Quotes from Kyle Whittingham's Weekly Press Conference
Opening statement: Before I talk about the game, we have a project going called `Project One Hope." The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Alumni Association are collecting donations for families affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami at the Samoan Islands. There will be members outside the stadium collecting donations for the families affected. This hits close to home for football.There were positives and negatives against UNLV. Our red zone production was very good on both sides of the ball. We were 3-for-3 in touchdowns in the red zone. UNLV had just one touchdown in five trips to the red zone. That played a major difference in the game. We also scored a touchdown on defense with Robert Johnson's interception return on the fumble. Robert also intercepted the ball and returned it to the nine-yard line to set up a touchdown. Eddie Wide had his third-straight 100-yard game. He is doing just what we need him to do. He has stepped in and is doing a great job. Terrance Cain was solid. He did not have quite the numbers he had in previous weeks, but he has been solid managing the offense. The negatives were that we fumbled five times. Fortunately we only lost two, but ball security has to improve. We also had too many penalties. We are always going to be aggressive, but we have to be smarter than we were on Saturday night. On special teams, we improved over CSU but we are still not where were need to be. Our performance was average.
Air Force is a solid football team. They have done some good things on defense this year. They are at or near the top of most defensive categories in the conference and are leading the nation in turnover margin. It's a great conference battle. Games with Air Force have gone down to the wire and we don't expect anything other than a competitive football game.
Injury report: Terrance Cain tweaked an ankle in the first half against UNLV, but that is a non-issue. He is good to go. Joe Dale has a knee injury and is out 3-4 weeks. Lei Talamaivao (broken fibula) and Walter Watts (knee) are both doubtful for this week. Their progress is coming along though. Shaky Smithson (ankle) should be good to go. He was available against UNLV and could have gone in an emergency, but he will be 100% this week.
On the defense against Air Force: We usually play 3-4 safeties against Air Force, and Joe [Dale] is an integral part of our defense. We have got to get our best 11 defenders out there, and we are in the process of sorting it out.
On preparing for Air Force: Think assignment football. Everyone on the field has an assignment, and any breakdowns mean a potential for a big play. We need to be sound in our scheme and match their discipline and toughness. They are a great cut block team and we need to stay on our feet and rally to the football and gang tackle.
On Robert Johnson: If we singled out one guy the last few weeks who had the biggest impact, it would be RoJo. He is playing his best football as a Ute. He has always been solid and been a big play guy, but now he is playing a complete game. All of his reads have been good and he comes down and tackles well. He is playing tremendous football. RoJo is one of the best free safeties in the country.
On the team at midseason: Offensively, the running game has been positive. We are still leading the conference in yards per carry. Cain is getting better each week. His efficiency rating is climbing steadily and that's where we need him to be. He is functioning at a high level. The offensive line is tied into the run game and they have done a nice job. The receivers have made big plays, but the biggest negative is ball security.
On defense, the run game has been spotty and inconsistent. It was good on Saturday against UNLV when we gave up less than 100 yards rushing. Scoring defense has been good, our third down defense has been very good and our red zone defense is starting to shape up.
On special teams, we have won the battle most weeks, but we have not been as good as we were earlier in the season.
> No. 18 (BCS, 19 AP, 20 Coaches) Utah (5-1, 2-0 MWC) hosts Air Force (4-3, 3-1 MWC) on Saturday, Oct. 24. Kickoff is 2:00 p.m. MT in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The game will be televised live on VERSUS. Radio is KALL 700 AM (kall700sports.com).
> Utah needs one win to become bowl eligible. The Utes have played in a bowl game in each of the last six seasons, including BCS bowls in the 2004 and 2008 seasons.
> Utah has moved up five places to No. 19 in the Associated Press poll and returns to the USA Today Coaches' poll at No. 20. The Utes are No. 19 in the Harris poll and No. 18 in the first BCS rankings of the season. The 5-1 Utes were ranked as high as 17th this season before dropping out on Sept. 20 after a 31-24 loss to Oregon. The Ducks are currently 12th and 14th, respectively in the A.P. and Coaches' polls.
> Utah reached the 600-win mark last week at UNLV, becoming the 39th school in NCAA FBS history to record 600 victories. Utah's all-time record is 600-418-31.
> Senior free safety Robert Johnson is tied for first in the nation in interceptions (0.83 per game). He is one of five players nationwide to pick off five passes this season.
> While Utah has won five of the last six games against the Academy, Air Force remains the only MWC school with a winning record against the Utes. Utah's record against MWC schools follows: Air Force 11-14, Brigham Young 53-33-4, Colorado State 54-22-2, New Mexico 31-17-2, San Diego State 15-12-1, TCU 5-1, UNLV 13-2, Wyoming 49-31-1.
> After playing four of their first six games on the road, the Utes will kick off a three-game home stand this Saturday and will leave the state just one more time during the regular season (TCU on Nov. 14).
UTES ASSIST WITH PROJECT ONE HOPE
The University of Utah Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the U. Alumni Association and the Polynesian Coaches Association are joining forces in support of "Project One Hope" at this Saturday's Utah-Air Force football game. Members of each group will be stationed outside the stadium gates to collect donations for families affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami that devastated the islands of American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga. "Project One Hope" is of special interest to the Utah football team, which has 30 Polynesian players on its roster and five staff members.
PAINT THE TOWN RED
The Downtown Alliance and the University of Utah athletics department are co-sponsoring a "Paint the Town Red" contest this week, with downtown businesses invited to decorate their businesses or storefronts in red. The contest will run through Oct. 23 and the winners will be recognized at halftime of the Utah-New Mexico football game on Nov. 7. The grand prize is $2,500, four VIP tickets to a Utah football game and two tickets for every employee of the winning business to a Utah men's basketball game.