Kyle Whittingham says offensive issues for Utah go beyond quarterback spot
Kyle Whittingham had jokes at his Monday morning press conference.
After the Utah offense produced just seven points in a 14-7 win over UCLA this past Saturday, the first question Whittingham faced from reporters Monday morning was about the ways they would go about finding more productivity on the offensive side of the football. Would that search include re-integrating a new quarterback?
“We’d like to re-integrate Cam,” Whittingham said with a grin. “We’ll see if that happens.”
The Utes remain without their captain. Whittingham and the staff are waiting on Rising to make his season debut, but recovery from offseason ACL surgery is taking longer than expected. Without him, Utah’s offense has slipped. Saturday against the Bruins marked the toughest outing yet.
Utah averaged 3.4 yards per play against the Bruins. It was outgained on a per-play basis, which historically leads to a loss. Utah got a truly special performance from its defense, but they won’t be able to begin every game with a pick-six.
Nate Johnson started for Utah at quarterback and completed nine of his 17 passes for 117 yards. He threw just one pass in the fourth quarter.
“There was more to it than the quarterback position,” Whittingham said. “Nate didn’t play poorly. His numbers were OK. We did turn the ball over once, but we’ve got to find some ways — plural — to do a better job moving the football.”
Johnson apologized to Utah fans on social media after the game and promised a better offensive display this upcoming week. Whittingham, who doesn’t use social media, said it was admirable of Johnson to take accountability but “I don’t know if it’s accurate.”
They’re 117th nationally in yards per play. They’re 98th in scoring. The schedule features matchups with college football’s No. 1 (USC), No. 2 (Oregon), and No. 3 (UW) scoring offenses. Colorado has the ability to light up a scoreboard. Arizona is 20th nationally in yards per play. Utah needs more from its offense to keep this title defense on track.
So how can the Utes improve?
“I think we need to be a little more dominant up front,” Whittingham said. “We expect to be. We’ve got a good offensive line. They haven’t been bad this year. A couple of the games we’ve rushed for over 200 yards, but a couple of the games we haven’t been so good. Trying to find some consistency up front and physicality. Running back has kind of been a little bit of a musical chairs position for us, as has a lot of positions. Right now, Jaylon was the lead back, carried the ball 25 times on Saturday.
“We’ve just got to be better executing. We’re a zone-blocking scheme, we’ve got to be able to execute that better and have the running backs maybe get a little more yards after contact. That’d help. There’s three or four things, and probably No. 1 is having more of a threatening throw game. When teams just know you’re not going to throw it and load up the box, that’s tough sledding in there.”