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Rose Bowl Diaries: Kyle Whittingham Press Conference

Dec 31, 2021

LOS ANGELES - University of Utah Football head coach Kyle Whittingham particpated in the head coach press conference today as the Utes entered their final day of bowl prep.

The 108th Rose Bowl game will kickoff at 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT on Saturday, Jan. 1 on ESPN in Pasadena.

Head Coach Kyle Whittingham's Press Conference
Opening statement...
"We're elated to be here. The Rose Bowl committee has done a terrific job. They have been doing this a long time. It's been a great week. Our kids really enjoyed it. We've been working a long time to get here. We got in the league 11 years ago in the Pac-12 into Power 5 football. It's been an incredible journey, but our guys got it done this year. This is what we've been shooting for, like I said, for a lot of years. So we're excited about the opportunity to play Ohio State, great football team, great program, steeped in tradition, just one of the top programs in the country year after year. Our guys are excited, and hopefully we get a great game on Saturday."

On Britain Covey's career and what it has brought to the program...
"Just his consistent leadership that he's brought to the football team, his attitude, his personality is just infectious amongst his
teammates. One of the best leaders that's ever come through the University of Utah. Tremendous player obviously on the field as well. He's
done so much for us as a slot receiver, punt returner, kickoff returner. So he's just meant so much to our program for the last 12 years or however long he's been here (laughter), and we're excited that he's got one more chance to play with him again this weekend."

On teaching the team about the history of the Rose Bowl...
"I think from our perspective, I think our guys, most of them get it and understanding the history of this game and being the granddaddy of them all and all that goes with it. I grew up here the first 14 years of my life, so I've certainly been aware of the Rose Bowl and its importance since day one. We've had conversations about the tradition and what it means to be in this game and how long this game's been around and the whole nine yards. I feel like our guys are pretty well versed and up to speed on the magnitude of the football game."

On turning the season around after the 1-2 start and what he thinks changed the course of the season...
"First of all, the change in quarterback. It was Game 3. A little past midway point in the fourth quarter, we were down big against San Diego
State. Thought we needed a spark, made the change, put Cameron Rising in the game, provided the spark immediately, brought us all the way back to triple overtime. We ended up obviously losing the game, but it was very apparent that he was what we needed. He proceeded to
start the rest of the season and just got better and better as the weeks went on. You combine that with the offensive line struggle earlier in the year offensive line-wise. Once we got that position settled in or that group of five settled in and playing well together, that certainly helped our cause. Then the emergence of Tavion Thomas, our running back, that was huge. He had some fumble issues earlier in the season, but he got the ball security situation fixed. Then once he started getting some momentum, that made us a lot more physical in the run game. Then defensively overall, we have a lot of freshman that start. I think we have eight or nine on the field at a time during some portions of the game. Just to watch those guys grow up and get better and better week after week, that was probably the other thing that allowed us to finish the way we did."

On how the Pac-12 competition helped prepare them for this game...
"We pride ourselves on being a physical team. That's one of our starting points for our program is just physicality and preaching it and recruiting to it. We feel like the Big Ten obviously is a physical conference. So we feel like whenever we play teams from either the Pac-12 or
other conferences, we do match up well at the line of scrimmage, as I mentioned earlier. That's where it all starts. If you can match up on both sides of the line of scrimmage, you always have a chance. We feel like that's been a strength of ours for a lot of years."

On bringing the moment of loudness to the Rose Bowl...
"It's been incredible. We've had that at our stadium all season long. We had it in the championship game. To be able to honor our two players that we lost in that fashion has been terrific. I get choked up every time I go through it and experience it. It's just a great way to keep their memory alive. Our team is excited about it and really looks forward to it. So I'm glad that we're able to bring that to the Rose Bowl because I guess there was some question whether or not we were going to be able to do that, but thankful we're able to implement that one more time, at least one more time this season."

On players like Nick Ford and Devin Lloyd getting to play their final games as a Ute in the Rose Bowl...
"First of all, we're elated that they're playing. Devin is a first round pick, maybe a top ten pick, and for him to want to finish with his teammates and see it through and complete the season, I think that's awesome. Nick is also a draft choice potential. So to have them both with us is big positive. It would be great to see them have success here in their last game down here on their home turf."