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Coach Whitt Week 5 Presser Recap

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NCAA Football: Idaho State at Utah Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Kyle Whittingham recaps the disappointing loss to USC and previews the upcoming game against Washington State.

Opening statement…

”Briefly on the game last weekend. It was disappointing, obviously. We just can’t seem to find a way to get it done down there. Kind of what I talked about after the game, penalties did us in, red zone offense, big plays up the field on defense – those were the three main areas. When you are playing a team with the talent level of USC, you can maybe do one thing inefficiently but you can’t do a myriad of things. We struggled. Statistically we came out OK. We had about 450-plus yards of offense compared to 380 and I think we would have gotten close to 550 if we wouldn’t have kept getting penalized. The bottom line is that we just didn’t do enough good things to win the game. The guys played hard, I am proud of our guys. They played hard. They played relentless. Tyler Huntley was a fierce competitor. He is a fierce competitor anyway, but in that particular game, he was competing like a warrior. It was disappointing to start conference play 0-1, but it is what it is. We’ve been there before and we’ve had some pretty good results at the end. Like I’ve said before, it is one, 12-game season not 12, one-game seasons. I don’t think anyone in the south will go undefeated, could be wrong, but I think the last several years prove that is unlikely. There is a ton of football left.”

”We have the Washington State Cougars coming in this week and they are very similar to our situation. They went through their non-conference season undefeated and then lost in a tough game to UCLA. It was a weird game. I stayed up until it was over. To have nine touchdown passes, score 63 points and lose, is just really weird. Things just happen. Credit UCLA, they played well and kept answering and to have the final score be 67-63 with no overtimes is bizarre. We’ve got to try to solve the same kind of offense this week that we played last week. They do it better than anybody in the country as far as what they do – throwing the football. Year-in and year-out, wherever Mike Leach is coaching they are going to be near the top in the country in throwing the ball. His quarterback is leading the nation right now in passing yardage and touchdown throws, so they are the antithesis of Air Force. The way Air Force is with the option and the run game, Washington State is to the throw game. There is nothing that we are going to do defensively that is going to surprise them or do something they haven’t seen before. They’ve seen it all. It is going to boil down to tackling, covering, and getting pressure on the passer. In a game like this, your best defense is your offense and controlling the ball on offense – which we are doing. Our offense is controlling the football, taking care of it and we are making first downs. We had 27 first downs on Friday night. So that will play into slowing down that offense is our ability to control the football, take care of it and keep it away from them.”

On the blocking inconsistencies and the fumble…

”Nobody blocks every play every time and nobody protects perfectly every time, but we have had our share of mental errors. That was a mental error. We have a call that we make at the line of scrimmage and it was on the front side of the play, not the backside. On the front side, we had a blown assignment and that led to probably the biggest play of the game because we came away with zero on that. We were in the red zone six times and we came away with two touchdowns. That is not good enough. We have to be closer to 70-percent. We had first-and-goal at the two, which was that play. The guy popped through, made a great play and popped the ball loose. That was a huge momentum swing. Instead of going in 17-14, it was 14-10 still and they got all the momentum. That was disappointing. Down at the other end, we had a situation where we came away with just a field goal. We had two touchdowns, three field goals and one turnover in six trips. When you are playing a team the caliber of USC, you can’t leave points on the field like that. They are too good and you can’t get away with that. We strive to be 70-percent in the red zone offensively and giving up 50-percent on defense. We think that is championship level if we can do those two things.”

On what the defense will need to do to prepare for Washington State and if there will be any personnel changes…

”I wouldn’t say personnel changes but I would say maybe looking at different groups to match up with what they do. They are almost exclusively four-wide even though they will play some three-wide too, but typically it is four-wide with one back as their base set. So, you have to try and match skill-on-skill. We will take a look at different personnel groups. First of all, we can’t give up numerous big plays up the field, that was a huge issue Friday night. Credit their receivers though because I was pointing it out all week long on how talented they were and they proved me right. We just didn’t get it done in the backend. So, much like when you play a team that plays three tight ends, you have to shift your personnel around and try to match up the best you can. They are more spread with four-wide so you have to do the same thing and get the best 11 out there.”

