I was proud of our players for finishing the season on a win and getting the seniors to a bowl game. That was a positive, but overall we know that we’ve got to improve. —Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — Winning half the time — as the Utah Utes did this season at 6-6 — isn’t sitting well with head coach Kyle Whittingham and the program he’s built.
“We know we’ve got to get better. We all know that,” Whittingham said. “I was proud of our players for finishing the season on a win and getting the seniors to a bowl game. That was a positive, but overall we know that we’ve got to improve.”
Utah is going bowling for the fourth straight season and 11th time in 13 years since Whittingham took full control in 2005.
However, this will be the first time in team history that the Utes will do so with a .500 record. Narrow losses to Stanford (23-20), USC (28-27), Washington State (33-25) and Washington (33-30) added emotion to the unexpected mark.
“We feel like we’re close. It was a frustrating season on a lot of different levels,” Whittingham acknowledged. “But the bottom line is the bottom line and we’ve got to improve upon that.”
AWARDS SHOW: Whittingham is looking forward to joining kicker Matt Gay and punter Mitch Wishnowsky at next Wednesday’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Atlanta. Gay is a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, while Wishnowsky is seeking his second consecutive Ray Guy Award.
“I’m excited for both of them and I will definitely be making that trip with those guys,” Whittingham said.
The show will be broadcast live on ESPN, beginning at 5 p.m.
COACHING CHANGES: Two Pac-12 South coaches — Todd Graham (Arizona State) and Jim Mora (UCLA) — have been fired. Whittingham noted that there’s turnover each year and this year is no different. That’s the business.
“It’s changed in so much of the fact of people are more impatient now than they’ve ever been,” Whittingham said. “I guess with the high-priced salaries that come with the territory. It’s just how it is and I don’t see that changing.”
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes will practice Saturday morning after the coaching staff spends the week on the road recruiting. ... Whittingham said that no underclassmen have approached him about entering the NFL draft early. However, he said such discussions usually don’t happen until after the bowl game. ... Quarterback Tyler Huntley’s availability for the bowl game will depend on how much he’ll have to heal from a shoulder injury.