Whittingham on Air Force

Quotes from head coach Kyle Whittingham about last week's win over Colorado State and this week's game at Air Force.

On the Win Over Colorado State
"I felt very good about our offensive production. In fact, I think it is safe to say it was our best outing of the year offensively. We 520-some-odd yards, which is our highest total of the year. Thirty-five points is the most surrendered by Colorado State this year ... I think 28 was their previous high. So, some really good things on offense.

"Brett Ratliff for the third week in a row had a solid game for us. He threw the ball very well and threw for almost 300 yards. He took care of the ball, just had the one interception and it was a nice play on the Colorado State defensive back's part. But that was the lone turnover of the game.

"Darryl Poston ran the ball very effectively, as well as a host of other people. We had a rushing by committee day on Saturday. We had seven or eight guys involved in that. Sean Smith, (Brent) Casteel, Darrell Mack. A bunch of guys got involved in the run game. We rushed for over 200 yards. Any time you do that, your chances of winning are very good.

"Receiving-wise, Brent Casteel led the way with six catches. He had an outstanding afternoon. The offensive line played well again, particularly in the run-block area. It was just an overall productive day, offensively.

"Defensively, we played fairly well. We were a little soft at the end. Before the last 90-yard drive, we were at about 290 total `O' and 16 points. It would have been nice to keep it around there. But that last drive put them up around 400 yards of total offense and 22 points. Defensively, we got the job done, but we weren't as good in the fourth quarter as we should have been.

"Special teams ... another solid performance. Louie Sakoda did his usual deal. On the fake punt, he executed extremely well as did the entire special teams unit, with the exception of the (penalty) at the very tail end of the play. (The fake punt) was a big turning point. It gave us some momentum and we went on to score on that drive. It was well-executed by the punt team.

"When we did punt the ball, we netted 48-something, which moves us into second place in the country. Net punt is so critical. There are so many yards gained in the punting game. To be second in the country in net punt really has been a field-position advantage for us. We definitely won the special teams battle in this game.

"The negatives ... we came out of it losing Loma Olevao, one of our backup linebackers and front-line special teams guys. He's gone for the rest of the year with a knee injury. Otherwise, we came out of it healthy. We should get R.J. Rice back this week. He was a special teams headliner that we were minus on Saturday.

"Health-wise, we're just down (Mike) Liti, Loma and the guys who have been out several weeks. We feel like we're in pretty good shape, health-wise, relative to where we are in the season."

On Air Force
"Falcon Stadium is a tough place to play. We have a storied past in that series with those guys. There have some real barn-burner type games with those guys that have gone right down to the wire. None more so than the '03, triple-overtime. Since I've been here there have just been some great battles that we've had with the Air Force Academy.

"They're coming off a loss to Notre Dame. They're 4-5 overall and still fighting for a bowl bid. That will be their motivating factor. They're still just a two-loss team in the conference, also. So, like ourselves, they still have at least a mathematical shot to stay in that conference race.

"What we've got to do defensively is be assignment-sound, be disciplined, like every year, to try to get that triple option attack slowed down. You never completely stop it. Against Notre Dame, even though they lost by quite a margin, they still out-gained Notre Dame. So, they're very effective with the run game, as you'd expect. They're not throwing the football as much as in the past. They don't throw it much anyway, but they're down about 10 attempts per game.

"We're 4-2 in the league and we're 6-4 overall. We got that sixth win, which techinically makes you bowl eligible. But we feel like we've got to do more than that to get ourselves into December. It is going to take another victory or two, perhaps, to get there. So we're just fighting and scratching our way to see if we can get there."

On Big Plays By Colorado State
"There were three areas of concern on our defense, in addition to not being real good in the fourth quarter. Number one, too many deep balls. They connected on too many deep balls. We're usually pretty good against the deep ball. A couple were zone structure and one was man structure. Good throws and good catches on their part, not so good coverage on our part. The QB draw was really the bulk of their run game. They rushed for about 140 yards, fully half of that was from the quarterback draw. We didn't play that particularly well. And then, third down. We weren't good on third down. They had far too many third-and-six, seven, eight-plus situations that they converted. That was the downside of the defensive effort Saturday."

On the Worrying About the Quarterback Draw This Week
"No, because when you play against Air Force, you play for the run on virtually every snap. When you're playing conventional offenses, first of all many teams don't run it at all. They've run it very well, of course, over the last seven or eight years, particularly when they had (Bradlee) Van Pelt. He was exceptional at it. It's a situation in a game like Saturday where it will pester you, but you don't feel it can beat you. They were searching for answers to bolster their running attack. That was one of their answers. Now, if you run eight to 10 quarterback draws per game for an entire season, your quarterback is going to take a pounding. I don't think that's an every week thing for them. But it was an effective game plan this past Saturday."

On Utah's Increased Offensive Production
"I think it is a combination of things. The offensive line play continues to be solid. The running game has stepped up each week. I think we've gotten a little more efficient in the run game. Brett's decision-making and accuracy has been very good for three weeks running now. And the receivers, from the beginning of the season to now has had an upward trend."

On Adding More Wrinkles to the Offense
"It's a product of a couple things. First of all, we are deep into the season and there are things that some of those things, like the fake punt - I know it's not an offensive play - but we've had for several weeks. You've got to wait for the right circumstances to bring them out. I just think that we are gaining confidence. We've got some playmakers starting to emerge. Sean Smith ... it seems like every time we put the ball in his hands, something good is happening. Casteel has elevated his game. I think it is just a combination of where we are in relation to the season and we've got some people who are starting to step up and make plays."

On Jason Boone's Suspension
"Jason Boone will return to practice this week. His suspension is still indefinite. We're working through the issues. He was not at practice last week. He was completely removed from the program last week. But he's back in practice, which tells you he's moving in the right direction. But there are still some things to work through before we get him in the lineup."

On Jeremy Inferrera Stepping In For Boone
"Jeremy did a fine job. Jason Boone we feel is an all-conference-caliber player. Jeremy is not quite to that level yet. But to step in and do what he's done the two times we've called on him, we're very pleased. If he's the guy we go with the rest of the way, then we expect him to get it done."

On Air Force's Offense
"The best way to have a chance to beat the Air Force is to keep that option attack on the sidelines with your offense out controlling the football. People overlook that. The best defense against Air Force is a good offense that can control the ball and the tempo of the game."

On Air Force's Defense
"They play a lot of odd front. They are hard-nosed, scrappy and they hustle on defense. It is just what you see from Air Force every year."

On Becoming Bowl Eligible
"Bowl eligible ... all we've done is got the minimum. By no means are we breathing a sigh of relief, like `Oh, we've made it to this milestone or anything like that. We're just happy to get our sixth win and all we've got on our mind this week is trying to get number-seven this week in Colorado Springs and that's it. Whatever's in front of us immediately is our entire focus."

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