Whittingham on BYU

University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham held his weekly meeting with the media Monday. The Ute coach spoke about last week's win over Air Force and this week's game against BYU.

On the Air Force Win
"It was a typical, hard-fought game versus Air Force ...no different than any of the games we've had with them since I've been here. It obviously came right down to the wire. I'm extremely proud of our team and how they hung in there and demonstrated toughness. It was a great effort the entire 60 minutes. Any time you play an Air Force team, that's your fear is to be able to match their toughness. I'm telling you that we did that for an entire 60 minutes.

"We were not as productive on offense as we have been the past few weeks. It wasn't a bad outing on offense. We still came up with 350-plus yards and did not turn the ball over, which was a critical issue. We didn't run the ball as efficiently as I was thinking we would. Brett (Ratliff) didn't have a bad day. He threw for 200-and-something and had decent numbers. But 17 points and the lack of rushing was something we thought we could do a better job of going in. Third downs were a positive. We were 67 percent on third downs, which is key, because the best way to defend the option is to keep it on the sideline. Our offense did a nice job. We had five more minutes of possession and snapped it 10 more times than they did. That's untypical of Air Force. They're usually controlling the clock and controlling the snaps. That was a positive.

"Eric Weddle was a huge key to our offense. The rushing production we did get predominantly came from Eric. He did a nice job with his touches. He ran for some tough yards and a couple touchdowns. He really was a focal point in the running game.

"Terrific effort by our defense. I thought our defense played the option about as well as I've ever seen it played. I've been here a while and I've seen a lot of Air Force tape. I've seen a lot of people defending them and our guys were very good against the triple option. In fact, we out-rushed Air Force, which happens very seldom. That was a big plus for us. We did not play the pass particularly well. In fact, we played it poorly. To be brutally honest with you, we didn't play the pass well at all. (Shaun) Carney's numbers were very good. He threw for over 200 yards. That's also very untypical of Air Force. But we weren't defending well, so they continued to throw the ball.

"Special teams played extremely well. In fact, I can't think of a game this season where we haven't won the special teams battle. That's been a very consistent aspect of our game for the entire year. Louie (Sakoda) punted the ball extremely well. He, obviously, hit the game-winner as time was ticking down.

"It was a great win. It assures us of a winning record for the fourth year in a row. It assured us, hopefully, of a bowl situation. Nothing is ever sure in my mind until we have it all situated and signed up. But it looks like we're heading that way.

On This Week's Game with BYU
"I was watching tape all morning. I can't find a weakness. If you guys can find a weakness, please let me know. They throw the ball well. They run the ball well. Their special teams are solid. Their defense is playing extremely well. We've got our work cut out for us. They're undefeated in this conference for a reason and they've won nine games in a row for a reason.

"The quarterback is playing exceptionally well. He's number-two in the nation in pass efficiency. They can run the ball. They're not one-dimensional. They're very balanced. They're able to do really what they want to do. When they want to run the ball, they can run it. When they want to throw it, they can throw it.

"On defense, they're creating takeaways. They're keeping points off the board. That's number-one. People talk about total defense. Total defense doesn't mean anything. It's points allowed and they're doing a great job in points allowed.

"There is no area you can look at and say `Hey, here's where they are deficient.' Because there are no deficiencies."

On Game Planning
"We're still in the process of banging out a plan. It is in the early stages of game-planning. Nothing's really set, probably, until about 2 o'clock (in the) morning. But we'll come up with what we think is obviously our best chance of getting it done and go from there."

On Their Personnel Being Virtually the Same From Last Year and What BYU is Doing Better
"Quarterback. The quarterback is lights out. Their quarterback is performing much better than last year. They remind me a lot of our '04 team. They have a strong senior class. Probably four or five of those guys will get drafted, would be my guess. They're playing well. They believe and they're playing with confidence. They expect to win and they have for nine weeks straight."

On Utah's Secondary
"We lost Shaun Harper, which is a blow to the secondary. He is a good player for us. He was playing good football. Unfortunately, it is going to be a surgery. If he gets back for a bowl game, that is a question mark. But he is certainly out for this week, obviously."

On How BYU Stacks Up Against Other Utah Opponents
"I would say they're the best team we've seen all year long, based on what I've seen on tape."

More on Comparing BYU to Utah's 2004 Team
"Talent level. It's all about talent. Coaching's overrated. I've said that a thousand times. They've got very good talent. The quarterback - I can't imagine he won't be a high draft choice. The running back, the tight end, the o-linemen, the linebacker ... they've got some good players on that defense, as well as on offense."

On the Underdog Role
"I don't know if it helps. We've got them at our place, which has proven to be a negative in this series the last 12 or 14 years. I don't know exactly what it is, but I know it's not .500. It's below .500 for the home team. So you would think that's an advantage, but it hasn't proven to be. The role of the underdog? That's fine. We don't really pay a lot of attention to that."

On the Game Holding Any More Special Meaning for Him as a Former BYU Player
"It always does. It's a rivalry. It's not that this game makes or breaks the season. It never has for me, from either side of the rivalry. But it is certainly important. Logistically, it becomes important. They're 40 miles to the south. A lot of reasons why. It is a conference game. There are no championship implications this year. In years past that has added some flavor to it. But it is still going to be an intense, emotional, physical game. That's for sure."


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