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Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches from the sideline as Utah and Stanford play a football game in Palo Alto, California, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)
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Whittingham Pleased With Win Over Stanford

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches from the sideline as Utah and Stanford play a football game in Palo Alto, California, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In his Monday Press Conference following the Utes’ 40-21 road win over Stanford it was difficult for Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham to identify a specific area where they need improvement.

After watching the game film, he said there always things that can be improved upon, but added “It was good to see us play like we are capable of though.”

“I think that is a real positive for our team to see everything clicking and see the team we are capable of being,” said Whittingham.

A Roller Coaster Season

It’s been an up-and-down season for Utah so far, with wins over Weber State, Northern Illinois and now Stanford and losses to Washington and Washington State. Whittingham acknowledged that the Utes’ 17-6 road win over Northern Illinois was a disappointing game, with his team not playing particularly well against an opponent from the MAC conference.

“We played Washington and they are in the top-10 and my guess is that Washington State is going to continue to win a lot of games,” said Whittingham “So, a lot of it had to do with catching two teams that are playing really well and are really talented. You like to play at peak capacity every week, which I don’t think that is possible for anytime in the country to do, but it is nice to know when we are hitting on all cylinders we are able to perform like we did.”

Anae Goes Beast Mode

One player in particular who played well against Stanford was defensive lineman Bradlee Anae, who had several tackles that looked more like professional wrestling takedowns than anything else.

“He played his best game of the season without a doubt,” said Whittingham. “He was our in-house player of the game. He made very few mistakes and had a big impact on the game. He is a talented player and we expect a lot of production out of him week-in and week-out.”

First Passing TD In A While

The win over Stanford also included the Utes’ first passing touchdown since their season-opening win over Weber State. Tyler Huntley’s 57 yard TD pass to Samson Nacua in the fourth quarter snapped a streak of 16 straight quarters without a touchdown pass. According to Whittingham, that statwas nothing more than an “anomaly”, largely due to the success on the ground of running back Zach Moss.

“We have a running back who is a sledge hammer all over the field and especially in the red zone,” I think it is just the way things have shaken out. We haven’t made a conscience effort to not throw the ball in the red zone, I just think things will start to balance out as the season goes on.”

Preparing For Arizona

On the defensive end, Utah has given up around 400 yards through the air over the last two games, something that Whittingham finds concerning, but misleading. The Utes are first in the Pac-12 in pass defense efficiency, something that he finds more indicative of the team’s success. In the matchup against Arizona, they’ll be facing Khalil Tate, a dangerous rushing threat who has been largely subjugated to throwing the ball this year.

“They are doing a nice job,” said Whittingham. “They are getting about 450 yards a week offensively, so they are very productive. Their quarterback is playing more from the pocket than he has in previous years, but he is still a huge threat to run the football. As the coaching changes take hold and get some traction throughout the season, I think you start to see more of what their true capabilities are.”

The Utes and Arizona will kick off Friday at 8 p.m. at Rice Eccles Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.