Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference (Nov. 29)
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. 14 Utes (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12) are coming off a Senior Day victory against rocky mountain foe Colorado on Friday to close out the regular season. The Utes finished Pac-12 play with an 8-1 record for the second time since joining the conference in 2011, the other being the 2019 season.
The stage is now set for the 2021 Pac-12 Championship game as the No. 14 Utes will face the No. 10 Oregon Ducks (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) in Las Vegas Friday, Dec 3rd. This is the second meeting between the two teams in a 13-day period and is slated for a primetime 6:00 p.m. MT kick off on ABC.
"It was great to send our seniors out with a win, in their last game at Rice-Eccles. They went undefeated at home this year, 6-0, so that was a punctuation mark on a great home season for our guys. We didn't play our absolute best on Friday but we had decent production with 444 yards of offense and 28 points, which is a little below what we have been doing. But our defense was smothering and the key to game was the way our defense controlled pretty much everything. They (Colorado) couldn't run on them, couldn't throw on them, couldn't score on them and two field goals is all they gave up. So, a lot of positives there and a good way to end the regular season."
"Now we move on to the championship game. It's a little different playing the same team twice in a 13-day period. That's how it goes, no problem and it's just the way things laid out and so we need to get ourselves ready again for a very good Oregon Duck team. We have to have excellent preparation, which is the key every week to having a chance to win and we'll be on the field today for a Tuesday type practice. We are a day ahead with the Friday contest and so we'll get on the field and get back at it today."
On facing the same opponent twice and if there are any adjustments that are made…
"That's a good point and there are no major overhauls…but you do tweak some things and make some subtle adjustments here and there. Not a lot of things have changed with either team in eight days or nine days, but really, it's the execution, the energy and that type of stuff that's more critical than any minor schematic adjustments that you make."
On if there is anything Whittingham can draw from the 2018-2019 championship game appearances…
"Not really, we only have a handful of guys that were in those games. So, nothing other than that we certainly need to play better than we did in those two years. In '18, we played really good defense and didn't give up a touchdown. It was a pick-six and a field goal that we gave up and I think the score was 10-3. Then we didn't play particularly well on either side of the ball in '19 and got beat pretty soundly."
On the importance of a quick start against Oregon…
"Well if they get their usually rush yardage, which they did against two days ago against Oregon State, they are tough to beat. That was one of the keys for us was to limit the run game. It is always good to start fast, although if you don't you can't let it be a major factor. You just have to fight through the adversity and keep playing. But, that is always a positive if you can get an early lead and playing with a lead is a lot easier than playing from behind."
On what makes playing in the Pac-12 Championship game so difficult to prepare for and play in…
"First of all you are playing the best of the best. The best team from the north and the south…I think only SC has won this game for the south since we joined the league, but you just have to prepare just like you do all season long. There is nothing special we do this week, although the intensity and emotion is much higher. But as far as the mechanics and how we go through our preparation and our systematic approach, that doesn't change."
On what Whittingham can do to tighten up the kick-off coverage…
"We had the problems early and that was obvious and then we got better and better each week. We were actually really good on Saturday except for the one that got out of the gate and we had him. We had three guys miss tackles and otherwise he is pinned inside the 20-yard line. But since we didn't make the tackles and one of the tackles knocked him outside into a big gap where there was no coverage and so we have worked long and hard on it and that kick was covered very well. We just didn't make the tackle and that's something that was unfortunate. It's something we've spent a bunch of time on all season long and we'll continue to do that this week. It showed up again and even though it was played correctly the net result was not good so we need to continue to work on it."
On being one of the top offenses this season…
"Cam Rising and the emergence of his play and how he has operated the offense. He's number 11, just slipped outside the top-10 in QBR in the nation, which means he is going a great job running the offense. The offensive line has really come together. We had some huge holes on Friday in the Colorado game due to the offensive line just being efficient and playing well. The tight end group. I think we have the best tight end crew in the country as a group. Those three guys are just tremendous and have provided so many big catches. You saw Kuithe and Dalton on those two touchdown passes and they've been doing that all year long. Then Andy, I think Andy's play calling has been outstanding all year long. We really figured out who we were about game four. That's when we figured out what makes us go and we've just taken off from there."