It’s all about the seniors and sending them out the right way. If this crew was going to fold their tent they would have done it long ago. So that’s not a concern. I believe this is a very tough, resilient group that has fought all season long and we expect no different mentality this week. It is in fact about getting the seniors out of here on a winning note. —Kyle Whittingham, Utah head football coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham addressed the media Monday in advance of the final game of the season, as the Utes take on the Colorado Buffaloes this Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Kyle Whittingham: Saturday’s game, first of all: very difficult to overcome a 21-0 lead. We started slow on both sides of the ball. They took their opening drive for a touchdown, and then we had the two pick-six situations in the first quarter. I don’t know what the odds are for coming back from that, but they aren’t good. Percentages, probably less than 10 percent to overcome that. But our guys fought hard. We did get within reach. It seems like every time we got within striking distance, they’d put a score on the board. I thought when we got it to 43-37 that we were going to win the football game. I really did. I thought we had momentum. I believe we got a stop after that and got the ball back, so we had possession, being down 43-37.
So anyways, it didn’t work out. Credit them. I think they had an outstanding plan offensively. Their quarterback is a terrific player, Connor Halliday. He’s a tremendous player, and the receivers played well, and our pass coverage was not good enough. The 21-0 lead we spotted them and their throw game were the two biggest factors in the football game, so give them credit. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to coach better. That was the bottom line of that game. But, like I said, very proud of the way our guys continue to fight and slug it out and had a chance at the end and couldn’t get it done.
So, moving on to Colorado, obviously the last game of the year. Seniors’ last game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and that’s the objective now, to send the seniors out on a positive at home in their final game. Colorado, they’ve got a terrific receiver in Richardson. He’s an exceptional ball player. In fact, he’s second only to (Oregon State's Brandin) Cooks in the conference in yardage and receptions. He’s a guy that’s made a lot of plays for them this year, and so we’ve got to try to have an answer for him.
Reporter: Can you talk about Jake Murphy’s progress? He had over 100 yards receiving against Washington State. How has he progressed since coming back from that hand injury, in your opinion?
KW: He’s a great player and a big part of our offense and has been a big positive force to have him back. He had the five catches and actually drew a few pass-interference calls, which netted us more yardage. His impact was very much felt in this football game. He’s still not able to use his hand and his wrist like he normally would. It still limits him a little bit. But as you can see in the game, he’s a weapon for us and was one of our bright spots on offense.
Reporter: Coach, you’ve talked for weeks about trying to get to a bowl game. Now that that’s out, can you talk about the disappointment, the first time in 15 years you’ve missed back-to-back? Obviously it's different competition now. How do you keep the guys motivated for this week? Is it really to send the seniors out right, or are they playing for next year's jobs as well?
KW: It’s all about the seniors and sending them out the right way. If this crew was going to fold their tent they would have done it long ago. So that’s not a concern. I believe this is a very tough, resilient group that has fought all season long and we expect no different mentality this week. It is in fact about getting the seniors out of here on a winning note. That’s our main focus.
Reporter: Has Adam Schulz shown you enough that you think there’s some promise there?
KW: He certainly grew as a quarterback, I believe, from last week to this week. Even though there were a couple pick-6’s, one was not his fault. It was a deflected pass again, which we’ve seen several times this year. A lot of quarterbacks would not have been able to respond from that and play the way that he did. He ended up throwing for over 300 yards and taking care of the football the rest of the way. To answer your question, we’ve seen growth in Adam and that growth needs to continue. We’ve got some good quarterbacks in the program that are redshirting, and so it will be very competitive this spring in that position group.
Reporter: When you look at this season and how you’ve been so close in so many games, going into the end of the season do you say, "Hey, we just need to tweak a few things," or are you looking to make some major overhauls? How much can this game, this week, affect that one way or another?
KW: Well, we’ll certainly look at the entire body of work once the season is over with and evaluate. If there are changes that need to be made, we will make those changes. I don’t have an answer for you right now; it’s a work in progress. I’m evaluating constantly my own personal self, week in and week out, after each game. What we will do is sit down after the season is complete and take a look at our deficiencies, our strengths and where we need to improve and adjust accordingly.
Justin is a recent graduate and holds a bachelor of arts degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism and sports communication. Twitter: Justingiles22 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org