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Kyle Whittingham Weekly Press Conference: No. 7 USC

Oct 10, 2022
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SALT LAKE CITY – University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham held his weekly press conference on Monday, meeting with members of the media inside the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center.
 
Selected quotes from Coach Whittingham can be seen below. A full press conference video is available here.
 
Opening Statement
"We got beat by a very good UCLA team this past weekend. Most physical UCLA team that we've faced since I've been the head coach, or since we've been in the Pac-12. Very good offensively, ran the ball effectively, threw the ball effectively. We didn't do much on defense to deter that. Missed a bunch of tackles. They made a bunch of big plays on us, as evidenced by 42 points with only 21 first downs. That's uncommon; that means there's a lot of big plays going on. Give them credit. Give them all the credit. Quarterback played exceptionally well. Defensively, it was very reminiscent of the Florida game as far as the overall feel afterwards. Little bit different set of problems, but not that much different. Offensively, I thought we played well. We had [479 yards of offense], 31 first downs. When you make a bunch of first downs like that and have 480, it should translate into a few more points. But for some reason, we were only able to score 25 points offensively. Red-zone was pretty good, we were 4-of-4 production in the red-zone, three touchdowns and one field goal. We just didn't finish drives like we could've and should've. Only had 10 possessions. College football has really gotten much less in terms of the [number of] possessions for each team. So you have to maximize and make the most of your possessions. Although we moved the ball well, we didn't score enough points to get it done. Special teams, not a big factor again. Kickoff coverage was once again a negative for us. Gave them good field position far too often, which has been a theme for this season so far. We have to somehow get that turned around. We've made every effort, we have to continue to find ways to get that corrected.
 
"S.C. this week; doesn't get any easier. Good football team. A lot of similarities offensively with us and them as far as production. Very different styles of play, and very different philosophical approach. But we're both getting within four or five yards of each other total offense, within a point in total points per game. So there's a lot of common ground there. But they're far more spread out, four wide receiver sets, than we are. It's going to be a big challenge. We have them at home in Rice-Eccles, which is a big plus. Our guys really enjoy playing at home and the home crowd gives us a big advantage. We find ourselves in a very similar situation as we did last year. Very similar, and we handled it well last year, and we'll see if we can handle it well this year. That's where we're at."
 
On defensive schemes, particularly with a younger front seven…
"I think we can do what we need to do. We're allowing less pass yards than anyone in the conference, I think. That doesn't necessarily mean you're playing great pass defense, because pass efficiency is much more important. But even there, we're No. 2 in the league in pass efficiency defense. I think that when we have had issues, it's been primarily run defense this season. I don't think the pass game has been tearing us up, and I don't think we need to have a wholesale change in our approach. We've gotten back to more man coverage, where we had a departure from [a] previous season…We do need to get more pressure on the quarterback, but one of our issues is we're not getting enough pressure with a four-man rush. We've got to bring pressure with five or more to get any heat on the quarterback. That's been a concern and an ongoing problem through the first half of the season, which we're right at the halfway point. That's an evaluation that is not hard to figure out."
 
On Tavion Thomas in the rotation after halftime at UCLA…
"We're playing catch-up a little bit. Not big-time catch-up, but he was a little bit tired. He's still not in great shape, he did carry the ball 18 times. That's still a pretty big workload for a game. He did play his best game of the year, most productive game of the year. Maybe in hindsight, should've given him a few more carries in the second half. But it wasn't by design to go away from him in the second half."
 
On improvement for the defense over six games…
"Well, we've had two bad games and four really good games. We're still first or second in the league in total D, first or second in scoring D. So apparently other people are having more problems than we are. We're not perfect; we haven't been as good as we need to be in two of the six games. There's no doubt about that. But we were pretty darn good against Arizona State and Oregon State. Don't know, don't have a reason why the wheels kind of came off in those two games [Florida and UCLA]."
 
On USC's defense…
"Really good front four. They got a good front four. They're leading the nation in sacks. They can get after the quarterback. Secondary's always athletic at S.C. You can look at any year for the last 50 years and they've got great athletes back there. Between the secondary and the way the front's playing, that's really the reason they've been having success."
 
On getting Dalton Kincaid more involved in the offense…
"To get Dalton more involved in the offense, we have to involve him more. We have to throw the ball to him more, target him more. I think he had four catches, which is not enough. You're right in the fact that he has not been as much a focal point of the offense as he needs to be. Other teams are very aware of him. They do a good job trying to cover him and trying to take him away. But he's one of our best weapons and he does need more targets; I said that last week. We still need to do a better job of that. Devaughn Vele, same thing. Even though he caught another six or seven balls for nearly 100 yards—those are our two real playmakers in the throw game."
 
On kickoffs…
"Ideally, we would like to have every kickoff be a touchback and not have to worry about defending the return. Put the ball at the 25 and let's go. Right now with the way we're doing it, we're better off kicking it out of bounds and putting it at the 35 and let's go. Teams have been getting past the 35 [on returns] with regularity. It's a definite concern."
 
On the offensive line…
"We had some breakdowns on Saturday that you don't like to see happen, which led to a couple sacks. But overall, I would say the offensive line is playing efficiently, B-plus, if you want to put a grade on it I guess. We're not giving up excessive sacks, we're running the ball effectively. I think we're second or third in the league rushing the football. We're doing some good things with the offensive line. Is there room for improvement? Yeah, just like every other position. But they've been pretty productive so far."
 
On USC quarterback Caleb Williams…
"Good quarterback. Him and Cam [Rising] are very close statistically. We look really at QBR and efficiency. He's thrown for more yards per game than Cam has per game. But when you look at the efficiency rating and QBR, in fact Cam's ahead of him. I think DTR's the No. 1 QBR in our league now, Cam's right behind him…So [Williams is] doing a good job just like Cam is. He's got a bunch of receivers to throw to. That's as deep and as talented a receiving corps as maybe there is in the country. Maybe the best. A lot of weaponry for him to get the ball and spread it out."
 
On four-man pressure…
"Huge concern. Absolutely a huge concern. We've got to do a better job coaching pass rush and setting our guys up for success…we're looking at everything. It's a big concern. But still, as concerning as it is, we're playing the pass pretty darn good. But we'd like to get more pressure. That would be ideal."
 
On getting guys like Makai Cope and Money Parks into the mix…
"It's real good. The more guys you can spread the ball to confidently, it takes some pressure off those two main targets. Those guys will continue to be the two main targets, but to supplement what they're doing with Money, Jaylen Dixon, Makai Cope, that is a benefit for us."
 
NEXT UP
The Utes return to Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15 when they host the USC Trojans. The Dark Mode game is set for a 6 p.m. MT kick on FOX.
 
FOLLOW ALONG!
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