Estimated read time: 8-9 minutes
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SALT LAKE CITY - Utah (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosts Montana State (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky) in the season opener for both teams on Thursday, Sept. 1. Kickoff is 6 p.m. MDT in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The game will be televised on KJZZ TV (channel 14 and Comcast channel 3 in Salt Lake City).
For those outside the viewing area, a free live video stream of the KJZZ telecast will be hosted on UtahUtes.com--signifying the first time a Utah football game has been streamed live from Rice-Eccles Stadium. Radio is ESPN700 AM (espn700sports.com).
- Utah (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) vs Montana State (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky)
- Date: Thursday Sept. 1, 2011
- Time: 6:00 pm (MT)
- Site: Salt Lake City (Rice-Eccles Stadium/45,017)
- TV: KJZZ
- Radio: ESPN700
- Series Record: Utah leads 9-0
- Last Meeting: 1982 (Utah 30, Montana State 12)
- Kickoff Weather: Partly cloudy, Temps: lower 80s
A sellout is anticipated for Thursday's game vs. MSU. Limited bleacher seats and standing room tickets may be purchased on UtahUtes.com, at the Rice-Eccles Stadium box office and by calling 801-581-UTIX.
Looking ahead, only single seats and standing room tickets remain for home games against Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State and Colorado, while around 700 seats remain for the UCLA game. Utah has sold out its allotment of 32,000 season tickets for the fourth-consecutive year.
Utah leads the series with FCS member Montana State 9-0, with its most recent win in 1982. See page 2 for complete series information.
Utah is 31-0 all-time against Big Sky Conference schools. The last time Utah played a Big Sky school (or an FCS school) was in 2008, when the Utes beat Weber State 37-21. Utah's only other game against an FCS school in this decade was Big Sky member Northern Arizona in 2006 (a 45-7 Utah win).
Utah has made nine bowl appearances since 2001, going 8-1 with a 2-0 record in BCS bowl games. The Utes have finished in the Top 25 five times in the last eight years, including a No. 2 A.P. ranking in 2008. Utah finished No. 4 in the A.P. poll in 2004.
Since 2003, Utah has compiled a 79-22 overall record (78%) for an average of nearly 10 wins a season (9.88) with undefeated seasons in 2004 (12-0) and 2008 (13-0).
OUTSIDE THE LINES
This week's Kyle Whittingham ESPN700 Coach's Show will be held on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Trolley Square. Future shows will be held on Wednesdays. Admission is free ... This week's game against Montana State is Faculty-Staff night ... At the first quarter break, Ute ski coach Kevin Sweeney will be presented with the annual Don Reddish award, honoring him as the school's top coach in a sport other than football, basketball or gymnastics. Sweeney led Utah to an NCAA runner-up finish last March.
BALLS IN THE AIR
In honor of the inaugural Pac-12 game (Utah at USC on Sept. 10), the conference office has created two commemorative footballs to mark the occasion. The balls will go on a two-week journey to the Pac-12 schools, starting on Aug. 29 in Eugene, Ore., and ending in Los Angeles on Sept. 10. They will land in Salt Lake City on Sept. 7. The balls will be tracked on Twitter (hashtag #pac12kickoff) with a photo of each coach signing the balls and a status update. One ball will be auctioned off for charity and the other will be kept in the lobby at the Pac-12 offices.
INSIDE THE HUDDLE
Expected to make their first starts as Utes against Montana State are left guard Vyncent Jones, right guard Sam Brenner, running back John White, left end Joe Kruger, left corner Ryan Lacy, right corner Conroy Black, free safety Keith McGill and strong safety Eric Rowe ... Who will start at place kicker could come down to a game-day decision between Coleman Petersen and Nick Marsh. Neither Petersen nor Marsh has attempted a field goal for the Utes.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Head coach Kyle Whittingham's son Tyler Whittingham and nephew Jason Whittingham joined the team last week. Tyler is a senior walk-on safety and Jason is a freshman defensive lineman who served a church mission after signing with the Utes in 2009 ... Brothers Joe and Dave Kruger both play on the defensive line. Their brother Paul Kruger, a 2008 first-team all-MWC defensive lineman for Utah, now plays linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Brother-in-law Tony Bergstrom, who is married to their sister Jessica, is a senior right tackle for the Utes ... Running back Tauni Vakapuna is the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengal running back Fui Vakapuna ... Receiver Dres Anderson is the son of former 10-year NFL player Willie "Flipper" Anderson ... Tight end Jake Murphy is the son of former Atlanta Braves' all-star outfielder Dale Murphy.
