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

Oct. 22, 2013

Opening statement:
I didn't think we handled the first Pac-12 road trip very well. We came out flat in the first half - didn't play well at all in the first half. The run game, the run defense, was poor. [Ka'Deem Carey] did exactly to us this year what he did last year. We knew going in if that happened, then our chances weren't real good. When you look at everything that happened -- slow start, losing our starting quarterback -- we still at the end had a chance to win, and we didn't take advantage. It was 28-21 and we got the ball consecutively, I think, at their 27- and 23-yard line and came away with three points total.

We had chances and didn't capitalize, but we've got to move on. We've got USC coming up this week and another road trip, and we've got to get ourselves picked back up and ready to play.

On Travis Wilson:
Adam Schulz came in and did a good job for us on Saturday night. If we're at a point where we know Travis is not available, we'll have Schulz and Connor Manning take all the reps this week in practice. If Connor outplays him, then he would be coming out of a redshirt year and be the guy, but that's worst case scenario. I think best case scenario is Travis will be able to go, and we'll be business as usual.

If we can get him a practice tomorrow, we'll have a good feeling or a good idea of where he stands. We'll see. That's a medical staff decision and obviously Travis' as well. We'd rather have the quarterback position settled going into the game and giving the reps to the right guys, the guys who are going to be available to play. We've got to handle that a little differently than another position.

We've got to take advantage of the guy pulling the trigger and Schulz obviously has the big arm and Connor's a thrower as well, as so if that is the case, then, yeah, that will alter the game plan, not radically, but somewhat.



On third down conversions:
Yeah, something's wrong. We're bad on third down on both sides of the ball. It's not just offensively. It's stopping third down, defensively. We're near the bottom of the league in both sides of the ball with in third downs and our two biggest issues right now are third down and turnover margin. We've turned the ball over too much. We haven't taken it away enough, and we're not doing good enough on third down, so those are the two areas that are critical for us right now.

There hasn't been a single thing you can pinpoint. It's been some run plays, some throw plays. It hasn't been a particular coverage. I don't think there's any one common denominator. We've just got to find a way to make that play on third down, and we hadn't been able to do that with enough regularity this year.

On not handling the Pac-12 road trip very well:
I talked in length with coach (Dennis) Erikson who has been coaching for a long time, and he said that he's experienced the same thing many, many times in his career and doesn't really have an explanation for it. It reminded me exactly of Arizona State last year and Cal the year before. Same feeling in the locker room, same lack of passion, lack of energy. Why, is the million-dollar question. We didn't prepare any differently. There were no signs of it coming, and so we've got to get fixed obviously, or else this is going to be something that, you know, is a negative force again, so we can't let that happen going forward.

On USC since making a coaching change:
They're very similar, and defensively, especially. That didn't impact the defense at all, and they're playing good defense. In fact, they're No. 1 in the Pac 12 total defense now and playing exceptionally well on that side of the ball. Offensively, just a few minor tweaks, otherwise it's very similar. You can't wholesale change in the middle of the season. What you're seeing the last couple weeks is very similar to what you saw the first three or four weeks.

They've always been a run-first team. Silas Redd is a tremendous back. We've played good run defense up until last week. Last week was obviously horrific run defense, but prior to that, we've been pretty solid. I expect them to try to establish a good run game just like they always do, and we've got to do a good job on defense trying to negate that.

On Andy Phillips:
Coach Hill's talked to him. Andy's a tough kid, and it's unfortunate we missed those two kicks. But if you would have told me at the beginning of the year, he's going to make 12 of his first 14 kicks, I think we all would have taken that. Obviously, those kicks were big. We're pleased with what Andy's done so far this year, and my guess is he'll get back on track this week.

On the offensive line:
We've had some breakdowns in pass protection. One time, it was a miscommunication. We checked a protection at the line, and didn't get communicated all the way to the left tackle and gave up a sack in a situation there. In fact, both tackles on Saturday were not as stout as they had been most weeks. We gave up some things on the edge. The inside three, however, played very well. The guards and the center. We'd like to get them all playing well at the same time. That's the objective. Salt and Tofaeono at guards, and then Vince Jones at center have been solid all year long. Very consistent.

On injuries to the tight ends:
That has taken a big dimension away from our offense and we are feeling the effects of that but you have to move forward. Karl Williams has been our answer so far with a lot more two-back stuff. Siale Fakailoatonga and Greg Reese, we played 8-10 snaps with a tight end on Saturday night. Going forward we have to take a look at maybe implementing them more and giving us a little more diversity on offense. Losing Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga has really altered our plans.

On the emotion of the team:
We were handling it well up until Saturday night, but like I said, I thought we came out for the first time all season long without that fire we've had in every single game up to that point. And it has been an emotional year, ups and downs. We've been a mentally tough team and a very resilient team, but one thing we did do is we bounced back in the second half and played with that fire and fought our way back into it. In fact, we go from 20-7 at halftime to 21-20 in a pretty big hurry. So, we did a nice job of coming back after we were down in the first half. It's been an emotional season, but we've just got to be able to handle that.

On USC's Marqise Lee:
He's tremendous and he's a guy that you better be aware of where he is, and if you have double coverage built into your package like we do most weeks, he's going to be the focal point of that. He did not play the second half last week, but I think that was maybe more for precautionary reasons. Apparently, he's feeling pretty good. We're expecting to see him, and if not, then we'll adjust, but our plan going forward is we expect him to play.

On Trevor Reilly:
He is an instinctive player. He's one of our big-play guys on defense, if not our biggest-play guy on defense. We rely on him to be a disrupter and make those plays. He made a big play on fourth down and goal early in the game. Sacked the quarterback to stop that drive. He's a guy that we rely on week in and week out to step up and make big plays for us, and he's done that.

On the USC mystique:
I think there's still a certain aura about just the name. Southern Cal Trojans. That's still a name brand and one of the most storied programs in the country. But I don't think that's bothered us the last two times we've played them. I think we've matched up pretty good and played them very competitively, and I think we were just short in both games. But hopefully, this year, we'll go down there with the right attitude and be able to compete again. So we'll see what happens.

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