Whittingham Comments On How Much Opponent Played Into Utah’s Weekend Success
SALT LAKE CITY- Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was pleased with the progress his team made from a close loss to Florida in week one, to a dominating performance against Southern Utah in week two. While Whittingham acknowledges it is hard to know exactly how much of that improvement is from the type of opponent the Utes took on, he did say the tape showed they were overall more mindful of the technique and fundamentals they used against the Thunderbirds.
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“It was good to get the win,” Whittingham said. “We should have won, we did win and played like we are supposed to. A lot of positive things in that game. The score aside, we’re playing better fundamentals, technique- particularly on the front seven. It was a lot better gap control. Everything that was so bad in week one was better in week two. Red zone production offensively- we did a lot of good things but we know we have to keep getting better.”
Assessing Last Week’s Opponent
While it is pretty safe to say that Utah is a much better team to this point than they were last year, there is still plenty of work to be done if they are to accomplish their lofty goal of making the College Football Playoff. Florida provided a nice measurement of where they currently stood to start the season, and Southern Utah was a great opponent for them to practice what they needed to work on. Still, it’s hard to know exactly how well the Utes have fixed what plagued them in Gainesville. Taking the competition up a step this week against San Diego State should help to continue clarifying where Utah stands.
“It’s hard to get a completely accurate gage of where we are because there was a talent discrepancy,” Whittingham said. “It’s fact. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that, but the way we went about things whether you are taking on a guy from the SEC or a guy from wherever- there are certain fundamentals and techniques you need to employ. We did a much better job of it on Saturday.”
Moving On To The Aztecs
Now Whittingham and the Utes must turn their attention to San Diego State- a team that got the better of them early last season, but also signaled positive changes that led to their first Pac-12 Title and Rose Bowl appearance. The Aztecs will be a step or two up in competition from SUU and another great way for the Utes to measure how much they have learned and improved since taking on the Gators.
“We have a San Diego State team coming in that put one on us last year and flat out beat us,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got to be prepared and ready. I’m sure our guys will have a good week of practice. We came out of the game healthy for the most part. No season ending injuries and we have another home game which our guys are really looking forward to here at Rice-Eccles.”
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Whittingham says what stood out about last year’s triple-overtime thriller in Carson last season was that it was a painful game where the Utes mostly didn’t do themselves any favors. He also noted on a more positive end that hindsight shows that was one of the turning points in the season where the Utes went from a not great team, to a very good team.
“Obviously, what stands out is when Cam [Rising] entered the game in the fourth quarter and provided that spark immediately,” Whittingham said. “Poor special teams. I think we had one or two punts blocked. It just seemed like we were way out of sync in that football game. We played good defense for the most part and then what was it? Triple overtime? It was not a good experience and we just didn’t play well. After the outcome, it turned out to be a change in our season because of the quarterback change and going with Cam the rest of the way.”
Early Scouting Of San Diego State
In 2022 Whittingham sees a very similar SDSU team to what Utah faced last season. The biggest difference according to him is really just some of the new faces, but that will happen with every team the Utes play. For Utah, it will simply be about not getting ahead of themselves, and continuing to play, and improve their game.
“Very similar,” Whittingham said. “More similarities than differences- particularly schematically. They are still a shot-gun spread attack with a couple of big tight ends that they use a lot. They have a stable of ‘backs though one may be out this week. They are athletic. They did lose a couple of o-linemen from last year so they’ve had to replace them. Same scheme on defense. Lost a couple of good players there as well.”
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