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SALT LAKE CITY - Utah (2-3, 0-3 Pac-12) travels to Pittsburgh, Pa., for a Saturday, Oct. 15 against Pitt (3-3, 1-1 Big East). Kickoff is at noon ET (10 a.m. MT) on Heinz Field. The game will be televised on ESPNU. Radio is ESPN700 AM (espn700sports.com).
- Utah (2-3, 0-3 Pac-12) at Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-1 Big East)
- Date: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011
- Time: 12:00 p.m. ET (10 am MT)
- Site: Heinz Field (65,050/Grass) Pittsburgh, Pa.
- TV: ESPNU
- Radio: ESPN700, SIRIUS/XM 85
- Series Record: Utah leads 2-0
- Last Meeting: 2010 (Utah 27-24/OT)
- Kickoff Weather: Occasional showers possible. Temps in the mid 50s
Utah's 2-0 series edge includes a 35-7 win over the Panthers in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., and a 27-24 overtime victory in Salt Lake City last September. This year's rematch will mark the first time Utah has played a football game in the state of Pennsylvania and it is also Utah's first-ever road game on Oct. 15.
Utah is 8-0 all-time against current members of the Big East Conference, including a 2-0 mark against Pittsburgh. The Utes have also played Louisville (4-0), South Florida (1-0) and West Virginia (1-0).
Utah's first win against Pitt was in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl to conclude a 12-0 2004 season. The Utes, then members of the Mountain West Conference, became the original "BCS Busters" as the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in (and win) a BCS bowl game.
Utah beat Pitt in overtime last September in Salt Lake City.
Kyle Whittingham is 2-0 against Pittsburgh. Although his first season as Utah's head coach was in 2005, the NCAA credits both Whittingham and Urban Meyer with a win over Pitt when they co-coached the Utes in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl (2004 season). Whittingham also beat Pitt last season.
Pitt is Utah's final non-conference opponent of the season. The Utes are 2-0 in non-conference play with wins over Montana State (27-10) and Brigham Young (54-10). Utah is 1-0 in non-conference road games (BYU) and 1-1 on the road overall.
With losses to USC, Washington and Arizona State, the Utes are off to their first 0-3 conference start since 2002, when they were members of the Mountain West Conference. Utah is off to its first 2-3 start since 2007.
Utah is tied for the Pac-12 lead and tied for eighth nationally in fumbles recovered (8) ... Utah ranks second in the Pac-12 and 19th nationally in rushing defense (99.4) and has held three of its five opponents under 100 yards rushing: BYU (11 yards), Arizona State (74 yards), Montana State (75 yards) ... Utah is second in the Pac-12 and 21st in the NCAA in red-zone defense (11-for-15, 73%) ... Utah is second in the Pac-12 in interceptions (5, tied) and turnovers gained (13) ... The Utes are third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (21.8).
INSIDE THE HUDDLE
True freshman receiver/starting punt returner Charles Henderson suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arizona State. Other injury updates: running back Tauni Vakapuna (ankle) out, linebacker Jacoby Hale (concussion) out, safety Keith McGill (shoulder) doubtful, receiver DeVonte Christopher (ankle) questionable ... Five players got their first career starts as Utes against ASU: quarterback Jon Hays, receiver Kenneth Scott, defensive back Reggie Topps, tight end Jake Murphy and defensive end Trevor Reilly ... Utah has played four true freshmen this season: safety Eric Rowe, defensive end Nate Fakahafua, running back Harvey Langi and Henderson.
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Since there are no classes this week due to fall break, the Utes plan to move the start of practice up five hours to 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for Saturday's 10 a.m. MT (noon ET) kick vs. Pitt ... Utah will depart for Pittsburgh on Thursday at 4 p.m.--traveling a day earlier than usual because of the long flight and the early game ... Utah will hold a closed walk through on Friday at Pitt. On typical road weeks, the Utes hold their walk through in Salt Lake City on Friday before departing for the host city.
