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Kyle Whittingham Press Conference Recap: Week 4

Brittany Johnson

Week 4 of college football is already here. As the Utes move into Pac-12 play, coach Kyle Whittingham previews the team’s matchup against USC.

You can read the quotes from the presser or listen to the audio:

Listen here

Opening statement…

”Into conference play now. We have wrapped up the non-conference. As I mentioned after the game on Saturday, we are in the position we expected to be and did everything that we had hoped, which is to go 3-0. We head down to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum this week with a short turnaround with a Friday night game. It excels your preparation. We have to have a great three or four days of preparation and go down there and hopefully play well. They are a potent team. They have a lot of talent on that team. There is no difference in their talent level now than any year we have played them since joining the Pac-12 in my estimation. They have a receiving core that is one of the best in the country. Of course the quarterback has only had a few games and was thrust in their due to injury. They have talent. It is USC. There is nothing different than what we have experience for nine years now.”

On what BYU was able to do to win the game on Saturday against USC…

”Nothing much. They had over 450 yards in that game. They had three turnovers in that game, that was the huge deal. Two picks led to 10 points and the third ended the game, so that was the difference in that game.”

On balancing the emotions of the team heading into a big game…

”That is always a challenge as coaches. You have to keep the team on somewhat of an even keel. You want to have energy and emotion and be juiced up for the game, but you have to play within the framework of the offense and the defense. You have to make sure that you don’t let your emotions get the best of you. This is a mature team. This team seems to handle their business very well and my guess is that we will go down there, not overreact and just play our game.”

On how much he weighs their game plan on what other teams have done against the opponent…

”I think it is a combination of the two. If somebody has struggled with something, if you don’t already have something in your package then you implement it. It is the age old thing just like our offense, we haven’t hit movement very well so people keep doing it and until we can handle it they will keep doing it. So, you can draw up on things in each game that you can utilize if it fits what you are doing. You don’t want to just wholesale change because of it, but if it is something you have in your scheme already or it is something close, you can try to test them out again and see if they have their problems fixed or not.”

On facing air-raid offenses the next two weeks and what challenges that presents to the defense…

”Washington State is still a different animal compared to USC when you talk about the run-pass ratio. USC is much more balanced. The thing that creates the problems is the three wide receivers because those guys are really good. Those guys are as good of a crew as anyone in the country – maybe the best in the country as far as sheer ability, so that presents a challenge. Their running back runs hard, they’ve got two they use. They’ve got weapons. Their offensive line is their usual guys. They are big, strong guys and they are athletic.”

On Tyler Huntley’s high completion percentage through three games and if that is a credit to his decision making or the ability to catch balls by the wide receivers…

”Both. And credit the offensive line for holding up in pass protection most of the time. We don’t have a sack yet, but we very well could or should have had a few. It is a matter of Tyler making good decisions, it is a matter of the receivers making very few drops. If we make all the catches we should have made, he’s probably way over 80-percent, but I guess you don’t always catch every ball you should catch. He has been just phenomenal. We haven’t done a ton of throwing, averaging about 18 a game, but the real key is that he has really embraced what we are doing offensively. Him and Andy are really on the same wave length.”

On calling USC the “benchmark of the South” and how it has been playing against the for eight years while trying to rise to that standard…

”It is challenging. They have their pick of the litter down there in southern California which is a fertile recruiting ground. They can basically draw a 30-mile radius around their campus and that is where they recruit for the most part. I think we held our own. We’ve made progress and we are certainly more equipped to play them now than we were when we entered the league back in 2011.”

On if there is a moment that stands out from his four trips to the coliseum…

”Yeah several moments. Throwing three interceptions to the same linebacker a couple of years back. The first time down there we had a field goal that I don’t know if that would have tied it or won it, but that got botched. There hasn’t been a lot of pleasant moments but a lot of unpleasant ones that I can remember.”

On if he focuses on that it has been over 100 years since Utah has won at USC…

”No, I guess everyone is entitled to a bad century, so this game fortunately in our opinion doesn’t have anything to do with the last 100 years. It is its own entity, new challenge. History hasn’t been good to us in that place, but history has no bearing on this year.”