Fans have purchased more than 13,000 tickets to 2011 road games from the Utah ticket office, which is believed to the most tickets sold for a road season in school history. Ticket sales to date, which do not include tickets purchased directly through the host school or through other means follow: USC (5,000/some seats remain at $65), BYU (2,800/ allotment sold out), Cal (3,000/ allotment sold out), Arizona (1,500/ some seats remain at $60). Tickets are also available for the Pitt ($40) and Washington State ($50) games.
Quotes from Kyle Whittingham's weekly press conference
We're very excited to get the season underway. There has been a lot of anticipation during the offseason, talking about the conference change and there is a lot of attention on our football team because of that. We're ready to go. We have a very good Montana State team coming in. They beat Eastern Washington, who was the FCS champ last year, so they've got all our attention and respect. They have an outstanding quarterback. What we see on tape is a talented, well-coached football team. We're not looking anywhere else but there. Fall camp went well. The offense started off a little sluggish, but they seemed to get over the hump 2/3 of the way through and things seemed to smooth out. Saturday we had our best practice offensively of fall camp, and we had a situation where we looked how we were supposed to look on both sides of the ball. It was a good thing to see. I'm excited about the year, ready to get it kicked off and start playing and see where we stand.
On the offensive line:
I would have liked to have more opportunity to get more continuity. Every day we had a different lineup, rotating guys through there. The offensive line and the secondary are the two most critical areas in terms of working together. Lack of continuity is our biggest concern, and we've been getting guys healthy and will have to develop that through the season. On questions remaining with the offense:
Overall, how we'll handle the new offensive scheme. Norm Chow came in for a reason, and that was to implement a new offensive system. It's been looking sharper and sharper in practice, but we need to get into a live situation and see how it looks. That's the second biggest concern, making sure what we're seeing in practice will translate to the game. On the change to a pro-style offense:
There is not an advantage to changing scheme. The offensive linemen are excited about the physicality of a downhill run game. They have the opportunity to come off the ball and run things that come with a pro-style attack. Jordan Wynn fits a pro-style better than the spread, which is what he ran in high school. The tight end position doesn't apply in the spread, and we've got four tight ends that we really like. We felt equipped and ready to make the transition because of the tight ends that we have. On the significance of this game as a member of the Pac-12:
We've talked a bunch about staying focused, and that is no different than any other year. We have a short term goal and a long term goal. Our short term goal is to beat the team that's next, and our long term goal is to try to win the Pac-12 south. This is not a step in our long term goal, but it's important that we go out and have a good showing offensively. We don't want to turn it over, we want to establish a run game - all things we need to have show up against Montana State. On the running backs:
They are all new, except Tauni Vakapuna got a few carries last year. John White will be the starter and will get the bulk of the carries. He has performed the best in fall camp and through the last seven days. He relies on his speed and quickness, and has a little bit of a different style than the other three. Tauni, Harvey Langi and Thretton Palamo are bigger and more physical. Certainly we will see Tauni in the game, and we will see some Harvey and Thretton as well depending on how the game unfolds. Right now we have no plans to redshirt Harvey. We plan to use all of them as the season wears on. You've got to have a couple of lead guys, and create special situations for the other backs. We will see how things unfold, a lot of things can transpire throughout the season, but we feel good about all of those guys. On Montana State:
Their coaching jumps out at you. There are telltale signs, like how hard guys go, and schematics and detail things. It's apparent that Montana State pays attention to every aspect of the game. Their quarterback is not the biggest guy, but he's a playmaker and he can get out of a bad situation when the play breaks down. Defensively they fly around - they had Washington State down 22-7 last year. They have all of our attention and all of our respect.