Kyle Whittingham talks Baylor prep, quarterback, and run gam
Kyle Whittingham and his 14th-ranked Utah Utes head to Waco, Texas, this Saturday to battle the Baylor Bears.
Utah is coming off a 24-11 win over the Florida Gators last Thursday. It was a dominant performance for a Utah team missing a number of key players all over the field. Whittingham will hope for a similarly strong outing against Baylor, which opened its season in disappointing fashion with a 42-31 loss to Texas State at home.
Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. PT on ESPN.
On Monday, Whittingham met with reporters for his weekly press conference. Here’s what he said, with select quotes below:
“It was a good win for our program on Thursday night. We certainly played a lot better on defense than we did in the previous year, and that was really the storyline of the game. We went from allowing 280-plus yards rushing last year to 13 in this game, and missing 28 tackles to four – it was just a night and day difference.
“We gotta move on to now to Baylor, another Power Five opponent on the road this week. We are very confident that they are going to be a much-improved team between week one and week two. They outgained Texas State by 80-plus yards with over 500 yards on offense. The real difference in the game was red zone production.
“We are going to have to play exceptionally well and have a great week of preparation just like we have to every single week. Early kickoff. We’ve got to handle that as well, get our guys ready for that over the course of this week. We’ll mimic that and get them up early.”
On Baylor’s QB situation
“Their backup came in and did some good things. He is an athletic kid. We just have to have a plan, and I am sure Coach Scalley and the defense will have a plan and it all starts with being tough against the run. I don’t care if it is 1915, 1990, or 2023 – if you can’t run the ball, it is hard to win. Conversely, if you can stop the run on defense, it is hard to get beat, so that is always job No. 1 for us.”
On his assessment of the offense
“We didn’t run the ball as effectively or efficiently as we needed to. Typically, we are a very good run team and we only ran for around 105 yards. … It wasn’t as bad as the stats indicated, but it still wasn’t up to our standards. That was something that if you take a look at the most disappointing takeaway from last week’s game, for us, it was the lack of ability to get more production in the run game.”
On QB Cam Rising and whether they plan to take his availability right to kickoff
“Yep. That’ll be the plan. It’s day-by-day and we’ll just see how he responds, how the injury responds because this is his first week of no limits. So, we’ll see what he can do, see how he moves around.”
On whether or not he will travel
“I’m sure he will. He’s a captain. Plus, in the nonconference games, there are no travel restrictions. You can take whoever you want. So, I would say I don’t see any chance he doesn’t travel.”
On if he will use this game as a preview of what the Big 12 will be like
“It hasn’t even entered into my thoughts process and hopefully not for the guys too. It is just another game that we have to get ready for. Nothing really outside of that besides getting ready for the Baylor Bears.”
On Tao Johnson moving from WR to CB
“We recruited him with receiver in mind. He had been an offensive player most of his life, so put him at receiver for a good period of time. He was doing a good job there, but as you watch people move and how they operate, sometimes you can tell that they will have a higher ceiling at a different spot, so that’s what we did with Tao. Once we made that move for him to defensive back, he took to it quickly. I think he played well in his first outing last week with some things he needs to clean up.”
On the offensive line, freshman Spencer Fano
“I thought he did a great job. For a true freshman starting at left tackle against Florida in game one, it was basically baptism by fire and I thought he handled it extremely well. So when you look at what he did as a true freshman against a quality opponent, we are very pleased.”
On the Pac-12 starting 13-0
“It’ll be a big challenge because this is the league of the quarterback. We have half a dozen good quarterbacks, at least. It looks like the Pac-12 is going to go out with a bang. There are a lot of prolific offenses that we will face and it will be a challenge for our defense week-in and week-out.”
On P Jack Bouwmeester
“He had an exceptional game, probably the best game of his career by far. Jack flipped the field two or three times and he really showed a lot of poise. He has become a really quality punter. Everything about his mechanics, his get-off times – he is just doing everything really well right now.”
On the defensive line
“We started off on a good note. Five sacks in a game is outstanding. Arguably our best pass rusher, Connor O’Toole, we need to get him back whenever that may be, will just add to that. Jonah Elliss, Logan Fano and Van Fillinger played the majority of the snaps and they did a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback. Once we get Junior Tafuna back, that will allow us to have more push inside to not allow the quarterback to step up into the pocket. So, through the first game, we played really good football.”