Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expects his team to bounce back from Saturday's painful 17-10 loss at BYU especially with an expected invitation to play in the Poinsettia Bowl on the horizon.
"They're a resilient group as evidenced by what happened earlier in the season and how they handled that," Whittingham said, referring to the Utes' injury-plagued 1-3 start. "So I don't foresee any problem whatsoever. I think they'll be excited to get back to work and have a chance to play one more time together."
The Utes (8-4, 5-3) will hold a team meeting today and resume practice as early as Tuesday. Though BYU's No. 19 ranking in the BCS standings may delay the Mountain West Conference's bowl assignments, Utah's likely appearance in the Dec. 20 game in San Diego against Navy dictates preparations begin soon no later than this weekend, said Whittingham, who has been consulting with athletic director Chris Hill on the matter.
"We've got a chance to play one more time together. We're looking forward to that," Whittingham said. "We've got an opportunity to send these seniors out the right way in their last game. That's something we feel fortunate to do."
Following the loss in Provo, which snapped Utah's seven-game winning streak, Whittingham praised his squad for not quitting, being tough, resilient and showing a lot of guts.
"I'm proud of them for hanging in there," he said.
Senior safety Steve Tate acknowledged that the setback to BYU was disappointing and devastating to a degree. However, there are worse things than losing a lead in the final minute.
"It's tough. It's a hard one. It'll take a while to get over it," Tate said. "(But) if this is the worst thing that's going to happen in my life, then I'm a pretty lucky guy."
As for BYU's pivotal fourth-and-18 conversion on the game-winning drive, Whittingham has yet to review the film.
"I haven't seen the tape yet. I'll go in tomorrow and watch it," he said. "It's just one of those things. They made the play and we didn't make the play."
Shortly after the game, defensive coordinator Gary Andersen took the blame for Austin Collie getting open to make the pivotal 49-yard catch after getting past cornerback Brice McCain.
"We were playing Cover 2 and it's my fault that the kid didn't make the play," he said. "It's not his fault."
Tate explained that Cover 2 is a zone defense where no one is specifically assigned to defend certain receivers. He noted that Collie also slipped through TCU's defense to make a big reception earlier in the season.
Aside from the rough finish on the final series at BYU, Utah's defense completed the regular season on a high note. The Utes lead the MWC in several categories including scoring defense (15.6 ppg), pass efficiency defense (94.1 rating), pass defense (188 ypg), sacks (tied at 36 with TCU), opponent third-down conversions (28.9 percent) and turnover margin (plus-10). They're second in total defense (319 ypg).
"Young, athletic and talented kids came in and did a nice job for us," Andersen said.Utah's defensive statistics are among the nation's best in pass efficiency defense (second), scoring defense (third), third-down stops (sixth), turnovers gained (eighth with 30), fumbles recovered (12th with 14) pass defense (14th), total defense (15th), turnover margin (15th) and sacks (17th).