Kyle Whittingham: It's apparent that chief among Utes' problems is turnovers
Full video and transcript of Utah football press conference
KW: You know, if you’re out there, you’re good, and so we're never gonna say that you shouldn’t be out there if you can’t perform, and so we’re not going to ever use that as an excuse. One thing for certain is that the offensive line needs to play better, you know. We didn’t protect very well, we didn’t run-block very well, we didn’t take any stress off the quarterback with an effective run game, so it’s not just the quarterback. There’s a lot of things involved; we didn't catch the ball particularly well when we did have opportunities to catch it at wideout. It was a collective effort and not a very good one overall.
Reporter: Kyle, did you watch the film compared to how you felt right after the game? Was it as bad as things were or did you see some positives or, reviewing the film, how did you see the game?
KW: Oh, there was a lot of positives on the defensive side of the ball. We played our best defensive game of the year by far. We stuffed the run, gave up a few things in the throw game. You’re never going to completely shut down a quality Pac-12 team like USC, all across the board on defense. But if we can get that defensive effort then — you know, 250 yards, 30 yards rushing and 14 first downs, not very productive on third down — so that was just a big positive.
The kicking game, as I mentioned, was a big positive. We out-netted them, I think, 12 or 13 yards every time we punted. We gained in field position four or five yards better than them in the kickoff, kickoff return game. We did miss a field goal, that was disappointing. They were, what, 4-for-5 on their field goals, we were 1-for-2. So there was positives there, not a lot of positives on offense, hard to find a positive there other than we played hard. The players were playing hard and they’re giving great effort, just not getting great results the last couple weeks.
Reporter: A lot of the defensive players say the turnover margin is big. It's kind of dragged on a while now, the lack of takeaways and that
KW: Yep, it has, a year and a half.
Reporter: How do you approach that now?
KW: Just got to keep working on it. We work on it every day in practice, we have turnover circuits and things that we do and emphasize in practice on a daily basis. Plus, we’ve missed out on a bunch of opportunities this year. It's not like we haven’t had several opportunities to intercept the football. The ball's been on the ground several times; now we’ve had the opportunity to recover several fumbles, but we have the opportunity to recover more that what we’ve gotten. So, we just got to keep working and keep preaching it.
The turnover margin is just that, it’s the turnover margin. It’s not all just the offense turning the ball over, it’s combined with the defense not taking it away, because if we take it away four times like they do, then it’s even. So, that turnover margin is a team effort, not just an offensive thing.
Reporter: How much time does your staff spend discussing whether or not to play Conner Manning?
KW: Very little, and we’re to the point now where we don’t think that’s a viable option in his best interest or ours in the long haul. And it’s a win-right-now mentality. You’ve got to worry about the moment, but in fairness to Conner and in thinking objectively, what that would bring to the table for us right now and in our situation, we don’t think that that’s a smart move at this point in time.
Reporter: Coach, is there anything that you can do to maybe cut down on some of the turnovers in the passing game? Offensively, are you looking at maybe going a little bit more conservative?
KW: No, not more conservative for certain. We’ve got to continue to try and move the ball; you know, a bunch of the interceptions have been off deflected passes where it's been right in our hands. The one on the tumble screen Saturday should have made a completion and a gain instead of a huge swing in momentum with the turnover. So it's been that and a couple poor decisions and I’m not here to say that there hasn't been some poor throws and poor decisions, because there has been. But a great portion of those interceptions have been — I don't want to say flukes, but (they were) things that should not have happened.
Reporter: Is there anything you can look at or point to over the last couple of weeks as far as the inconsistency in your offensive line play from Stanford to the last two weeks where they haven't been as good as they obviously were against Stanford?
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