SALT LAKE CITY — It's been a while since the Utah Utes have ventured into the Eastern time zone for a game. The last time was 2005 when the Utes dropped a 31-17 decision at North Carolina.

Although such journeys are rare, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted it's common for teams crossing two time zones to leave a day earlier than usual to get acclimated, especially with an early kickoff on Saturday.

"I think we're doing things pretty standard," Whittingham said as the Utes prepare for what will be a 10 a.m. start back home.

The team left for Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon and planned a walk-through practice at a high school field on Friday.

On Saturday, Utah will face Pitt at Heinz Field.

"It's good to get exposure back in the East coast," Whittingham said before noting that non-conference games within the Utes' footprint are probably more beneficial for recruiting. "But like I've said, we don't pay much attention to the schedule, give it to us and we'll just go play it."

BACK AT SAFETY: Utah sophomore Brian Blechen, who started the year at linebacker now tops the depth chart at strong safety — where he was a Freshman All-American last season.

"I like both the spots, but it's cool getting back into safety from last year and stuff," Blechen said. "Right now, I'm just trying to get back to my old techniques and stuff like that."

BACKING HAYS: Running back John White insists his job hasn't changed with Jon Hays at quarterback. Both players have jobs to do.

Priority No. 1: Get victories.

"We can win with Jon Hays. I'm confident in Jon Hays," White said. "I know he's confident. I know he didn't mean to do what he did last week (three interceptions) or any of that."

SPEAKING OF TURNOVERS: Utah's 10 turnovers over the past two games has been addressed in practices and team meetings.

"We've been driving it home, (but) there's a point where you can drive it home too much and it becomes diminishing returns," Whittingham said. "We've got their attention, the turnovers have their attention and we're doing everything we can to get it fixed."

CATCHING ON: With receiving leader DeVonte Christopher listed as questionable for Saturday's game because of an ankle injury, Whittingham noted that Kenneth Scott and Luke Matthews will likely get more reps in a receiving mix along with regulars Dres Anderson and Reggie Dunn.

"That's what you do," Whittingham said. "When someone goes down, the next guy steps in and everybody else has got to step up their game as well and pick up the slack."


Twitter: @DirkFacer