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Utah Utes football: Whittingham, rivals say feuds are over

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 1:27 a.m. MDT

HENDERSON, Nev. — Utah's rifts with UNLV and Wyoming last season are apparently over.
Before the Mountain West Conference's annual football meetings at the Green Valley Ranch were complete, head coach Kyle Whittingham stressed the importance of moving on.
"You put things behind you," he said. "No harm, no foul."
Whittingham and his coaching counterparts Mike Sanford (UNLV) and Joe Glenn (Wyoming) downplayed any lingering effects that may be associated with conflicts in 2007.
Sanford, who was Utah's offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, insists inflammatory comments attributed to him after UNLV's 27-0 win over the Utes on Sept. 22 were "completely taken out of context." The remarks asserted that Utah was afraid to tackle UNLV running back Frank Summers, who rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
"That was blown out of proportion and taken out of context," Sanford said. "I have tremendous respect for Utah, tremendous respect for their players, for Kyle, their coaching staff and their program. I think that was all blown out of proportion."
Though no formal apology was ever issued, Sanford and Whittingham have remained civil to one another. Earlier this summer, they worked together at a camp in Hawaii. On Sunday, they sat next to each other at a coaches dinner.
"I have tremendous respect for Kyle, and I would hope he has the same for me," Sanford said.
Whittingham acknowledged that the UNLV loss was the low point of Utah's season. The comments about the Utes' tackling that day will likely be used as a little bit of motivation when the two teams meet Sept. 6 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Even so, there's no outward animosity between the coaches.
"There's no friction there that I can discern," Whittingham said.
The same can be said of Utah's relationship with Wyoming. The Utes' 50-0 win over the Cowboys on Nov. 10 was a spirited affair, to say the least. Glenn's guarantee of a victory earlier in the week inspired the outcome. Before it was complete, however, Utah opted for an onsides kick with a 43-point lead, a move that drew a one-fingered salute from Glenn.
"The hatchet has been buried, and I'll leave it at that. Kyle and I are old friends and longtime friends. It is what it is. I lost my little Irish temper there," Glenn said.
"Kyle and I are still good friends. The sportsmanship kind of went in that game a little bit. I think if either one of us could do it a little different we probably would."
Glenn said the emotion of games like that, coupled with the love the coaches have for their players and program, allowed things to get away from them.
"You make a mistake and you move on. That's the long and short of that situation," Whittingham said. "The bottom line is our series with Wyoming has been a back-and-forth series. They got us good two years ago and we were able to come out on the right end last year."
This season, the series shifts back to Laramie, where Wyoming fans will try their best to make things difficult for the Utes — especially after last year's exchange.
"Fans are what they are. They'll probably have a little fun with it," Glenn said. "But I'm over it."
So much so, in fact, that he views it as just another game to try to win.
"We'll play hard to win just like they will but for no other reason than that," Glenn said. "We want to win. Not because of anything that happened in the past."
EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham pinpointed several position battles going into camp — Darrell Mack and Matt Asiata at running back, Brent Casteel, Bradon Godfrey and Freddie Brown at wide receiver, Zane Taylor and Tyler Williams at center and Joe Dale, R.J. Rice and DeShawn Richard at strong safety. ... Camp opens Aug. 4. ... Despite a lack of seniors at linebacker, Whittingham said this year's group is the "fastest" and "most athletic" he's seen in 15 years at Utah. The projected starters include junior Mike Wright (middle), junior Stevenson Sylvester (rover) and sophomore Nai Fotu (stud).


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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