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Utah Utes notebook: Utes usually bounce back under Kyle Whittingham

Published: Monday, Oct. 1 2012 7:40 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — One trait of Kyle Whittingham-coached teams has been the ability to bounce back from big losses, such as the one the Utes suffered 10 days ago in a 37-7 setback at Arizona State. Most years under Whittingham, the Utes have come back strong after bad losses, such as last year when the Utes recovered from an ugly 34-10 road loss to Cal and ran off four straight Pac-12 victories.

"We've had our backs to the wall before and seemed to find our way out most of the time and get the ship righted," Whittingham said. In Whittingham's first year, the Utes came back from a tough home loss to New Mexico to defeat BYU in Provo, despite being heavy underdogs.

In 2006, after losing to Boise State 36-3 at home, the Utes knocked off TCU the following week 20-7. No one will forget the embarrassing 27-0 loss at UNLV in 2007, but the Utes came back to win eight of their last nine games, including seven in a row.

In 2009, Utah was thrashed by TCU 55-28 in Fort Worth, but had no trouble with San Diego State the following week, winning 38-7, and after an overtime loss to BYU, knocked off Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl. Only in 2010 did the Utes not bounce back with a win after a bad loss as they lost to Notre Dame the week after TCU leveled them 47-7 at home. However, the Utes did come back to win their final two regular-season games against San Diego State and BYU.

OFFENSIVE NUMBERS: The NCAA statistics show why the Utes are struggling more than expected so far this season. Out of 120 FBS teams, the Utes rank 112th in total offense with 298.25 yards per game and are tied for 94th in scoring offense at 23.0 points a game. The Utes rank 110th in rushing offense, 106th in tackles for loss allowed and 107th in third-down conversions. They are just 102nd in passing offense and 114th in red-zone offense.

On the positive side, the Utes rank high in several defensive categories despite giving up 500-plus yards to Arizona State. The Utes are 29th in total defense, allowing 329.5 yards per game, and are tied for 25th in sacks and 26th in third-down conversion defense.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said that defensive end Joe Kruger, who missed the ASU game with a foot injury, is questionable this week. … Free safety Eric Rowe, who has missed two games with a hamstring injury, will "definitely" play against USC. … Reggie Topps will start ahead of Moe Lee at cornerback. … Sophomore Jacoby Hale and junior Victor Spikes are listed as co-starters at rover linebacker. … Utah's Oct. 13 game against UCLA in the Rose Bowl will kick off at 1 p.m MDT and be broadcast nationally on Fox.

Contributing: Dirk Facer

Utes to start 2 freshmen on O-line vs. USC

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the Utes will start two freshmen on the offensive line Thursday against USC out of "necessity."

Whittingham said that junior Vyncent Jones and junior Latu Heimuli are unavailable this week, prompting depth chart changes. Siaosi Aiono, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound redshirt freshman, is slated to start at right guard. He'll play alongside true freshman Jeremiah Poutasi, who started at right tackles against BYU and Arizona State.

"They've got to step up to the plate and be ready to go," Whittingham said while expressing confidence in both players.

Utah's other starting offensive linemen include senior center Tevita Stevens, senior left tackle Sam Brenner and junior left guard Jeremiah Tofaeono.

— Dirk Facer

EMAIL: sor@desnews.com

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