Kyle Whittingham met with the media Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's first home game.
Sept. 5, 2006
Kyle Whittingham Press Conference
September 5, 2006
"It was a tough road trip to Pasadena, down in the Rose Bowl. We came away getting beat handily and didn't play well on either side of the ball. It wasn't our typical, what you expect from the Utah offense. Three turnovers, 15 first downs and 0-for-11 on third down is probably the most telling statistic of the afternoon. You can't win any football games with that type of conversion rate. Defensively, we weren't much better. We played 75 snaps on defense with zero takeaways and zero sacks. Those are what we term impact plays on defense and we didn't come away with any of those. Not typical defensive numbers either for the Utes.
"Credit UCLA for a lot of that. They played well. The reason for our poor play was as much due to their play as our performance. They had a great game plan. Their quarterback was lights-out. They had a great package for him. They gave him high-percentage throws and he executed those throws. He ran the offense very well and appears as though he's going to be a great one for them over the next two years.
"Some bright spots. We did have a few things that were positive. Rush defense is number-one. We allowed 2.6 yards a carry, which is outstanding. We do that all year long and our rush defense is going to be one of the best, if not the best, in the conference. We didn't give up any sacks on offense. That was a positive. We had far too many sacks last year and we didn't give up any this week.
"Zane Beadles, an offensive lineman, a red-shirt freshman, came in and graded out the highest of the offensive linemen, which was remarkable for a kid's first start in Division I against an opponent like UCLA. To grade out like that was impressive. The kicking game was another positive. Louie Sakoda did a fine job place-kicking and punting and ended up as the Mountain West player of the week and deservedly so. That was a strong point. Ben Vroman and his kickoffs, with two out of three out of the end zone. That was an achilles heel for us last year. So it appears that those two elements - kickoff coverage and punt coverage will be a positive for us this year. The defensive linemen were a positive up front as far as the run game. Kelly Talavou, Paul Soliai and Soli Lefiti all played their best games as Utes. We didn't get close enough to the quarterback, but as far as the run game and controlling the line of scrimmage, they did a nice job. Mike Liti was a bright spot. We maybe should have gotten him the ball more.
"Overall, it was a disappointment. But it was UCLA on the road, that's a tough ballgame. There's nothing easy about that. They were 10-2 last year and they are an upper-echelon Pac-10 team. They've recruited well over the last few years. Coach (Karl) Dorrell has that thing going there. Time will tell, but we think they're going to be a very good football team this year."
"(Brian) Hernandez and (Steve) Tate, I would say are out. Hernandez has a thigh contusion that has developed some swelling. The swelling is coming down. But here it is Tuesday, I don't know if he'll be ready for Saturday. I don't know if I'd say doubtful. I'd say he's out until further notice. Tate is doubtful. He's a tough kid. He's markedly better today as opposed to Saturday, but he's got a ways to go. Odds are we'll be without both those guys and (tight end) Jason Voss for the second week in a row."
On the receivers
"Disappointing. I'm disappointed with that group. I've been bragging about that group all off-season. In particular, their blocking. They were soft in their blocking. There is no other way to put it. If you don't block here, you won't play here. I made that known in no uncertain terms yesterday in the team meeting. I still believe in them. They have a lot of talent. What you saw Saturday is not indicative of what we think we have in that group."
On Tommy Grady's repetitions
"Tommy Grady is an excellent quarterback. We have no second-guessing on our part of what we did in the game Saturday. The plan going in was to get him in during the second quarter. Had I had a crystal ball and known he was going to throw a pick for a touchdown, we certainly wouldn't have put him in. But the plan was in place. He's one of the best backup quarterbacks in the country. We've got to get him reps at some point in the season. Injury factors and so forth, he may have to be our guy and he hasn't had many reps in the last three or four years. We're going to try to give him reps, as many as we can. The premise was good, but the outcome was bad. Is that the difference in the game ... 31-10? Not a chance. We anticipate continuing to tune up Tommy Grady. We have no quarterback controversy. Brett Ratliff is our guy. There's no doubt about that. But at some point, you never know, it is a long season, and we have to have Tommy. The more reps we can get him, the better off we'll be."
On Northern Arizona
"They're a I-AA team. But all you have to do is look at the scores from this weekend. New Mexico, Colorado and Duke all getting whacked by I-AA opponents in their own stadiums. Then NAU taking Arizona State 14-all into the fourth quarter. That's all you have to say to get your players' attention, I would hope. It's a situation where we've got to play better than we did Saturday. If we play like we did Saturday, it's a toss of the coin who wins this ballgame. If we play like we're capable of playing, then I like our chances. If there is anybody on this football team who is taking NAU lightly or doesn't understand that a I-AA opponent can come in and get you, then we need to get that completely crystallized in their mind that we need to play our best football this week."
On playing a no-huddle offense
"It's a little bit of a challenge. We've faced it before. Wyoming has done it on and off, amongst other teams we've played. We have a plan of attack for how we practice that. It presents a little bit of a problem, rather than just a normal-pace, huddle-up offense. We've played it before and we have our own methods of how we deal with it. We don't feel like it is going to be a major issue."
On what allowed NAU to stay with Arizona State
"How hard they play. They really play hard. On defense, they were running to the football. On offense, they spread you out. The quarterback is athletic and a tough guy. He took some shots in the ASU game and just kept getting up. He's a very competitive kid. They also have an outstanding receiver. Number three (Alex Watson) is an outstanding receiver. He caught 200-yards-plus worth of balls against ASU. We've got to make sure he's our focal point."