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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham as the University of Utah plays their opening football game against Montana State Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Make no mistake about it, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham doesn't like it when things don't go well on the football field. He finds it irritating and it makes him mad.

Whittingham said any pressure he feels as the Utes (3-4, 0-4) prepare for Saturday's Pac-12 game against Oregon State comes from within.

It's an internal thing.

"I just feel pressure because I'm competitive. I don't care about any outside stuff, anything except the competitive drive to win," Whittingham said. "That's the only pressure I feel and that's the reason I coach — because I love the competition."

Whittingham added that he is driven by his own competitive nature.

"No external force whatsoever even is a minute factor in the whole thing," he said. "I'm oblivious to everything else. The only thing I worry about is getting this team as ready to play as possible and competing every Saturday."

DEVONTE'S RETURN: After missing the last two games with an ankle injury, receiving leader DeVonte Christopher is expected to play against Oregon State. He's practicing this week and working through it.

"It'll be a big lift for our team and give us one more threat in the throw game," Whittingham noted.

Christopher said it was good to get back out on the field with the team and he's ready to get stuff rolling again.

BACKING HAYS: Whittingham reeled off a list of positive attributes about quarterback Jon Hays.

"Jon Hays is a tireless worker. He studies lots of film, he prepares, he's competitive, he's tough," Whittingham said. "He just needs to continue to get more experience at this level."

After throwing three interceptions and fumbling the ball in last Saturday's 34-10 loss at Cal, Hays is determined to get things fixed.

"I'm just excited to put that one behind us and get another opportunity this week at home," Hays said. "I'm disappointed in how I did. But you know, it's one of those things — a humbling experience, you've just to move on from it."

The former backup, who moved up the depth chart when starter Jordan Wynn suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Washington, is focused on moving ahead.

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"I'm going to spend more time with Coach (Brian) Johnson this week on the game plan, hammer some things out tonight," Hays explained. "Like I said I'm just excited for another opportunity."

Hays is doing so with the support of his teammates.

"We've got all the faith in the world in Jon," Christopher said while noting that Hays is at the football facility more than anyone else watching film and doing whatever he can do to get better. "We're behind him 100 percent and we're working with him to get better also."

Email: dirk@desnews.com

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