clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kyle Whittingham Press Conference Recap: BYU Week

New, 5 comments
Brittany Johnson

Opening Statement…

“I am proud of our guys and how they handled themselves on Saturday. They did a great job of handling the weather conditions, handling adversity and it was just a great effort as far as giving their all. The team played with phenomenal effort for the full 60 minutes. It is kind of a microcosm of the whole season. They have overcome so much this year and have just continued to stay determined and tough and to find ways to come out with victory. After starting 0-2 in the Pac-12, some personnel changes and then the set back at Arizona State, if you look at all of the things that have happened, to have these guys where they are now is a real credit to them and their toughness, guts and determination.”

”As far as the game itself on Saturday, we had a slow start again, which has kind of been a recurring theme, which is not a positive, but we have been able to overcome that. It was a big second half and in particular in the third quarter, which ended up being the difference in the game. We really took control of the game in the third quarter. Jason Shelley, Jaylen Dixon really came alive and the offensive line played much better in the second half. Defense played good from start to finish. We had 10 havoc plays with seven sacks. I know the stats said six but there was an RPO that was definitely going to be a throw that was absolutely going to be a sack, so we are crediting ourselves with seven. We had a couple of interceptions, a fumble recovery on a strip sack. Just a very good effort with holding them to just 196 total yards. So lots of positives coming out of that game from the defense. Special teams was kind of a mixed bag. Not really a big factor in this game, although Matt Gay scored another 12 points by going 3-for-4 for field goals and three PATs, so he continues to be the conference leader in points scored.”

”So anyway, we are South Division champs and that is great for our guys. What needed to happen on Saturday happened with Oregon getting it done against Arizona State. So after the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, it was a positive weekend for us.”

Listen to full press conference here

On with the strength of Utah’s schedule this year if it was a relief to finally get the Pac-12 South title…

”I wouldn’t say a relief. It is something we have been working for since we got in the Pac-12 and I think this was the year we were more equipped to get it done as far as depth goes and being able to withstand some personnel losses. You mentioned schedule and we played the top four teams in the North and missed the bottom two, so just from inside the conference it was a tough road to go, but our guys never backed down from anything and kept fighting and kept swinging. It is great to see them write this chapter of Utah football history, because that is what it is. The first South Division championship and these are the guys that did it.”

On if they will make any adjustments to their routine heading into a non-conference game…

”No our process will not change. It is late in the season, so your practices will be cut down, but we have done that already with length of time. You have to start to pare down the length of practice and physicality of practice because your guys start to get beat up at this point in the year. So, we are doing the same thing that we have done pretty much every year.”

On if they treat this upcoming game as a conference game and a normal week because it is a rivalry…

”It is a normal week, but it is not a conference game. But it is just a normal week, yeah.”

On the BYU game being at the end of the week this year…

”I guess ideally you’d like a bye this week so that you could prepare for what’s coming up next. So we have the six-day turnaround where whoever we face has the seven-day turnaround, so that isn’t ideal, but that is how it lays out. Nothing we can do about it. I don’t think the rivalry game is scheduled for the end of the year in the foreseeable future, I think it moves back to the beginning.”

On if he will sit anyone against BYU in preparation for the championship game…

”Well that is a philosophical question and I have heard several people say that you should do whatever you can to maximize your chances for the championship game, but that is not our approach. Our approach is one game at a time and we aren’t looking past this game just like we woudn’t look past anybody else on the schedule. As far as that strategy, I don’t know what to say other than an analogy that thoroughbred horses, they love to run. They are born to run and that is what they enjoy. Our players are warriors and they enjoy to compete. They want to play and get out there and battle with each other. So, I don’t know how you sell that to your players, saying ‘hey we are going to sit everybody and not give you a chance to finish the season,’ in particular the seniors. That is a tough sell, so even though there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument, I just don’t know with the mentality of our players how you do that.”

On if he watched the Arizona State game…

”Oh of course, I was glued to it. It had a huge impact on what our status was, so absolutely I watched it from start to finish. It was a great game and fortunately for us it came out the right way.”

On Jaylen Dixon being a deep threat and what that has done for the offense…

”It has been a huge. Jaylen Dixon has meant to the offense what Maxs Tupai has meant to the defense. He has just stepped up and become a consistent playmaker for us. Right now he is our most potent deep threat and he has tremendous speed. He has blazing speed and you can see him get behind defenders over and over, so that has been a big plus for us this season.”

On the recent close games in the series against BYU…

”I guess getting each team’s best shot. In a rivalry game, you traditionally get each team’s best shot from each other. But if you win by one or 40, it really doesn’t make a difference.”

On if the slow starts are part of their strategy…

”No we would like to begin with touchdown drive after touchdown drive, so that is not our strategy. I don’t have a good answer as to why we haven’t been able to start fast in a lot of our games, but no we want to be as good as we can from start to finish.”

On his senior class…

”There is a lot that is special about this group. We only have 11 scholarship seniors and then 13 total with two walk-ons. So, this is the smallest senior class as far as the scholarship players since I’ve been at Utah. They have been phenomenal the entire year with their leadership and how they have taken control of the team. Really good football teams are player driven, and these guys have done just that.”

On BYU’s quarterback change mid-year…

”Yeah they made the change about five games ago and he has done a nice job. He has a strong arm and has some mobility to him. For a true freshman taking over midseason, I think he has done a good job.”

On what he has seen on BYU so far…

”They had a very good game against Wisconsin, a few games they struggled, but they play hard. Coach Sitake, he is a good friend of mine and does a good job of keeping them going. They have had some really good moments and some not-so-good moments just like everybody else in the country.”

On if he will start game planning for both Washington and Washington State…

”Absolutely not. It is all about the next opponent.”

On Francis Bernard…

”What a great performance by Francis against Colorado. He came in and didn’t miss a beat. I think in the first play he had a tackle for loss. That is what I am talking about when I said we were equipped to compete late in the season is when injuries tend to mount up and that was something that was great to see. Francis is a great player, we know that, he just happens to be behind two really, really good players that have been in the system for quite a while.”

On what his sense of the intensity of the rivalry is now as compared to earlier years…

”I mean every football game is intense. Like I said, these guys are warriors and they want to go out and succeed and win. I haven’t seen it lessened at all and it seem to be every bit intense as every other game and every one before it.”

On if he can look back at the conference schedule and see the turning point for the team…

”Probably Stanford. After coming out 0-2 and having our backs completely against the wall at that point and then to go into their stadium and play as well as we did against a top-20 opponent was something we were waiting for. We didn’t think we had played up to our capabilities in those first four games and that game seemed to be a pivotal game for us.”