Whittingham: We Need To Be On Our Game Against Northern Illinois

Sep 2, 2019, 12:34 PM
Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes on the sideline during their game against the North Da...
Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes on the sideline during their game against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Rice-Eccles Stadium on August 31, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Coming off of an emotional win over their rival BYU, the Utes are turning their attention to Northern Illinois, a team that head coach Kyle Whittingham won’t take lightly.

The Utes and Huskies played a very close game last season in DeKalb, Illinois with Utah sneaking away with a 17-6 win.

This season, Northern Illinois will come to Salt Lake City for the Utes season opener in a morning game with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m.

“We have to be ready to play every week,” Whittingham said at his weekly press conference. “I want to give them (NIU) credit, I am not going to say that we just slopped around but they had a good plan against us and they had good players (last year). It was just a testament that you have to be on your game or you are going to struggle, so we have to be on our game.”

Getting The 2018 Road Win Against NIU

It was Utah’s second game of the season when they faced Northern Illinois on the road after they defeated Weber State 41-10 in the home opener.

Both teams struggled offensively with only one offensive touchdown scored between the two teams. Utah’s defense held the Huskies to just two field goals, while NIU kept the Utes running game in check with only 68 rushing yards.

NIU nailed a field goal late in the first quarter before the Utes took the lead in the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown run by Zack Moss. Neither team scored in the third before the Huskies scored their final field goal of the game midway through the fourth quarter. Matt Gay connected on a 40-yard field goal to put Utah up by four with under five minutes left. Linebacker Chase Hansen sealed the win for the Utes with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:36 left in the game.

Different NIU Team In 2019

Northern Illinois beat Illinois State at home on Saturday 24-10 with quarterback Ross Bowers throwing for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Tyrice Richie had 102 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just three catches. Their defense held Illinois State to just 51 rushing yards on 28 carries.

“They have a good running back,” Whittingham said about NIU. “They have some speed at wideout and are very sound on defense. The main thing that has our attention is that last year we escaped by the skin of our teeth for a win. We were fortunate to win that game.”

Northern Illinois brings in a new coaching staff under first year head coach Thomas Hammock. Rod Carey was the head coach last season for the Huskies but left to be the head coach at Temple.

Utah and Northern Illinois will square off on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Network.

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