Utah linebacker Brian Blechen met the media at Utah's weekly press conference.
Sept. 6, 2011
I would like to start off by giving our heartfelt, love sympathy and support for Ron Tongaonevai, who lost his wife, Janelle, in a car accident shortly after the Montana State game. It really put everything in perspective. It's gut-wrenching, so we're doing everything we can to support Ron and help him through this difficult time. I don't have a blueprint for a situation like this. It's something I've never dealt with but we're making sure to help Ron and give him every bit of support that we can as we move forward.
That being said, we still have a game to prepare for. First of all, looking back at Montana State, there were some positives in that game. We did a lot of good things. We ran the ball effectively, didn't turn the ball over and played pretty good defense. The kicking game, particularly placekicking - which was a question mark heading into the game - that turned out to be a positive. Coleman Petersen nailed a field goal and all three of his PAT's, so that was a big positive. There were also a couple big negatives - the tempo of the offense. We were sluggish getting in and out of the huddle. We have to get back to playing faster. We also have to have more production in the throw game overall. We can't throw the ball 23 times and only have 100 yards. We did some good things in the throw game, the completion percentage was good and we didn't have any interceptions, but in order to win games in this conference we're heading into, we have to have more production. In a nutshell, that's the Montana State game.
I'm looking forward to USC. They have a lot of talent in every position and athletes throughout program. That's been a trademark of theirs for years and this year is no exception. Offensively, it starts with their quarterback Matt Barkley and their top receiver, Robert Woods. They combined for a great game on Saturday versus Minnesota. Woods had seven catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns and Barkley had over a 70 percentage completion rate and 300 yards with several touchdowns. That was a great combination for them on Saturday. Their run game wasn't bad, the numbers didn't indicate how well they ran the ball because there was an errant shotgun snap that lost 30-35 yards, which reflects on the run game so they actually ran the ball fairly decently. From our standpoint, we have to be ready to play. It's going to be a tough road trip going down to the Coliseum. It's a great venue with one of the most storied programs in all of college football. USC will have all of our respect in the preparation process.
On USC wide receiver Robert Woods:
He has good size. He's 6'1 and 190-195 pounds. He has great speed, quickness. He has great ball skills, he can go up and get a ball in traffic and make a tough catch. He's dangerous after the catch and has made some impressive runs. He's the complete package as a wide receiver. He's a great weapon for them and if he catches 17 against us, I don't like our chances. I don't think anyone can take him out of a game, but we can't let him go off like he did on Saturday."
Vyncent Jones and John Cullen are in good shape. Both of those guys will be available. We have two guys in question. Tauni Vakapuna had a high ankle sprain against Montana State so he's questionable and Shawn Asiata had a hamstring and will be questionable. We're going to try like crazy to get them ready for this weekend. Those two guys are questionable, but everyone else is ready to go.
On the passing game:
There are a few things we need to do. We need to dial up more shots downfield more than we did on Thursday night and Jordan Wynn has to gain confidence in his arm. It's not a physical thing, but after surgery there is a period time where you have to figure out that you can cut loose and throw the way you want to without worrying about pain. He's battling through that psychologically, so it's a matter of getting over the hump mentally. The best way for [Wynn] to get his confidence back for him is to experience a game without having any setback. The more he plays and the more times he doesn't feel pain while throwing the football will improve his confidence in the back of his mind. He's our guy.
On the first Pac-12 game:
It's just another game. It's a big game because it's the next game. We don't place more importance on any other game than another. It's just our first conference game, which happens to be in a great venue against a team with a storied tradition like the program at USC so that adds to the attention that this game's getting. We're just going to try to take care of business the same way we always do.
On memories of the Coliseum:
My father played for the Rams way back when so there are some vague, fleeting memories of that. I have more vivid memories as a player in the USFL when we played the LA Express and Steve Young back in 1983 or '85. I've also been to a Notre Dame/USC game there in the past 20 years. It's a great place and great venue.
On benefit of having Norm Chow while playing USC in the Coliseum:
That's one of the things he brings to the table. He provides a great insight of not just USC, but the Pac-12 in its entirety. The Coliseum is a definite home field advantage for them with the drums and fight song constantly playing. We tried to replicate that environment, or get as close as we can, by playing it out practice yesterday and we'll have it all week long.
On the offense against USC's defense:
USC has a very fast and talented defense that we'll be facing. John White ran for 150 yards last Thursday, but it's not all on John White. He hit the holes hard and ran well but the offensive line did a nice job as well. The bar is raised this week. If we do run the ball well against USC, it will be fantastic. Our chances for success are that much greater when we establish the running game.
On USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin:
He's been around a lot of years and called defenses in hundreds of games and done a great job. He's one of the architects of the Tampa 2 defense. He's a zone blitz guy. He ran a lot of zone dogs against Minnesota, which is what we call them, but not as much cover 2's in that game as he's run in the past. He has all of our respect and is one of the most decorated coordinators in college football.
On Utah defensive end/linebacker Nai Fotu:
He'll be a part of some sub packages and will also play some base defense for us. He brings a lot more to the team than just his physical ability; it's his passion and excitement that really becomes infectious to the entire team. He'll line up as both a defensive end and linebacker. You'll be able to find him in both locations. It's good to have him back and I commend him for adhering to everything we laid out for him.
On the return of USC tailback Mark Tyler:
He's a good back. Obviously, we have tape on him from last year. He was very productive last season and it just seems like an endless stream of talented athletes they have to draw from. The running back position is just another example of that. He brings an added dimension that will make their offense even more dangerous.
On the team:
It's still a bit of a mystery. We learned a bit about ourselves Thursday night but we will learn a lot more on Saturday. What you try to do as a football team is get better every week throughout the course of an entire season. The teams that do that typically will be among the better teams in the country. If we improve from week to week, we have a chance to be a pretty decent team. We're looking forward to going into a competitive situation this weekend and finding out where we stand.