Quotes from Kyle Whittingham's Press Conference
A nice win up in Logan this weekend. I thought we played extremely well defensively for the third week in a row. Whenever you limit an opponent like that it is a good day for the defense. Paul Kruger was very effective for us. His four sacks ties the school record. I thought the offense was improved, but it is still not where it needs to be. They showed more consistency and scored points, but we still have things we need to clean up. On special teams we had a solid performance in three phases, but that was overshadowed by the punt return performance. We did not handle that well at all. It was the worst punt return performance since I have been here. This week priority No. 1 is finding out who the guy returning punts is going to be. We are back to square one and going to try out 3-4 different guys and hopefully we will settle on someone.
On the injury front, we lost backup linebacker Matt Martinez to a bicep injury. We are still evaluating him. Other than that we came out pretty clean.
Air Force is up next. It's a tough place to play. They are coming 3-0 and coming off a nice win at Houston. They are their usual selves offensively - they are second (nationally) in rushing offense, second in the league in scoring defense and in the top four in total defense. They are very good in most phases of the kicking game. We have our work cut out for us. It is an important game as it is every week, but the key will be our defense and play disciplined, assignment football. We gave up a few too many points last year, but it wasn't a bad defensive game. We were not nearly good enough on offense last year.
On who will be looked at for punt returns:
Aiona Key, David Reed and Terrell Cole are our three headliners. We will look at 2-to-3 other guys in addition to that. You simulate in practice as best you can in a game situation, putting them under pressure defensively. It is tough to figure out why we had that issue on Saturday with more than one guy. We have got to get it fixed. That will cost us down the road if we don't.
Brent Casteel was a stop-gap measure. We'd rather not go in that direction if we can get away with it.
On the challenges of facing Air Force:
It's typical Air Force - they're not going to throw the ball more than 10-12 times most weeks. You've got to play the run just about every snap. You have to be tuned in to the option, play the run most of the time and hold up against the throw. They've led the league in third down efficiency a number of times the past few years. They get themselves into manageable third down situations and play the run effectively.
It is important to take advantage of offensive opportunities in the red zone. Taking care of the ball and possession is important against Air Force. We did a great job with that Saturday night (against Utah State). The bottom line is to force them to play catch up. The option attack is not geared towards catching up to a big deficit.
Their coaches have done a great job. They have the same gritty, tough disciplined athlete as they've always had. New looks have helped the theme. Before you had very few looks that you had to deal with. Coach Calhoun has brought in more formations that we've got to adjust to and defend. It causes you to have different assignments.
Last time we were there Louie (Sakoda) won the game on a field goal. Ben Moa scored in 2003 (in triple overtime). There have been some great games in the series. They got us here last year. One thing about those guys is that they continue to come at you more than any other team. You are going to get their best shot for a full 60 minutes.
There are two schools of thought when you play Air Force. Some teams like to grind and methodically match them, keeping their defense on the field. Some teams play wide open and spread out and usually have a speed advantage. We are still formulating our plan.
On the injuries at defensive tackle:
I think that is settled - we got very good production on Saturday. We moved Derrick Shelby inside, Sealver Siliga and Aaron Tonga played well and Greg Newman played the entire game. That combination is what we will stay with hopefully the rest of the year and we'll leave the defensive ends outside. Each week is a challenge.
On the weekend the Mountain West Conference had:
It is maybe the biggest week since the inception of the Mountain West, going 4-0 against Pac-10 teams. It goes to show that just because a team is supposed to beat a team doesn't mean it always happens. There's a lot of those each and every week. It was a great weekend for the MWC. We talk about wanting to gain respect and the way to do that is to go out and do exactly what we did on Saturday - beat quality teams from BCS conferences.
To have Mountain West teams recognized in the polls is a positive for the league. It's still early, but to have two teams ranked and another knocking on the door is a positive for the conference.
> No. 20 Utah (3-0, 1-0 MWC) returns to Mountain West Conference action with a game at Air Force (3-0, 1-0 MWC) on Saturday, Sept. 20. Game time is 2:00 p.m. MT in Falcon Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on VERSUS. Radio is KALL 700 AM.
> Utah is ranked No. 20 this week in both the AP and USA Today Coaches' polls - a two-position jump from last week.
> Utah is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2004.
> Utah is out-scoring its opponents by almost 24 points a game (41.7-18.0 ppg).
> Utah ranks in the top 10 nationally this week in these areas: No. 4 in opponent first downs (34), No. 5 in tackles for loss (9.33), No. 6 in time of possession (35:06), No. 8 in total defense (202.3), No. 9 in net punting (40.8).
> Utah has compiled more than 400 yards in its last two games (440 vs. UNLV, 461 vs. Utah State).
> The Utes have more wins against BCS schools since 2000 (14) than any other non-BCS team. Utah is 11-4 against BCS schools since 2003.
> Louie Sakoda was the hero the last time Utah played at the Air Force Academy. Sakoda, then a sophomore, kicked a 37-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to secure a 17-14 Utah victory in 2006.
> Last year's loss to Air Force snapped a four-game win streak by the Utes. Utah has not lost in Colorado Springs since 2001.
Utah trounced Utah State 58-10 in Logan - setting a record for the most points scored by either team in the rivalry series. The win began inauspiciously for the Utes, when they fumbled away a punt on their own 24-yard line to set up an Aggie score. But the Utes didn't do much else wrong after that - piling up a season-high 461 yards of total offense while holding USU to 116 total yards. The Aggies produced just 39 first half yards against Utah's starting defense. Brian Johnson completed 22-of-31 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, Darrell Mack rushed for a season-high 75 yards, Matt Asiata rushed for 56 yards and three touchdowns, and Eddie Wide ran for a career-high 69 yards (all in the fourth quarter). Louie Sakoda made all three of his field goal attempts, including one from 48 yards, and set a personal record with seven PATs. Paul Kruger tied the school record with four sacks and all five of his tackles were for a loss. Utah's defense didn't have many chances to pad its stats: The Utes ran 82 plays compared to 48 for Utah State.
Fourth-year Utah head coach, Kyle Whittingham is 27-14 overall and 3-0 in bowl games. He is 5-3 against BCS schools. Since he joined the staff as a Ute assistant in 1994, Utah has won 67-percent of its games (113-55). Utah has played in nine bowl games during Whittingham's tenure - winning eight. Prior to becoming Utah's head coach in 2005, he spent one season as the defensive line coach and 10 years as the defensive coordinator.
INSIDE THE HUDDLE
Receiver Aiona Key arrived on campus last Friday when his junior college posted his AA degree. Key will begin classes on Monday (Sept. 15) and is immediately eligible to practice and play. Key had 80 catches for 1,112 yards and 17 touchdowns at Mount San Antonio College in 2007. He has two years of eligibility remaining, having played for Boise State in 2005 and 2006 (redshirting his first year), before transferring to Mt. SAC last year ... After losing its top two defensive tackles in the first two games, Utah has incorporated a committee approach at nose tackle. Getting his first career start at USU was 245-pound redshirt freshman Derrick Shelby, whose natural position is end, but who has played at both positions in the last two games. True freshman Sealver Siliga subbed in for Shelby at nose tackle, as did ends Koa Misi and Paul Kruger, and tackle Aaron Tonga ... Returning to the starting lineup against Utah State after missing one game with a knee injury was offensive tackle Zane Beadles ... Expected to be available this week after a two-game injury absence is backup quarterback Corbin Louks (shoulder).