Go Utes!
Go Utes!
Quotes from Kyle Whittingham's Weekly Press Conference




Oct. 15, 2013

Opening statement:
Good win for us. A much-needed win. The way our players have fought and competed all season long, we were due to come out on the right end of one of those close ones. I'm very proud of the way the guys finished and hung in there start to finish as they have all year.

The biggest difference in the game or the biggest reason for our success, in my opinion, was our ability to run the football efficiently against a very good front seven of Stanford. That really was, in my assessment, the biggest factor in being able to win the game was to put up the rushing numbers that we did. The offensive line, obviously, was a huge reason for that. Bubba Poole ran the ball exceptionally well. Coach Erickson and Coach Johnson's scheme with the bubble screens on the perimeter loosened up the front and softened things up in there for us a little bit. Receivers blocking downfield were key to making those bubble screens go. We did a great job with our receivers blocking that up, and Travis [Wilson] did a great job of putting that ball right on the money. That's not an easy throw to make. It may look easy, but to put the ball right where it needs to be, in stride, with very little margin for error is really the key to the play to get that thing underway. Travis did an outstanding job of managing those throws.

A lot of other good things. Andy Phillips continues to be a weapon for us. He hit two big field goals. One was about 48 yards there in the fourth quarter, which extended the lead to I think it was 27-14 at that time. Defensively, outstanding plan by Coach Sitake and the rest of the defensive staff. We really only gave up two scores: the first drive of the game -- that's two games in a row where we've given up touchdowns on the first drive, so we've got to get that corrected, but other than that, there wasn't another offensive touchdown by Stanford until midway through the fourth quarter.

 

 

A lot of positives to build on. This game is big, like I said, but it can be magnified if we're able to build on it and do some good things going forward. We're playing a good Arizona team this week. Ka'Deem Carey, one of the best backs in the country, gave us fits last year, and we've got to have a plan to try to not let him do to us what he did to us last year.

On leaving the state for the first time this season:
I think there is a little concern for the players that have never done that. I don't think it matters when that happens during the course of the season. I don't think that's relevant, but our guys that have never been on a Div. I road trip, which there's quite a few guys on this team that will be in that category, it's important that they handle themselves the right way and understand how we operate. I think that's the bigger issue than the timing of it.

On Andy Phillips:
We're just elated about what Andy given us and what he's done for us. He's 11-for-11 on the year. He hasn't missed a PAT. He's just been lights out, and that's something that's been a big difference for us. It's made a big difference in the complexion of the games, and we hope it continues.

He sent a tape to us. It came to Jay Hill. I want to say not last summer, but the summer prior. He was a skier, obviously. He was on the Olympic Ski Team or was getting ready to be on the Olympic Ski Team, and joined the program. He was not really anything sensational when he first joined the program. You know, he's gotten better since he got in our program, and that's a credit to Coach Hill in coaching him up and helping him develop.

We had a feeling in fall camp that we may have stumbled upon a pretty good kicker. We had no idea for sure because he hadn't kicked in front of anybody -- ever -- at any level. There were a lot of unknowns in that respect. In spring ball, there really wasn't much separation. It wasn't until fall camp that he started to pull away from the rest of the kickers, and we were thinking that we might have a guy that's pretty good for us. As the season started to unfold and he just made kick after kick after kick, it's just continued. We're very excited about it.

We no longer go to the soccer fields for kickers. We got to the slopes to try to find those guys.

On the Pac-12:
I think [the league is] right up there, certainly, in the top two or three without a doubt. I don't think that's even a question. And as I've said over and over, the conference today is much better than when we entered it. We entered it just two and a half years ago, and it's much more competitive top to bottom. You look at some of the offenses, there's a lot of prolific offenses in this conference. It seems like every week we're going against an offense that's ranked very highly nationally. It's very challenging. The SEC's in the conversation, obviously. They're always in the conversation, and we're right up there in that group.

Going forward after defeating Stanford:
Going forward what we want to do is accentuate to the players the reasons for the win - the great week of practice, the focus, their film study, everything that went in to winning the football game, and emphasize to them that that's what needs to happen again. We've got to be able to duplicate that as far as our preparation. This team this year has not had a problem preparing, but some weeks are obviously a little bit better than others, and last week was outstanding, and just instill the belief in them that preparation is absolutely key to your success or lack thereof.

On Nate Orchard, Trevor Reilly and the defensive line:
It's what we hoped for, especially Nate. I thought Nate played well, and probably his best game as a Ute was this past Saturday. The defensive line, as a whole, is doing very good things. I was optimistic about those guys way back in fall camp, saying that even though we lost Star [Lotulelei] and the Kruger brothers and some really good players, we expected to have one of the best, if not the best defensive front, in the conference. So far through the first half of the season, we're leading the league in sacks. We're playing the run exceptionally well. Tenny Palepoi is a big reason for that. We mentioned Trevor and Nate, but Tenny is really the anchor of the interior guys. It's a situation where we're getting outstanding play up front, and it needs to continue. We envisioned getting good pressure off the edge from Nate and Trevor, and they've given us just that.

On Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker:
He's a very, very good fit for their scheme. He runs the ball exceptionally well. For what coach RichRod (Rich Rodriguez) likes to do, I think he's a good fit and able to do the things required of a quarterback in that system. He's another guy that's mobile, he's tough to tackle, he's fast, and he does throw the ball with efficiency. Another dual-threat quarterback like we see almost every week.

On the running backs:
We talked about this last week, and we have pretty much the same mindset. If we've got a guy that's the 'hot back,' I guess you could call him, making the big runs and gaining the yards, we're going to stick with that guy. We supplemented him with a few runs from Lucky [Radley], who came in and did a really nice job.

