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Utah Football Kicks Off 2020 Season vs. Arizona

Nov 1, 2020

Pac-12 Football Release | Full Game Notes (PDF) | Wednesday Press Conference (Video) | Quotes from Week One Press Conferences | Fans Stay Connected Here | Monday Press Conference (Video)

THE GAME
The University of Utah (0-0) will take on the Arizona Wildcats (0-0) to kick off the 2020 season on Saturday, Nov. 7 inside Rice-Eccles Stadium. The game is set for a 1:30 p.m. MT kick on ESPN2. Search #GOUTES and #UBOYZ on social media for conversation about Utah Football this season.
 
UTES AT HOME
Utah is currently 98-35 (.736) all-time in Rice-Eccles Stadium (1998-present). Utah is 70-24 during the Kyle Whittingham era in Salt Lake City, including three undefeated home seasons in 2008 (6-0), 2009 (6-0) and 2019 (7-0). Utah has won 11 consecutive home games and 13 of their last 14 at RES. It is the longest home winning streak since winning 21 in a row (second-longest in school history) from 9/15/07 to 10/23/10.
 
NUMBERS TALK
•   Utah's game against Arizona will be the 46th all-time meeting between the Utes and Arizona.
•   With a win, Utah will have won 13-straight season openers, dating back to 2008.
•   With a win, Utah will have won five straight against Arizona.
•   After Utah's game against Arizona, the Utes will have played in 82 games in the Pac-12.
•   After Utah's game against the Wildcats, Kyle Whittingham will have coached in 196 games as the head coach of the Utes.
 
QUICK HITS
•   Utah is 76-49-1 all-time in season openers. Utah last lost a season opener against Oregon State in 2007.
•   The last time the Utes opened the season against an opponent from the Pac-12 was in 2007 against Oregon State.
•   2020 will mark the fourth time that the Utes have opened the season against Arizona, holding a 2-1 record against the Wildcats in the first game of the season in 2005 (W, 27-24), 2000 (17-3) and 1953 (28-7).
•   Utah enters week one receiving votes on both the AP and Coaches polls. Prior to the season starting, Utah landed at No. 22 in the Preseason AP Top 25.
•   Utah's preseason ranking by AP is the second-highest preseason AP Poll rank the Utes have received since 2015 after being voted No. 14 in 2019.
•   The Utes have either been ranked or received votes in the last six AP Preseason polls, finishing the year ranked or receiving votes in four of those years. The Utes surpassed their preseason AP rankings in 2016 (P rank: 30th, FR: 23rd) and 2015 (P rank: 30th, FR: 17th).
 
TEAM LEADERS
Utah's team captains are elected during preseason camp each year by the team. This year, the offensive captains are senior Orlando Umana (OL) and graduate transfer Jake Bentley (QB). For the defense, Utah's captains are juniors Devin Lloyd (LB) and Mika Tafua (DE). The Utes also named their leadership council for the season which includes Umana, Bentley, Lloyd, Tafua, Devin Brumfield (RB), Britain Covey (WR), Solomon Enis (WR), Nick Ford (OL), Cole Fotheringham (TE), Brant Kuithe (TE), Drew Lisk (QB), Hauati Pututau (DT), Cameron Rising (QB) and Bryan Thompson (WR).

TEAM NOTES
Kyle Whittingham, the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12 and the third-longest tenured coach at the same school in the NCAA FBS, is in his 16th season at the helm at Utah in 2020.
•   He holds a 131-64 overall record as a head coach, ranking as the second-winningest head coach at Utah behind Ike Armstrong (141-55-15).
•   He has contributed to more victories than any coach in program history (216) with 11 seasons as an assistant coach.
•   He has led the Utes to back-to-back Pac-12 South titles and has won National Coach of the Year recognitions – two in 2008 and one 2019. He was the AFCA Coach of the Year and Bear Bryant Award winner in 2008, and the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Year in 2019, also winning Pac-12 Coach of the Year last season.
 
According to figures compiled by each FBS program, the 2020 Utah Utes are the ninth-most "youthful" team in the nation.
•   Eighty members of this year's team are listed as either freshmen (true or redshirt) or sophomores, for a 66.9% composition.
•   There are 41 true freshmen, 20 redshirt freshmen and 20 sophomores among the 121 listed on the roster.
•   The Utes' 2020 recruiting class was ranked highest in school history, 29th in the FBS, by 247Sports.
 
Kyle Whittingham's Utah football program is fast becoming the most successful in the Pac-12 when it comes to producing NFL talent. Utah's 21 players drafted in the last four years (2017-20) are the most of any Pac-12 school, strengthened by seven draft choices in 2020, which tied for fifth-most in the FBS and ranked second in school history (8 in 2017).
•   Utah had seven players drafted and five sign as free agents in 2020. All 12 are presently with NFL teams, including nine on NFL 53-man rosters and 3 on practice squads: CB Jaylon Johnson (2nd rd., Chi.), Julian Blackmon (3rd rd., Ind.), Terrell Burgess (3rd rd., L.A. Rams), Zack Moss (3rd rd., Buf.), Leki Fotu (4th rd., Ari.), Bradlee Anae (5th rd., Dal.), John Penisini (6th rd., Det.), Francis Bernard (FA, Dal.), Javelin K. Guidry (FA, NYJ), Tyler Huntley (FA, Balt.; practice squad), Josh Nurse (FA, Balt.; Jacksonville practice squad) and Darrin Paulo (FA, N.O.; Den. Practice squad).
•   Nine of the 12 members of the 2019 Utes who are now in the NFL came from the defensive side of the ball, and eight are on active rosters).
 
