys seem to handle it pretty well. So I guess to answer the question, we like the position we are in, when we have to come through.”

On if he considers Colorado a rival in the Pac-12…

”The games have been pretty evenly matched. As far as a rivalry, it is starting to feel that way a little bit. I think we have that same feel with USC. That is something that has to play out and evolve, you can’t force feed that to make it happen. Where it falls in the schedule, it lends itself to that as well. I don’t think it is a full-fledged rivalry yet.”

On if playing some of the best wide receivers and quarterbacks in the last three weeks has given them things to build on…

”Yeah it has. Both offensively and defensively there are a lot of similarities in Oregon’s defense that we are going to face this week. And so, yeah that makes for good carry over as far as week to week. You’d rather have that than someone running a completely different defensive structure. It makes the transition a little smoother for players.”

On going into the Colorado in the race for the South…

”It is great. Credit to our players because they have played hard all year long. We haven’t been perfect. We have stumbled along the way but they are resilient and they keep coming back. We got down to Oregon when they came back and took the lead, but it didn’t faze us and we took the ball right down the field and scored. That is a trademark of this team this season. To be able to respond to adversity and play with resiliency.”

On if Jaylon Johnson will continue to cover the opponents’ best receiver…

”That is something that we always have in our arsenal if we choose to go that way. I am sure you will see it again this season, but we certainly aren’t going to tip our hand in what we are going to do week to week. But, it is great to have the ability to have a guy like him and Julian Blackmon. That is a great weapon to have a shutdown corner.”

On how important it is for the running backs to have good blocking ability…

”It is huge. That is why there were not more reps for Armand earlier in the season was because he wasn’t quite where we wanted him to be in pass protection and blitz pickups. He has made several strides in that regard, but still has a ways to go. He is willing and he is not afraid.”

On if there was anything different they did to get the team to bounce back after the loss at ASU…

”We have a very mature group. They are cerebral. They were well aware that we just didn’t play up to our capabilities. We didn’t have that spark on that particular Saturday in Tempe. They were disappointed and knew they had blown a great opportunity and didn’t want to repeat it. So they made an effort to make sure we didn’t make that mistake again and instead came out with a lot of passion and energy.”