On USC’s quarterback…

”Very composed. For a true freshman being thrust into that situation he is in, I’ve been impressed with how he has handled himself. He is throwing the ball well. His efficiency rating is approaching 170, which is very good for anybody, let alone a freshman. He hasn’t made a ton of bad decisions. He did have the three interceptions last week, but it is just a matter of him settling in and continuing to gain confidence. He has all the tools. He is 6-2, has a good arm and you can tell he was well-coached in high school with where he is at right now. He came in pretty advanced as far as his level of play.”

On what the challenges are with a short week…

”Fortunately for us, we’ve played less snaps than anyone in the Pac-12 in the first three weeks, so we have less wear and tear. That is one of the benefits of not playing fast is that there isn’t as much wear and tear on your players, and that is something that matters. People say it doesn’t matter but it does. If you get down to week 10 and we’ve played 600 snaps of offense and someone else played 850, that is another two or three games worth. With that in mind, the short week we don’t feel is a huge deal for us at least from a physical standpoint it is just getting the mental side of it down. Even against Idaho State last week the starters barely played half the game. So we feel fresh and that the physicality of the first three games will not be a factor in this fourth game, but you still have to get the new game plan elements implemented and prepped. That is the bigger challenge.”

On six Pac-12 teams being ranked…

”I care about us, so it is nice to see that we are getting national recognition, but we just have to go through our schedule and play them all. I don’t pay much attention to the rankings until you get about mid-year because you don’t have great perspective. That is probably why the College Football Playoff committee doesn’t start until mid-year because it takes some time to get things sorted out. At this point in the season though, to have six teams ranked, that is a positive for the conference.”

On playing on a Friday night and what that does for exposure and recruiting compared to how it used to be…

”It certainly matters. We are under the spotlight this Friday. Just like our own team, when we are in the hotel on Friday nights before our Saturday games, we are watching those Friday night games. The whole country is going to be watching so it is important to play well. Your brand is out there and getting exposure, so that is a positive, but like I said you have to play well.”

On getting to play back-ups against Idaho State and if any of them played well…

”R.J. Hubert played very well at the safety spot in place of Julian Blackmon. That was his first extensive playing experience at safety because he was predominantly on offense in high school. We gained a lot of confidence in him and how we can use him at both safety positions. Jordan Wilmore did some good things at running back as did Devin Brumfield, and we got Devonta’e Henry-Cole some carries. All three ran hard and protected the football. Simi Moala who has spent the last two weeks at tackle due to the injuries has really played well overall. He is just a redshirt freshman and he was a defensive lineman in high school, so offensive line is new to him. He proved that he can hold up and play good football. Semisi Lauaki is going to be a really good defensive lineman. He really showed up. With the glut of tackles that we have, we will probably try to keep him under that four game threshold to redshirt him. Also Fua Pututao, he is that fourth defensive end with Bradlee, Mike and Maxs, he is the next guy up and got some good reps on Saturday.”

On if the running backs not getting as much as he hoped for on Saturday and how much of it is due to the depth at offensive line…

”The playbook continues to get installed, we still aren’t at 100-percent. The playbook has been expanding each week. I just thought there were some times we could have hit it a little harder with those other three backs, the non-Zack Moss guys, but that will come with experience. Jordan Wilmore especially because he is just barely out of high school. He has a lot of growth that will take place, but we are high on those guys. We think that we have a great running back stable and a lot of those guys are young. Micah Bernard is another good player and one of those guys that we are trying to get that redshirt year on.”

On if it is due to Tyler or the offensive line not getting a sack yet…

”Combination because there have been a handful of times that a quarterback not as athletic as Tyler would have gone down. So Tyler has done a nice job of having pocket awareness, sensing the rush and feeling it and getting himself out of some jams. Not only to get out of a jam and run, but also he has gotten out of a jam and thrown the ball and found receivers which is good.”

On Bradlee Anae becoming the next mayor of “Sack Lake City”…

”It is going to take some work, but Bradlee has a chance to threaten that all-time sack record here at Utah. He is definitely within reach, but he will have to have a pretty good year, which we hope he does. He is off to a pretty good start.”

On if he has any memories as a child being around the coliseum…

”Gosh, I was so young when my father played there that I don’t really remember that. But when he was coaching for the Rams, I got to go to several games, watching Eric Dickerson, that was their heyday. Memories in the coliseum but not from when I was really young, more from when I was following the Rams while my dad was coaching there.”