Utah's football program excels in the classroom at an elite level among FBS programs and achieves one of the highest graduate rates in the country.
•   Utah ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in Graduation Success Rate (GSR) at 93%
•   The Utes earned a 2019 Academic Achievement Awards from the American Football Coaches Association for recording a perfect 100% single-year graduation success rate.
•   Utah received a Public Recognition Award for 2019-20 for recording an Academic Progress Rate (991) in the Top 10% nationally.
•   In the Spring 2020 semester Utah had 66 student-athletes on the honor roll (3.0 GPA or better) and 25 on the Dean's List (3.5 GPA or better).
 
Ten members of the 2020 Utes compete in 2020 having already earned bachelor's degrees: London Bartholomew, Vonte Davis, Samuelu Elisaia, Drew Lisk, Keegan Markgraf, Viane Moala, Samson Nacua, Pita Tonga, Maxs Tupai and Orlando Umana.
 
The University of Utah football team will play a seven-game conference-only schedule in 2020. The Utes will play five games against the South Division and one crossover game against the North (Oregon State). The seventh game for each team will involve all 12 programs, highlighted by the Pac-12 Championship Game with the other games selected after the two championship teams are determined.
•   The Oregon State game will mark the latest date on the calendar that Utah has played a home game since 1903. The Utes have played just one home game in the month of December since that year, when they hosted UCLA on Dec. 1, 1962.
•   Of Utah's six regular season opponents this season, head coach Kyle Whittingham has a winning record against four of them (Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, Oregon State).
 
The Utes were picked to finish third in the South Division in the 2020 Pac-12 Preseason Poll.
•   In four of the last five seasons, the Utes have either exceeded their preseason ranking or placed in the top-three of the South Division as voted, including winning back-to-back Pac-12 South Titles in 2018 and 2019.
•   Utah exceeded its preseason rankings in 2018 when they were picked to finish second in the south, but won, also being picked fifth in the Pac-12 South in 2015, going on to tie for the South Division regular season title.
 
Junior TE Brant Kuithe earned a spot on the Pick Six Previews Preseason All-America team while five Utes have also earned spots on preseason watch lists.
•   Kuithe is on the watch list for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, recognizing the nation's college offensive player of the year.
•   Junior LB Devin Lloyd is up for the Butkus Award (nation's best linebacker) and the Wuerffel Trophy (community service award).
•   Graduate Transfer QB Jake Bentley is currently in the running for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Maxwell Award (college player of the year).
•   Junior WR/Ret. Britain Covey is on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the most versatile player in college football.
•   Senior LS Keegan Markgraf is on the watch list for the Patrick Mannelly Award, given to the nation's best snapper.

A key to Utah's recent success has been its ability to not only establish a commanding home-field advantage, but to win games on the road. Utah's .676 win percentage in true road games over the last five seasons is best in the Pac-12, followed by Washington (.625).
 
Andy Ludwig is in the second year of his second full-time stint on the Utah coaching staff as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
•   In 2019, the Utes led the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (201.4), passing efficiency (174.05), completion percentage (72.6%) and third-down conversion rate (46.3%).
•   The Utes ranked second in the FBS and broke the league record for completion percentage in 2019, also ranking eighth in the FBS in passing efficiency.
•   Utah had five games with 500 yards or more of total offense in 2019, the most for the Utes since 2005 (also under Ludwig).
•   He also saw the Utes score 30 or more points 10 times in 2019, the most by a Utah team since the Ludwig-led 2008 offense.
 
Morgan Scalley enters his 13th year overall and fifth as the defensive coordinator for the Utes in 2020. He also continues to coach the safeties.
•   The Utes ranked seven in the FBS in total defense in 2019 while also leading the Pac-12 in rushing defense in three of the last four seasons.
•   Utah led the Pac-12 in total defense, passing defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, red zone defense, first downs allowed and third-down defense last season.
•   The Utes recorded the best statistical season by a conference team in the Pac-12 era in three categories: total yards (269.2), rushing yards (81.8) and points allowed (15.0).
 
The Utah defense will replace nine starters in 2020, but the standard set over the past two seasons will drive this year's unit to maintain that supremacy among its conference foes.
•   Over the past two seasons Utah has the most games holding an opponent to 10 points or fewer (12) in the Pac-12, ahead of second-place Oregon (8), and the most in conference-only games (8), followed by Oregon (5), according to SportsPac12.com.
 
Utah's defense has logged more interceptions than any other Pac-12 program in the last five years with 84. Next is Oregon with 74, followed by Cal (69), WSU (62) and ASU (60). Entering 2020 Utah's figure ranked fourth in the FBS