SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham opened his weekly press conference by offering answers to questions he was anticipating in the wake of Saturday’s 17-6 win at Northern Illinois.
“Yes, it’s good to be 2-0 heading into Pac-12 play,” he said. “Yes, Zack Moss probably should have got a few more carries than he did. No, the offensive line didn’t perform very well. They need to get better. We need to coach them better. We have good players up front and we expect them to be better this week.”
Whittingham added that the o-line is a prideful group and he’s confident they will respond to this week’s challenge — a Saturday night home game against 10th-ranked Washington.
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley was sacked six times at NIU. However, there were other problems on offense as well.
“We know we had too many drops in the game — four or five drops that were drive killers, which really was our offensive problem in the game,” Whittingham said. “We moved the ball decently but we didn’t finish drives.”
At game’s end, he continued, the offense failed to put a lot of points on the board. Whittingham credited the NIU defense for playing well.
Whittingham then offered a response to what he thought about Utah linebacker Chase Hansen. The senior was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after capping a 12-tackle, two sack, one fumble recovery performance with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:36 remaining.
“Yes, Chase Hansen is a beast and was all over the place,” Whittingham said. “And his transition to linebacker has been exactly what we hoped it would be.”
Utah’s special teams, though, didn’t earn such praise after getting a kick blocked and having the ball bounce off a player on a punt return.
“Yes, our special teams was disappointing again — the second week in a row,” Whittingham noted. “It’s ironic, I mean, the same exact issues.”
The Utes also had a kick blocked and a ball carom off a player on a punt return in their 41-10 season-opening win over Weber State. Whittingham said it’s something that has to be corrected and said it will be.
Next, there were remarks about Washington. Whittingham said the Huskies were very much deserving of their top-10 ranking.
“They’re as complete a football as there is in the country in my opinion,” he continued. “They’ve got talent at every spot.”
Whittingham anticipates a “great environment” at Rice-Eccles Stadium with it being the annual “Blackout Game” and a late kickoff at 8 p.m.
“We’ll be ready,” he said. “I know the guys will be ready and juiced up and we’ll see what we can do.”
After more than three minutes of answering questions without an inquiry from the media, Whittingham brought reporters into the mix and normalcy was restored. He addressed a variety of topics, including a greater review of the offense against NIU after studying the film than he was immediately after the game.
Whittingham said he was more encouraged.
“I overreacted a little bit after the game which I have a tendency to do,” he explained. “But, my guess is we’ll have a great week of practice and we’ll go into this game ready to go.”
Wide receiver Britain Covey, who led the Utes with eight catches for 129 yards, also expressed optimism. He added that receiving corps is a tight-knit group.
“We believe in each other and we’re not listening to what other people say,” Covey said. “We know what we have to prove.”
Covey is confident things will get done.
“I think it’s natural to overreact a little bit,” he said. “But, at the same time, we need to play better and we know that.”
Huntley also expressed optimism. He emphasized that the Utes are 2-0.
“There’s no reason to be all fussy, fussy,” Huntley said.
No. 10 Washington (1-1) at Utah (2-0)
- Rice-Eccles Stadium
- Saturday, 8 p.m.
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: ESPN 700AM