Utah's roster lists three players from east of the Mississippi River: Conroy Black and Mo Lee, both cornerbacks from Florida and Charles Henderson, a receiver from New Orleans ... Utah is 6-12 all-time in games played in the Eastern time zone ... Utah is 1-0 on ESPNU, with its only previous appearance on the network in 2009 at San Jose State ... Utah is out-scoring its opponents in the first, second and fourth quarters ... Utah has committed 10 turnovers in the last two games with just one takeaway.
Quotes from Kyle Whittingham's Weekly Press Conference
This past weekend we had the same issue with turnovers that we had the week prior and it unfortunately led to our demise. There were a lot of positives though. The run defense was exceptional. We were up 14-13 with three minutes left in the third quarter, and then our three turnovers led to their three touchdowns. We got down in a big hurry and the game was out of reach at that point. The defense played well against the run. We let some things go in the throw game, but they have a good quarterback and a good core of receivers. They will get yards, but we need to tighten some things up. John White ran hard and Jon Hays showed promise for his first outing and has things to build on. We've got to continue working on our primary issue, which is taking care of the football. Once we get that resolved we will be a good football team, but time will tell.
This is the third encounter that I've had with Pitt since I've been here - the Fiesta Bowl and last year's opener. It was a great ball game last year with Brian Blechen making an interception in overtime. We are going back to their place this year. They have an outstanding tailback (Ray Graham), maybe the best in the country. He is second in the country in yards per game, but he's first in total yards gained. He is a great back. Last year they had Dion Lewis, but I was looking at Graham and thinking he was really good. The challenge for us is that he is getting about 150 yards per week on the ground, but he is also their leading pass receiver. He is doing a lot of good things for Pitt. They are big up front on offense, and their receivers have good size. Mike Shanahan and Devin Street are big kids. They have weapons on offense. They mix it up on defense, they use a three and four man front, a four-deep secondary, a lot of quarters and some zone pressure. It's a good challenge for us. They looked exceptional against South Florida in a rout at their place, but they are coming off a tough loss to Rutgers. They also played well against Notre Dame. They are a good football team, no question about it, and it should be a challenge.
It's pretty extensive. That was one big negative from the game. DeVonte Christopher is questionable with an ankle injury. Keith McGill has a shoulder injury and is questionable. Charles Henderson is out for the year with a knee injury, which is unfortunate. Jordan Wynn is still on the shelf (non-throwing shoulder) and we may have a further update on him this week. Tauni Vakapuna is out with an ankle injury, it looks like he is not going to be able to make the trip. Jacoby Hale is out with a concussion for now. We are leaving a day earlier than usual because of the two-time zone difference, so that gives players less time to get cleared.
On Pittsburgh last year to this year:
There are a lot of differences offensively. Last year Jonathan Baldwin was their go-to guy, this year their tailback is leading them in receptions. They're a physical team, not fullback oriented and less of a power run game like last year, but more a spread run game.
On the early start:
Fortunately it's fall break, so we will practice at 10 a.m. this week and try to acclimate to the time frame for kickoff. We will wake up and have pregame and it will be kickoff in a big hurry. We had planned to go out a day early since making our arrangements last summer, and with the early kickoff that makes it more important.
On addressing the turnovers:
We do every drill known to man, and practice it the same way. We pay very close attention to it, and that won't change. We do all we can do, and it's something we've got to tighten up. Sometimes if you talk too much about it, everyone gets on pins and needles, but we just have to be fundamentally sound with how we take care of the football each week.
On the punt return game with Henderson out:
Griff McNabb is doing a nice job for us. His #1 order is to catch the football, and he is very sure-handed. We have to start looking at alternatives in case of emergency though.
On Brian Blechen playing safety:
We will probably see him in both locations again this week. Trevor Reilly and Brian Blechen are our wildcard players. The offensive scheme we see will determine where we play them.