Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It's a time for reflection up on the hill.
In the wake of Saturday's 37-7 setback at Arizona State, the Utah Utes are using their only bye week of the season to evaluate — make that re-evaluate — things.
"When you have a loss like that, it makes you again rethink everything you're doing and make sure you've got the best players on the field at each position," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "And there will be opportunities for guys to step up and see what they can do in practice this week."
The Utes gathered to lift weights and watch film on Monday, putting the ASU game behind them in the process. They will take two days off before gearing up for the home game against USC on Thursday, Oct. 4.
"We've got another big challenge ahead of us to say the least, and we've got to be much, much better than we were Saturday night in order to compete," Whittingham said while noting that the bye week probably comes at a good time in a lot of respects. He noted that it'll allow the Utes a chance to get some bumps and bruises healed up — and allow them to mentally refocus and set their sights on the task ahead.
"Wins in this conference are tough to come by, every single week," Whittingham said. "There's no week that is a gimme by any stretch of the imagination."
Things proved to be a nightmare last week in Tempe.
"Bottom line: We got taken to the woodshed by the Arizona State Sun Devils," Whittingham said. "They whipped us in every phase of the game."
ASU, he continued, outcoached and outplayed the Utes.
Whittingham was especially disappointed with how the defense played. He said they "got disoriented in the throw game" with too many blown assignments.
On offense, Whittingham was displeased with the lack of a consistent run game — a problem that has now surfaced for three straight weeks. Besides the need for improved line play, he cited the importance of making better reads and correct decisions.
Shortcomings on both sides of the ball added up to an early 21-0 deficit at ASU. The quick start was more than enough to lift the Sun Devils to victory in the Pac-12 opener.
"They made a bunch of plays; they had a great plan coming in and it really was no contest," Whittingham said. "So we've got a lot of work to do."
GROWTH PROCESS: When asked about his decision to hire assistants for attributes other than BCS coaching experience, Whittingham acknowledged there's some development that must take place.
"There's a learning curve and we've got to be willing to go through those growing pains," Whittingham said, noting there's a continual search for answers and no shortage of work ethic.
At 25, Brian Johnson is the youngest offensive coordinator in the nation. The average age of Utah's coaching staff is 37 — second-youngest only to Toledo, 34.
WHITE WON'T REST: After rushing for just 18 yards on 14 carries and fumbling twice in the loss to ASU, running back John White has no plans to take a break during the bye week.
"There's no days off for me. I've got to get better. I've got to hold onto the rock. I'll be out there by myself if I have to, just to get better," White said. "I know we're not going to be practicing or whatever. We're going to have these two days off, but not for me. I'm going to be out there practicing by myself."
WYNN ON ESPNU: Retired Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn will appear on two ESPNU programs on Tuesday, Oct. 9: "College Football Daily," 11 a.m. (MT), and "The Experts," 12:30 p.m. (MT). He'll be a guest analyst on the latter, joining Andre Ware, Mike Bellotti, Mark Schlabach and Tom Luginbill in Charlotte, N.C., for the show.
EXTRA POINTS: Defensive end Joe Kruger and Eric Rowe, starters who missed the ASU game with undisclosed injuries, are expected to play against USC. So, too, is offensive lineman Vyncent Jones. The junior is still listed as a starter despite being injured on Saturday. Monday's depth chart features Jacoby Hale and Victor Spikes as co-starters at rover linebacker. … Trevor Reilly leads the Utes with 25 tackles. … Senior Sean Sellwood's 47.83 yards per punt average ranks second in the nation. … The USC game is sold out. However, standing-room only tickets will be available exclusively for University of Utah students on Sept. 29.
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