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Utah football: Utes open bye week with 'very good' practice

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 8:32 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes linebacker Jared Norris (41) is congratulated by defense coordinator Kalani Fifita Sitake as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes linebacker Jared Norris (41) is congratulated by defense coordinator Kalani Fifita Sitake as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said things went well Tuesday. An hour of film work was followed by a “very good” practice.

“It’s always good to get back out on the field and start working on your next opponent, and that’s what we did today,” Whittingham said.

The Utes, who have a bye this week before hosting 25th-ranked Arizona State on Nov. 9, watched film, lifted and held a team meeting on Monday.

“These guys are eager to win. They want to win,” Whittingham said. “They’ve got a great attitude and a great work ethic. So there are no problems there.”

In the wake of disappointing setbacks to Arizona (35-24) and USC (19-3), senior captain Trevor Reilly acknowledged it’s a good time for a bye week. At 4-4 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play, the Utes are at a bit of a crossroads.

Utah Utes running back Bubba Poole (34) is tackled by USC Trojans safety Josh Shaw (6) as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes running back Bubba Poole (34) is tackled by USC Trojans safety Josh Shaw (6) as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“I think this week we’re just getting back to having fun. I think last week, as much as we had some good things going, it wasn’t a fun game. The last two weeks haven’t been fun,” Reilly said. “So we’re trying to just be focused — but maybe with a little bit more fun, I guess.”

And there’s more to it as the Utes enter their final four games of the season. They need two wins to become bowl eligible. The remaining schedule includes home games against ASU and Colorado, as well as road contests at No. 2 Oregon and Washington State.

“We want to win all four obviously,” Reilly said. “But our main goal has changed from winning the South (Division) and all that stuff to getting to a bowl game.”

STILL THE MAN: Quarterback Travis Wilson had a very good day Tuesday, according to Whittingham.

Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) walks off the field after the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) walks off the field after the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“Travis threw a lot better today and he’s feeling a lot better,” Whittingham said. “He put (together) five really good games. It’s just been the last couple of weeks. We never make excuses, but he wasn’t himself the last couple of weeks.”

Whittingham made it clear that Wilson, who has been hampered by a banged-up throwing hand, remains the starter. There’s no competition going on during the bye week.

"It’s Travis’ job,” Whittingham said. “He gives us our best opportunity to win.”

The coach added that he’s never seen a hand take such a thrashing, but expressed hope that Wilson would heal up during the bye week.

WEDDLE-MANIA: Whittingham said it was good to see former Ute All-American Eric Weddle last weekend in Los Angeles. The all-pro safety for the San Diego Chargers spent time hanging out with the team before and during the USC game.

Utah Utes wide receiver Dres Anderson (6) as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Dres Anderson (6) as the University of Utah is defeated by USC 19-3 in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

“Eric is a great alum of our football team and has been a great ambassador for our team. I’ve said that very often over the years. He’s just a big support to our guys,” said Whittingham, who noted that Weddle spoke to the squad right after the pregame meal. “All our players respect and admire him for what he has done, what he’s accomplished. And like I said, he has just been a great representative of our program while he was here and ever since he’s left.”

EXTRA POINTS: Utah’s next opponent, ASU, plays at Washington State on Halloween (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.). ... Junior linebacker Jacoby Hale had two sacks against USC after missing two games with an injury. ... Whittingham said that running back Kelvin York will get more carries than he’s had the past couple of weeks. The senior had 16 carries for 68 yards in losses to Arizona and USC.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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