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Kyle Whittingham Believes Utah ‘Can Be A Good Football Team’

Head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on during the first quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his coaching staff had a tough task to reload their defense. Now they have had to do that in the middle of a pandemic.

After a second straight Pac-12 South Division title in 2019, Whittingham’s team is off to a 0-2 start to the 2020 season. It’s the first time that Utah has started winless in their first two games since 2007.

With the entire secondary featuring freshmen or sophomores and only two returning starters on the entire defensive side of the football, Utah is doing everything they can to hurdle every obstacle they face.

The Utes lost to Washington 24-21 after holding a 21-0 halftime lead on Saturday night. It was a tough loss for Whittingham’s team but he found some positives to takeaway from the game.

“Obviously a lot of positive things in that game,” Whittingham said after the game on Saturday. “The one we played in the first half was indicative of who we can be. But we didn’t finish. There’s 60 minutes of football, we played 30 of them. Came out in the second half and didn’t get much done. That was the entire talk at halftime was finishing the game and taking a 0-0 mentality into the second half, just weren’t able to do it, and weren’t able to make any plays in the second half, like we’re making the first half.”

Whittingham pointed out some encouraging signs that he took from the game in Seattle.

“The encouraging thing is that’s who we can be in the first half,” added Whittingham. “That’s the football team we are capable of being. Three takeaways on defense. But same problem we had last week, offensively turning the ball over. Four more turnovers today (Saturday) and when you play good teams like USC and Washington are, you’re not going to win if you turn the ball over. That was the biggest difference in the game is four turnovers just like last week, same thing, five turnovers.”

Whittingham Believes Utah Can Be A Good Football Team

While Utah is a young team, they are a talented group that just needs some game experience. They are getting that in 2020 with this free year in college football. No one loses any eligibility this season.

“So we’re still a work in progress,” stated Whittingham. “Proud of a lot of guys that had their first chance tonight with extensive play. Got some good players in the program. We just got to put it all together. We got to come back to work on Monday and be ready to show resolve and be able to bounce back, not feel sorry for ourselves, not hang our heads, but just continue to move forward. I really believe this can be a good football team at some point. We just got to keep coaching them as best we can.”

The offense scored touchdowns on three of their five possessions in the first half. Quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 144 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran in a touchdown along with 51 rushing yards but had a fumble. Bentley was asked after the game about the offense stalling in the second half against Washington.

“Just not executing the way we can,” Bentley said. “I don’t think anyone had a change of mindset or anything like that. It’s just lack of execution. Some we just got to go back to practice and get it right.”

Strange Week For Whittingham And Utah

On Sunday, November 22, Utah was scheduled to play Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday, November 28. The Pac-12 pushed the game back one day to Sunday, November 29, to allow the Sun Devils an extra day to get players healthy. Since ASU has canceled their previous two games leading up to the Utah matchup, it was possible that the game wouldn’t happen.

That’s when Washington came into the picture. The Huskies’ Apple Cup matchup with rival Washington State was canceled on Sunday, November 22 due to COVID-19 cases in the Cougars’ program.

On Tuesday, November 24, the Pac-12 announced that Utah’s game with Arizona State was canceled. About an hour later, the conference announced that Washington will host Utah on Saturday. The game was originally scheduled to kickoff at 8:30 p.m. MST on ESPN.

One day later, Oklahoma’s game against West Virginia was canceled. That contest was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. MST on ABC. ESPN and the Pac-12 decided to move Utah/Washington to that slot, kicking off the game three hours earlier.

When Whittingham was asked what the week was like, he said it was a turbulent week.

“It was a fairly turbulent week when we found out Tuesday night that we had changed opponents and then we had fortunately Wednesday and Thursday to practice for the new opponent just like they had for us in an equal footing. But coaches are built a certain way, and that way is not to just continually change, you know, day-to-day or even hour-to-hour but you have to, you have no choice because it’s a situation we’re in. So you got to figure it out, figure out the best way to make the best of a bad situation.”

Utah will host Oregon State on Saturday, December 5. Kickoff and broadcast information will be released at a later date.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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