Whittingham expects defensive challenge

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham knows there will be plenty of challenges Saturday. Read on to see what he thinks of Arizona's offense, his own players, and more.

Arizona returns home to take on a Utah squad that, like UA, is looking to pick up its second Pac-12 victory of the season. Neither team has been able to live up to the expectations set upon them prior to the start of the season, but each have a legitimate shot to come away with a big win this weekend.

Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham knows that, despite the Wildcats' struggles, Arizona still has the talent to be a very tough opponent for his squad.

"They are coming off a loss to the Huskies," Whittingham said. "The offense has been moving the ball and scoring points, so we've got our work cut out for us defensively. Their quarterback is exceptional and Criner is an outstanding receiver, just like we face every week in this league."

Whittingham is well aware of the UA offensive attack led by quarterback Nick Foles. The Utah head coach has been impressed with Wildcats' signal-caller and knows it will be a challenge to stop him.

"They spread their receivers four-wide 50-percent of the time," Whittingham said. "They have a lot of skill and speed on the field. He is a classic drop-back passer. He's extremely accurate. He has an excellent touch on the football. He doesn't try to gun the ball all over, but he has a great feel to put the ball where receivers will be open. That's a great attribute for a quarterback."

In order to counter UA's attack, Whittingham wants his team to play to its strengths and take care of the ball on offense. Running back John White IV is one of the most dangerous rushers in the country and Whittingham is expected to use him consistently throughout the game.

"Our offense needs to continue taking care of the football," Whittingham said. "John White was really the majority of our offense on Saturday. As White goes, so goes the offense; that's how it seems to be this season. When he has a big game, we typically win. That needs to happen again this week. White is the featured back in our offense. He has been more than willing to do what he has been asked."

Whittingham has been impressed with his running back and believes he has the potential to get even better.

"He's still early in his career," Whittingham said. "But so far he's off to a great start, closing in on the milestone. Time will tell if he is in the same category as others who have reached 1,000 yards. We've had some good running backs come through here. He's off to a great start and he has the right mentality and all the tools. I don't see why he wouldn't be in the conversation when all is said and done. Right now he is working hard and trying to find a way to help us win."

Whittingham has had to deal with a major injury at the most key position on offense with the season-ending injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn. Utah has been forced to utilize backup Jon Hays, who has improved since being forced into the starting role, but isn't expected to air the ball out a whole lot against the Wildcats.

"He did make progress in the way that he managed the offense and made decisions," Whittingham said. "He took care of the football, which is job number one on offense. His numbers were very modest. We didn't throw a whole bunch and when White is ripping off runs you don't need to. We play to our strengths and understand who we are and we need to follow our blueprint for victory. That's great defense and solid special teams and to take care of the football on offense."

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