A lot of it has to do with the practice week leading into the game, making sure that we can count on a guy not to make mental mistakes and do the right things. That also goes into the equation of how many reps you're going to get. In this particular game, Bubba started out extremely productive and stayed that way the entire game. We just spelled him really to get him a little rest and really no other reason. We lost both our tight ends, so we had to do something. We still like Greg Reese and Siale Fakailoatonga, who are the next two, but we felt like this particular week, with what Dennis and Brian wanted to get accomplished that Karl [Williams] was a good fit. He came in and played exceptionally well. I was very proud of Karl and the way he blocked and the things he gave us.

On Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey:
He did a number on us [last year]. He's a powerful kid -- not the tallest kid in the world, but he's about 210 pounds, extremely explosive, great vision, and great quickness. He's a guy that can really change direction, and tough to tackle. We've got our work cut out for us, and we've got to do a much better job than we did last year on him. I've been impressed with him since the first time I watched him play, and I think he's one of the top backs in the country.

On the offensive line and Jeremiah Poutasi:
Cedrick's still a young kid, and you know he's just a true sophomore. He did have a couple bad snaps early in the game. We got him on the sideline. Coach Finn got in his ear and gave him some encouragement, and he responded and played the rest of the game very well. It was a situation where he got a little bit more motivation and upped his level of play.

I thought the offensive line as a whole played exceptionally well. They all graded out, as I recall, I think three of them were in the 90s and two in the high 80s. Our goal is to have them all grade out at 90 or above. That would be ideal for us. You don't rush for nearly 200 yards without good offensive line play. We were only sacked one time -- another indicator of how well the offensive line performed for us Saturday.

On team leadership:
The leadership this year has been outstanding. I think I've referenced that a lot in the first six weeks of the season, and it starts with Trevor Reilly. He's the team leader and the guy that really is the leader of the leaders. I had a meeting with the seniors last week, and they're just a great group. They're a pleasure to coach, they're tough, they're competitive, they want to win in the worst way. That's something that's really been apparent through the first six games of the season, and we need that to continue. We expect that to continue.

[The meeting] was called by me. It's not really that out of character. We do that periodically through the season. I meet with different groups, the leadership council on occasion, the captains quite often and the seniors on occasion. That's something that you just go by feel. When you think you'd like to sit down with some of those guys, take their pulse and see what they're thinking.

On kickoff coverage:
That's the phase we haven't been pleased with, and we have to take a long, hard look at that. Last week, we were playing against a premier kick returner, Ty Montgomery. Our plan was to not let him touch the ball. He ended up touching it two or three times, and we paid the price. That was not due to any lack of effort on our part to keep it away from him because we tried. We've got to get that fixed. If you look at the football team in its entirety, our Achilles heel is probably the kickoff coverage unit right now. We've got to get that addressed, and we will.

We've worked all the kickers in the program. We're searching for the guy that is able to do the best job of [putting the ball in the back of the end zone], and right now it's Andy. It's not for a lack of searching and giving other people a shot. It's just that right now we don't have that guy that can pound it out of the back of the end zone with any consistency or any regularity.

On quarterback play in the Pac-12:
It's outstanding. If you do the numbers with what they've accomplished so far and what's left in the season, eight of them will go over 3,000 yards. First of all, I don't know if that's happened in any conference ever, but most importantly, we're very glad that our guy is one of those eight. It's a conference full of very good quarterbacks, and the numbers they're putting up is outstanding right now.

On earning his 75th victory against Stanford:
Yeah, I went to In-N-Out and had a double-double. That was the extent of it. I didn't know that until we were at In-N-Out and was having a double-double. One of my brothers mentioned that. I had no idea.

On Andy Reid, Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs:
I had conversation with Andy about that potential move and gave Alex my 100 percent endorsement. It's been a good match, and they're doing great. And by the way, Andy is a closet Ute. Not a lot of people know that, but Andy Reid wears Ute gear constantly and is a closet Ute. Actually that wouldn't be a closet Ute if you wear your Ute gear constantly.

Anyway, I'm very proud of those guys and what they've accomplished, what they're doing there in Kansas City. They got another big win yesterday, and I couldn't be happier for two guys that I really care a lot about.

They're both intelligent. They're both very even-keeled -- no peaks and valleys. They're very steady, and I think it's a very good match, and so far, the results have proven that.

On Anthony Denham:
He made a couple big catches for us, contested catches on Saturday. He's continuing to contribute in that respect. His biggest contribution has been his blocking. He's a big, strong kid.

I mentioned the receiving corps blocking downfield for Bubba and those guys that were on those swing routes, and he's the lead guy in that. He's a guy that really does a nice job. Our whole receiving corps takes a great deal of pride in blocking. That's something we stress. What are you doing when you don't have the ball in your hands. It's extremely important and those guys have really embraced that and taken it to heart.

On the team through the halfway point of the season:
I think we've done some good things this season. Obviously, we'd choose to be undefeated, if we had a perfect world. But we've competed every week. I don't think we've had a poor performance. We haven't won every game, obviously, but I don't think we've had a game where we just flat-out didn't play well. That's been encouraging.

The competitive nature of this team is that they are fun to be around, the way they compete and they way they care about what they're doing. So, we're 4-2, and we've got the second half of the season coming up this week, and we just need to try to keep things headed in the right direction.

On Travis Wilson and decision making:
There's a lot of moving parts. There's a lot of ball handling that has to go on. There's a lot of reads that he's making on just about every run play or on that swing screen.

His mind and his decision-making is very much like Alex Smith was able to do. Alex made great decisions. Now, we're not running the option game that we were when we had Alex. We had the triple with the shovel option as well as the speed option. That's not part of what he's doing, but as far as the zone read and reading that defensive end on some of those fly sweep series, he's got a lot on his plate, and he has made very good decisions this year.

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