On how he felt the backup running backs did against USC…

”We got a lot out of Devin Brumfield in that game, and he is technically not the two guy because Jordan Wilmore is the No. 2 back. Devin got hot there for a minute. He is further ahead than the other backs in blitz pickup and pass protection, so he got more of the reps and did a really nice job. He ran hard and caught the ball well out of the backfield. I thought they did very well in Zack’s absence.”

On if not having Zack Moss carry the ball 20 times alter the game…

”In my opinion he is the best back in the Pac-12 and I’ll stand by that. When you have a weapon like that taken away, it is certainly going to have an impact, but like I said after the game there are no excuses and you just have to have the next guy come in and pick up the slack as best he can. You have to modify your calls and your plan accordingly.”

On if the problem Friday night came from the secondary, from pressure up front or a combination…

”It was a combination of things and as coaches we have to do a better job at putting them in positions to succeed. We need to coach them up better. We believe in our secondary. We don’t think the sky has fallen, we just had a bad performance. Our pass efficiency defense is really good and is up there in the conference. We are doing some really good things. We are leading the conference and rank second in the nation in run defense, so we are doing well, but playing the deep ball on Friday night was not one of them. It was almost like backyard football with him just chucking the ball up there and making them make a play, which they did over and over and over.”

On what Tyler Huntley has been doing to take care of the football…

”He has prepared as well as any player we’ve had here for each game. He has completely bought in to Coach Ludwig’s coaching and doing the things that Andy wants him to do as far as his read progression, taking care of the football and putting it in good spots. His completion percentage right now is off the charts, it is in the top four or five in the nation. He is just playing his best football as a Ute and he is our guy. He is our leader.”

On how it is in his DNA as a coach to stop the run and facing an opponent where that will be irrelevant…

”It is a departure from normal. It is the flip side of Air Force. You go into an Air Force game and you almost disregard the pass because you have to focus so much on the run, so this is the exact opposite of that. It is a departure from pretty much every other week in the season, even the USC game the week before. They had rushed for 170 yards a game, so it was still a viable part of their offense. Coach Leach runs just enough to make sure you don’t completely disregard it, but your main plan is geared toward trying to keep the ball from getting thrown all over the place for 400-plus yards.”

On why Mike Leach is so successful with his offense when other coaches in the country don’t dare to try it…

”You can play Air Force and you can line up in 99 different ways and they have seen it all and they have an answer for it all. It is the same with Mike. He has been doing the same thing for so long and so well that there is nothing you can do. You can rush one, drop 10, you can do whatever you want to do and he will have seen it somewhere along the line and he will have an answer for it. That is what makes it so difficult. You aren’t going to trick him. You just have to try to play better defense and better pass coverage while trying to keep things in front of you than they do with their offensive throw game.”

On if you have to use more personnel on defense against Washington State because you have to be so active during the game…

”Yeah that is another problem because you run out of fresh DBs. When you play a lot of man coverage like we typically do, it takes more out of your DBs than zone coverage. There is more running involved. So, as much as we believe in it, it does come with a cost. So, you have to have some guys that you can rotate through there to keep people fresh because they have a lot of receivers that they rotate too.”

On if he feels like he is preparing for the same team two weeks in a row when you compare USC and Washington State’s offense…

”Same basic animal, but there are differences. The route structures and a lot of the concepts are similar. The Trojans are a little more run where Washington State is probably about 75-percent throw. There is carryover though. If you are going to play those two teams in a season, playing them back-to-back would be ideal. Now we will see if we can defend it.”

On Washington State’s quarterback…

”It is a great system and he seems to find a way to make most quarterbacks successful that are playing for him. He does a great job of teaching them and this guy has been there for years. I think he is a fifth-year senior. So, he knows the system inside and out. He looks completely in command back there. I wouldn’t say you could just throw any guy in there and he could throw for 400 yards a game, but they do seem to find that guy every year that can get it done.”

On what it is like having a conversation with Mike Leach…

”It is awesome. He is the most entertaining coach you will come across. He is as smart as a whip and personable. You can literally choose any topic and you will get a couple of hours’ worth of dialogue. He knows a lot. He must read a lot.”

On focusing on winning the south as opposed to just focusing on each game…

”The attention is not on winning the south; we just don’t think that anybody is going to go undefeated. There is no panic setting in. It is one game into conference play and we didn’t get it done, but there is no reason to get discouraged or let this linger. We have to move on. Get rid of this game mentally. Today is the day that it gets behind you and you move forward.”