LOGAN Utah coach Kyle Whittingham readily acknowledges that things are never going to be perfect.
However, he's not completely pleased with how the Utes have played in victories over Michigan, UNLV and Utah State.
"We didn't play our best football out there tonight," Whittingham said after Saturday's 58-10 win at Utah State. "It's evident we haven't played our best football in any of the three games to this point."
Even so, Utah's first 3-0 start to a season since 2004 is catching the attention of voters. The Utes moved up to 20th in both the AP and coaches polls this week.
"It's good to get out of the gates fast," Whittingham said. "... To be 3-0 at this point in the season is obviously right where we wanted to be."
The quest to go 4-0, though, won't be easy. Utah travels to unbeaten Air Force (3-0) for a key Mountain West Conference encounter on Saturday.
Before then, the Utes have some things to work on. Topping the list is punt returns. Whittingham said it was a "fiasco" against USU. A botched return helped set up a score by the Aggies early in the game. A couple of others
were bobbled, including a second one fumbled away, providing the Utes with some unnecessary adventures.
Utah fielded three of USU's eight punts and netted minus-2 yards.
The longest return was just two yards.
"There are probably nine or 10 things we need to do differently. We will look at it on film," Whittingham said. "We will get them in situations in practice with people bearing down on them, getting in their face. Obviously we are not going about it the right way as coaches, so we need to get that fixed."
Another area to polish up is the offense. Though the Utes racked up 58 points and posted some impressive numbers against USU, three of the first five drives from scrimmage ended with field goals.
Louie Sakoda responded by connecting from distances of 48, 35 and 24 yards. He also wound up going 7-from-7 on PATs.
"Obviously the offense may have had a little trouble in the beginning," said Sakoda, who also completed a pass on a fake puntto keep a scoring drive alive. "I don't mind going in there, cleaning up a little bit."
The fact that he had so many extra-point kicks, Sakoda added, is proof it turned out to be a good night.
The Utes wound up with 446 yards of total offense and 29 first downs. They were 10-of-16 on third down and 3-for-3 on fourth down.
Individually, quarterback Brian Johnson completed 22 of 31 passes for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
Running back Darrell Mack led the Utes with 75 yards rushing, while Matt Asiata added 56 and scored three times. Bradon Godfrey topped the receiving corps with six catches. Freddie Brown and Colt Sampson each had touchdown receptions.
Utah's defense, though, stole the show.
The only points the Utes allowed came on short fields off a mishandled punt return and an interception. They held the Aggies to 116 yards of total offense and eight first downs, recovering two fumbles (one for a touchdown) and picking off a pass along the way. Derrick Shelby and Elijah Wesson, who scored, recovered the loose balls. Deshawn Richard had the interception.
Defensive ends Paul Kruger and Koa Misi led Utah with five tackles apiece. All of Kruger's stops came behind the line of scrimmage, including four sacks tying a school record."We've got two great defensive ends," said Whittingham, who noted that he expects Kruger and Misi to combine for 20 sacks this season. "We're on pace to exceed that. Those guys are very athletic, very physical."
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