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Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference (Nov. 15)

Nov 15, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY – University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham met with members of the media on Monday morning inside of the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center.

The full press conference can be viewed here, and selected quotes from Coach Whittingham can be seen below.

The No. 24 Utes (7-3, 6-1 Pac-12) return home for the first time in two weeks to take on the third-ranked Oregon Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12). Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. MT and will air on primetime ABC. With a win, Kyle Whittingham will become the all-time wins leader in program history, passing Ike Armstrong.

Opening Statement
"It was our last regular season road game last weekend and it wasn't our best outing, but it was another solid performance from the offense. I thought we played really well, nearly 470 yards of total offense, zero turnovers, 38 points and we've really been on a consistent path on offensively- which has been really good. That's obviously been a real positive part of the last seven games. Defensively, it wasn't our best but it wasn't awful…we were just soft in the run early. That was really the biggest concern early in the game that we didn't play the run very well. Special teams we had another huge mistake in the punt protection and fortunately it didn't cost us the game. You would think we'd have that solved by now but apparently, we didn't. I've got to coach it better and we've got to find a way to protect our punter."

"We have Oregon coming up and they're a really good football team. Top three or four in the nation and they have tons of talent across the board. Both defensive ends are tremendous players, the quarterback is a big strong kid that runs the ball well, the offensive line is talented, skill positions are loaded and they are doing a good job running the football. So, we have our work cut out for us and we have them at home which a good thing and we hope that Rice-Eccles is rocking and gives us that great home field advantage."

On TJ Pledger and how he has emerged recently…
"He's been a big plus for us and TJ is a very good running-back. You know, when Tavion is healthy, he's another great weapon for us but TJ has been running hard and has done a nice job in all phases. Not just caring the football, he's probably our best running-back in pass protection. That's huge because he's so good at picking up blitz's and protecting Cam. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield. Even though he's dropped a couple, in practice he's got tremendous hands and has just had a couple drops in games that are uncharacteristic of him. As far as him running the ball, he's come into his own and the offensive line is doing a great job of opening up holes and providing space for him."

On how to prepare for going up against a player like Kayvon Thibodeaux…
"I just know he is really good and really explosive. He's got the whole package and they say he's top-five pick, maybe even the top pick in the draft. He's got height, 260 and great get off. That's the number one criteria for an edge rusher and the number one asset that an edge rusher needs to be great. He's also athletic. If they wanted him to play linebacker he could easily do that."

On Oregon RB Travis Dye…
"He's a dual threat. He can run the ball from the backfield and catch the ball from the backfield. He's lighting quick and he's a weapon for them. He's a good player and we always have to have him accounted for and understand he can run routes out of the backfield and make sure we have coverage in place that can hopefully handle that."

On what comes to mind when facing Oregon…
"We've had some good back and forth. We went up there a few years back and got them pretty good. We beat them here two, three or four years ago. We haven't played them every year because of the rotation but they are always talented and it's always tough matchups every single year."

On how the third-down defense has progressed and now leads the conference after a shaky start…
"I would say the development of our freshman. I think they are getting better each week and you saw Cole Bishop play a great game last week. Van Fillinger seems to play well every week and Junior Tafuna is playing well. I think the primary reason for that is that we are starting to grow up at a lot of the positions. We are getting better and playing more consistent."