Coach's Corner: MWC play begins

Utah is off to a 2-1 start, winning two in a row. This week they begin play in the Mountain West with a game against SDSU. Head coach Kyle Whitting ham discussed the start of conference play in his weekly press conference.

Kyle Whittingham Press Conference Sept. 18, 2006

On the win over Utah State
"It was a good win against Utah State. We played well. I saw improvement virtually across the board from week two, in all areas. The storyline of the game was the defense. I've been coaching football for a long time and I don't think I've ever been involved, at least not as a coordinator, in such a dominating performance. Less than 100 yards allowed, six takeaways, scored twice on defense and allowed seven first downs. So, just an absolute dominating performance by our defense. We set the tone early with the defense, with the interception for a touchdown by Eric Shyne.

"Offensively, we were solid and put up about 400 yards of total offense. We only turned the ball over one time. That's once too many, but one turnover combined with six takeaways, we can live with that result. The receivers put together another good performance, both blocking and catching the football.

"For the third week in a row, special teams was solid. Louie Sakoda continues to do an excellent job punting the football, as well as place-kicking. He's perfect in both areas (PATs and field goals) and I believe we're leading the league in net punt. Kickoff-wise Ben Vroman did a nice job. The kickoff coverage was good. Punt return with Marquis Wilson was a little shot of adrenaline there. He did a nice job, ending up with double digits on the return average.

On San Diego State
"Now, we're just looking forward to San Diego State and the conference opener. Every conference game is a big game. We've got to play them on the road, down at their place. We've got somewhat of a score to settle. They came up to our place and got us last year. Our guys certainly remember that. We don't want to start off on the wrong foot conference-wise.

"They're an athletic team. What you see in San Diego State is what we've seen for years ... speed and skill, especially at the secondary and wide receiver positions. Their quarterback is hurt. But the second guy is his clone - the same physical stature, the same style of quarterback. You can't tell the two apart other than the jersey number. Up front, they're typical San Diego State - tough and quick on the defensive line and some good size players on the offensive line.

"We're looking forward to the trip down there. If we continue to improve each and every week like we have these first three weeks, then I like our chances to do some good things by the end of the season."

On what San Diego State is doing under new head coach Chuck Long, formerly offensive coordinator at Oklahoma
"(Offensively), very similar to what you saw at Oklahoma. A lot of three-wide sets. One running back, one tight end and three wides is their base set. A lot of shotgun, like what you saw and still see at Oklahoma. Defensively, they've got a new coordinator. The coordinator from last year is coaching the secondary. But there are a lot of similarities to last year's defense. Offensively, what you see in Oklahoma is more or less what you're seeing out of San Diego State ... minus Adrian Peterson. Although they've got Lynell Hamilton, who we think is a great back. He has not gotten on track this year. But we've got all the respect in the world for him and know what his capabilities are, even though he hasn't had a lot of success so far this year."

On why Lynell Hamilton hasn't been more successful to date this season
"Wisconsin is pretty darn good on defense. They're physical up front and they've got some linebackers who can run and will hit you. UTEP played very well with a good game plan. You see it in spurts. They've gotten him the ball on some screens. He just hasn't gotten on track yet. But he will. It's inevitable. A back that good will produce, but so far he has been bottled up pretty good."

On moving to Marquis Wilson to punt returner
"Eric (Weddle) does a great job catching the ball. We do so much with Eric Weddle. If we can get the same net result from Marquis as we do with Eric, it maybe takes a little off his plate and allows us to feel a little bit better about utilizing him in the offense. It is just a matter of are we doing too much with Eric. We want to do as much as we can with him. We want to utilize all his skills. But Marquis is very dangerous with the ball in his hands."

On how much of the offense has been used to date
"We've had the entire offense in from day one. With UCLA, we were limited because we didn't know what to expect. The players had been exposed to all of it, we just had a smaller version in the opener. In the last couple weeks, you haven't seen all the offense, because of whatever fits with a particular opponent. But all the offense is in."

On players being motivated to play in San Diego in front of a less-than-packed stadium
"It shouldn't be (a problem), because it is a conference game and what they did to us last year. I would hope not, but you like to play in front of packed houses. Football players are performers, that's what they are. They're on stage and they like the spotlight. They certainly like a packed house. But hopefully that won't be a distraction for us."

On building toward conference play
"We have gotten better each and every week, execution-wise and understanding of the schemes. We've always had good effort. There's no question we have taken a step forward each of the past couple weeks."


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