SALT LAKE CITY — Although Utah’s defense put up some good numbers in last week’s 23-20 loss to Stanford — such as holding the Cardinal to just 14 first downs and holding them to 4 of 13 success on third down — the Utes came up empty in other areas.
Namely, havoc plays. Utah finished the game with no fumble recoveries, no interceptions and no sacks.
“We did some good things on defense. When you hold a team to 23 points, you usually are going to have the percentages in your favor to win a game,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “But what we didn't do on defense was create a little havoc. No takeaways and no sacks, so that was the downside of the defense. Otherwise, limiting a team to 14 first downs is really good and we will take that every week.”
Whittingham expounded on the lack of havoc plays by noting that it was a combination of what both teams did. He credited Stanford for doing a good job of protecting its quarterbacks. Whittingham noted that the Cardinal used a lot of maximum seven-man protection — making it difficult for the Utes.
As far as interceptions, Whittingham said Stanford put the ball in good spots and weren’t reckless. Thus, there were few opportunities for picks. And finally, Whittingham added that the defense just didn’t do well ripping the ball out.
“We were trying but we just didn’t do a good enough job,” he said.
For obvious reasons, Utah’s defense is determined to avoid another shutout in terms of fumble recoveries, interceptions and sacks.
“Oh yeah, that’s what we’re all about — impact plays, havoc plays,” Whittingham said.
Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley acknowledged it's something the Utes must improve upon.
Utah enters Saturday’s game at USC with 11 sacks, nine interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
VOWS TO BE READY: It’s been a while since quarterback Cooper Bateman has played in a game. The last game the graduate transfer saw action in was Nov. 12, 2016, when he threw a touchdown pass for Alabama in a lopsided victory over Mississippi State.
Despite the inactivity, Bateman said he isn’t frustrated.
“Of course you want to get out there and play. No one wants to stand on the sideline,” Bateman explained. “Yeah, if the opportunity comes I’ll be ready — for sure.”
Bateman is getting a lot of reps in practice, along with projected starter Troy Williams, as Tyler Huntley recovers from an undisclosed injury.
ABOUT GARY: Whittingham isn’t surprised that former assistant and longtime friend Gary Andersen opted to leave a lot of money on the table after resigning as head coach at Oregon State.
“He’s got a way that he thinks that is sometimes met with differing opinions,” Whittingham said. “But he believes in what he believes in and that was manifest in that decision.”
GOOD MEMORY: Utah’s 31-27 win over USC last season at Rice-Eccles Stadium required a late 93-yard drive and a pair of fourth-down conversions.
“It was good. It was great to go down there on that last drive and score in the final seconds and be able to get a win,” Williams said. “But it’s a whole new SC team this year and you just have to focus on that and just continue to hone in on film study and everything like that.”