Utah Utes football notebook: Kyle Whittingham not a fan of U.'s run 'D'
Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham didn't pull any punches about his team's run defense in the second half of Saturday's 31-14 loss to Washington.
For obvious reasons, he didn't like it.
After holding the Huskies to just 31 yards on the ground over the first two quarters, the Utes wound up surrendering 185 by game's end. Individually, running back Chris Polk had 44 at the break and finished with 189.
"That's a huge discrepancy, obviously," Whittingham said while noting that Washington didn't really alter its scheme.
The problem, he explained, was the defense did a poor job of getting off blocks and tackling after being excellent at both in the first half.
"That's uncharacteristic of our front seven," Whittingham continued. "I think that's probably the worst half of run defense we've played in a lot of years. We've got to get that fixed or it's going to be a long season."
Senior linebacker Matt Martinez said things happened really fast.
"We didn't respond like we should have," he noted. "We got hit in the mouth."
The Utes are determined to identify and fix the problem before Saturday's pivotal Pac-12 home game against Arizona State.
"We've got to respond," Martinez said. "That's our No. 1 goal."
BACK TO QB: In the wake of Jordan Wynn's shoulder injury, linebacker Griff Robles has been moved back to quarterback — a position he played prior to a switch after spring ball.
The sophomore is getting some of Tyler Shreve's No. 2 reps behind new starter Jon Hays.
Whittingham said Robles will ultimately end up as a linebacker, but the situation with Wynn prompted the latest move.
HOMETOWN TEAM: Utah captain Luke Matthews grew up in Phoenix and attended a lot of ASU games in nearby Tempe. However, he never really made the Sun Devils his favorite team or anything like that.
Even so, he's looking forward to seeing his hometown team visit Salt Lake City.
"I'm excited because I know a few guys on the team," Matthews said. "So it'll be good to get them up here."
CHANGING TIMES: Arizona State's Dennis Erickson, who turned 64 last March, has been the head coach at a lot of places in his career. Stints include Idaho (1982-85, 2006), Wyoming (1986), Washington State (1987-88), Miami (1989-94), the Seattle Seahawks (1995-98), Oregon State (1999-2002), the San Francisco 49ers (2003-04) and the Sun Devils (since 2007).
After joking that he's "grayer" than he was 20 years ago, Erickson acknowledged that you have to change over time as a coach.
"Obviously your basic principles of what you believe in and what you do always stay the same," Erickson said. "But people change, football changes, young people change. The world changes all the time and you've got to stay on top of that."
Dirk Facer is the "Ute Insider" on ESPN 700. He can be heard each week on "The Bill and Spence Show" and on pregame coverage of Utah football.
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