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Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference Recap- Week 12

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NCAA Football: Utah at Arizona Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Kyle Whittingham recaps Utah’s win at Arizona and looks ahead to Saturday when the team takes on Colorado.

Opening statement…

”We played well at Arizona and we did what we needed to do. Offense, defense, special teams were all very solid. There were a lot of great individual performances starting with Zack Moss. It was good to go down and get a win on the road at Arizona, like I said that is what we needed to do, and now we turn all of our attention to Colorado. It will be Senior Day for us. We have about 16 or 17 seniors that we are going to say goodbye to that have done so much for this program and they have been so instrumental to the success we have had. Colorado is coming off a two-game win streak with Stanford and Washington back-to-back – especially a nice win against the Huskies a couple of days ago. They are starting to play better. They had a rough spot there in the middle of the season, but have started to play better in the last two ball games. They have a lot of weapons. Their quarterback is playing well, their receiver is a big time talent and they have two receivers with over 50 catches. We have to be ready to play just like always and they are obviously motivated with bowl implications for them and we have our own implications that we are dealing with. Two motivated teams should be squaring off on late Saturday afternoon.”

On senior day…

”I want to give a little shout out to our fans to please arrive early on Saturday and make sure those stands are full for when those seniors are announced prior to kickoff. I think it is important to get people in the stands and honor the seniors the right way. It would be a big plus for us and a positive for them.”

On Brant Kuithe’s emergence as a dynamic offensive playmaker…

”He is starting to come into his own. I don’t think it is one thing that he is doing differently. He has just been open and Tyler has done a good job of finding him. When he does get the ball in his hands, he is dynamic with the ball and making plays. He has always been athletic, nothing has changed in that regard, but he is a guy that is a weapon for us now. The last two games he has really started to emerge. He is talented and talent usually rises to the surface at some point.”

On his stance that all major conferences nationally should play the same number of conference games…

”It doesn’t really matter what the number is, as long as the entire country is in the same boat. I think that is where it needs to be equitable and it needs to be uniform because there is so much at stake. There is so much at stake with how the playoffs are structured right now and it is just not a level playing field when you have a different amount of conference games. That has been my stance the last few years, but you can’t do anything about it because the contracts go years out, but it would be nice in the near future to get that ironed out where everyone is playing the same amount of conference games.”

On what position group has improved the most over the course of the season…

”Probably the offensive line. We started out with three new faces in there and it was a situation where it took them a few weeks to come together and gel. That is a position that requires time together, getting those five guys to work in sync together – it takes time. Going into the season with the experience we had at various positions, I would say the offensive line has made the most progress.”

On if anything changes in preparation knowing the implications of this game…

”Nothing changes. It is the same every week. There is no change in preparation in week-to-week unless it is a short week or long week where the time frame can alter things. As far as a Saturday to Saturday contest there really is no difference in the way we structure things. The way we prepare is always consistent and I think that is the way you need to be. Otherwise, the players question why you are doing something one week and not the next week. Every game is important and every game has the same value, so this game wouldn’t be as important if we would have slipped up somewhere earlier.”

On how this year’s seniors helped shift the landscape of Utah football…

”Well first the talent level. We have a lot of talent and a bunch of really good players in this senior class. Two years ago when you would look at the roster, you could see it coming that this would be a year where there was going to be a lot of talent on the field and a lot of key players. You could see it coming. And just because you see it coming or see a chance, doesn’t always mean it happens, but these guys have made it happen. Their work ethic, their leadership, their approach to the game has all come together and it has been a special season so far. There is still work to do, but so far it has been enjoyable.”

On if Demari Simpkins’ punt returns against Arizona gave them a special teams edge…

”I think so. We have a goal sheet for special teams. There are 10 goals that we try to hit and we figure if we hit seven of them, that is a dominating performance. We hit eight of those on Saturday and it was the most goals we have attained on special teams all season long. We finally got something going in the punt return game, which was great to see.”

On if he thinks Colorado’s defense has become more physical this season…

”I think time will tell. They certainly have been really good on defense the last couple of weeks and they have added some more exotic pressure packages than what they had earlier in the season. They have played really well in those two wins.”

On how he will make sure the players have their emotions in check after the senior ceremony on Saturday…

”We don’t plan on changing from our format that we have had the last few years. It takes around 6-8 minutes to get through the ceremony and honor them and then we just stay on the field for kickoff. So it does alter the pregame mechanics a little bit, but I don’t think in years past it has ever been a problem and like I said we are going to use the same routine this year even though there are some really good players graduating this year. We just hope that people stand on an even keel and don’t get too emotional, and I don’t believe they will.”

On the success of the season but that they still haven’t locked down the Pac-12 South yet…

”It speaks to the competitiveness of the league. It has been a very good season so far, but we are not losing focus. We have more work ahead of us, not just this game. It is the game we are focusing on right now, but there are things we have to take care of. It just speaks to the balance and the depth that this conference has.”

On Utah’s rushing defense and the challenge they face this week…

”That’s where it all starts for us on defense is taking away the run. We have a team that does a pretty good job of running the ball this week, they run for over 150 yards a game. Their tailback has been pretty productive. He is fourth or fifth in the league in rushing. So rush defense has to be our M.O. That doesn’t change week-to-week.”

On if this senior class has shown him how he wants to recruit the entire footprint of the program…

”I would say yes, I think it is in line with that. If we could have six-plus Senior Bowl invites every year, that would be spectacular.”

On how Colorado’s wide receiver (Laviska Shenault, Jr.) and how he might be different from other receivers they have faced this year…

”He is tremendous after the catch. He is a great runner. He is explosive after the catch, basically like a running back. He could probably play running back because that is how talented he is. That is what really stands out about him, is his run after catch ability. He is very dangerous.”

On if he is concerned about the increase of penalties by the Utes…

”It is a concern, but I always say that not all penalties are created equal. Some are just ignorant and inexcusable and should have not occurred while other are just acts of being aggressive and maybe not quite using the technique you are looking for. We certainly were penalized too much in this last game, and we will address it, but we never want to curb aggression. We want to be aggressive as a football team.”

On if the Oregon loss is a good reminder to the team that anything can happen in this league…

”I think it is. It is another illustration of this league in that if you are not ready to play or not being focused, which I am not accusing Oregon of not being ready, but you have to be ready to play every single week.”