BYU, Utes football: Growing up a Whittingham is a tough but welcome task for Utah's Jason Whittingham
“I know they were all hard workers on those BYU teams that they played on, and I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps and hopefully (help) Utah to have a good season this year.”
After Saturday’s overtime loss to Oregon State, Jason Whittingham said the defense simply needed to play tougher if they wanted to create turnovers, something they haven’t been able to do in their first two games.
“We just weren’t hitting hard enough,” he said. “We’ve got to hit people in the mouth, and I feel like we weren’t doing that tonight.”
To create turnovers, he said, Utah’s defense must find a way to play tougher.
He said that’s something he feels personally responsible to do, especially in light of his family heritage.
“I take a lot of it upon myself to have that mentality that we need this ball back, we need it for our offense,” he said. “It’s kind of like, when you go against an offense, it’s like who’s tougher? If you can get a turnover, then it shows you’re tougher than the offense. You impose your will upon them.”
While he admits there is something special about the rivalry game, which he missed last season due to injury, he sees the wisdom in approaching the contest the same way the Utes approach any other opponent. He also knows to expect the unexpected.
“You kind of want to skip the first three quarters and go straight to the fourth in this game sometimes because that’s where the most exciting parts happen," he said, recalling last year’s wild finish. “You never know what to expect in this game. It seems kind of like a bigger win than any other on the schedule when you get that win, but it’s really not.”
Despite the ties the Whittinghams have to BYU, and even some affection, the family is united in their support for Kyle, Fred Jr. and Jason this weekend.
His twin brother, Trevor, attends BYU, but on Saturday he’ll be rooting for the Utes.
“My brother is faithful to the family,” said Whittingham. “He is rooting for Utah. He is always there to support me, and he’s one of my biggest fans.”
And when he runs out onto the field, he will feel a sense of responsibility to a grandfather he lost in 2003 and a father and uncles who show him every day the best way to honor Mad Dog’s legacy — on and off the field.
“I always loved hearing those stories,” he said. “It hits my heart in a spot that nothing else really does knowing that my grandpa is up there watching me play football, and I just try to make him proud.”
BYU NOTES: BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, an All-America candidate, has 23 career sacks, making him the NCAA's FBS active career leader in the category. He needs 11 sacks this season to tie the career sack record (33) at BYU. The Cougars are 2-3 at home against Utah since 2003. Two BYU players ranked in the top five nationally in average rushing yards. Jamaal Williams (163 ypg) is No. 3 in the nation, while Taysom Hill (150.5) is No. 5. BYU is 66-8 under coach Bronco Mendenhall when the Cougars score at least 24 points. When BYU scores fewer than 24 points, the Cougars are 9-22. When BYU scores more than 30 points, the Cougars are 50-3.
UTAH NOTES: This is the Utes’ first road game of the season. ... Wide receiver Dres Anderson is coming off of back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. The junior had 103 against Weber State and 101 in last week’s Pac-12 opener with Oregon State. ... After beating Utah State earlier this season, Utah can win the Beehive Boot outright with a win Saturday. ... The Utes are 13-6 in games broadcast on ESPN2. ... Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is second in the Pac-12 in passing yards per completion (16.9) and points responsible (72). ... The Utes are 2-0 this season when scoring first and when leading after three quarters.
Contributing: Dirk Facer and Jeff Call
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