Kyle Whittingham Very Bullish On Utah Defense Two Games In

Sep 11, 2023, 3:23 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – There was speculation that Utah’s defense could be special and two games into the 2023 season they have shown that speculation could be very real.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham once again gave high compliments to his defensive unit in his Monday press conference after they held Baylor to 13 points in last Saturday’s game. The week before the defense held Florida to just 11 points.

Both efforts helped to give a hampered Utah offense a chance to put those games away despite some struggles.

“Credit our defense for keeping us in the game until that point,” Whittingham said of the Baylor game. “Otherwise, it would have been too little, too late. The defense did a good job keeping points off the board and keeping the game competitive until the offense could get a spark.”

Cole Bishop As Good As Advertised

One player that was generating a lot of buzz for the Utes defensively was safety Cole Bishop and as it turns out for good reason.

So far in 2023 Bishop has accounted for 15 tackles- 12 solo and three assisted. He’s also been a wrecking ball recording a sack, forced fumble, and key interception to help Utah beat Baylor in the waning minutes of last week’s game.

“It was ultimately Cole Bishop’s interception that stopped the drive,” Whittingham said. “It set us up in position to get our last touchdown and just hung on in the end defensively.”

Next Man Up

Because Utah’s defense has been so dominating early in the season, it’s been easy to overlook the fact they have also been going without some key players. Much like on the offensive side of the ball, Whittingham is hoping to get some of those guys back which leads one to wonder- could this defense get any nastier?

“We thought we were going to be pretty good,” Whittingham said. “I think we’ve lived up to expectations. Unfortunately, we have been missing guys- so is everyone in the country to a certain extent. We’ve had our fair share, but nobody cares. We’ve just got a next man up mentality and that was the case.”

Needless to say, it speaks very highly of the depth the Utes have recruited and developed over the years that they can miss guys like Karene Reid and Connor O’Toole and not really miss a beat.

“Levani Damuni stepped up in place of Karene Reid,” Whittingham said. “Sione Fotu gave us some good snaps at linebacker as well. The defensive ends were rotating through and did a nice job. We’re hoping to get Connor back in the next week or two, but that’s the mentality- next man up.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Kyle Whittingham Very Bullish On Utah Defense Two Games In