U defense moving on sans Whittingham

The U football team’s defense had a horrible performance against New Mexico, giving up 407 rushing yards.

Instead of being able to focus on stopping the run in the team’s upcoming road matchup with Air Force, a more pressing matter came up Monday, as U defensive coordinator Kyle Whitting-ham’s father, a former Utah defensive coach, passed away earlier this week.

Whittingham went to Provo to be with his family and will rejoin the team on Saturday before the game.

“It’s really hard for the whole team,” Ute safety Anthony White said. “This team was really close to [Whittingham] and it’s tough to deal with.”

The loss of Whittingham for the week cannot be anything but a detriment for the team in terms of scheming the offense of Air Force.

However, White believes the assistant coaches have stepped it up and there will no damage done to the scheme with the absence of Whittingham during the week.

“The rest of the coaches have done a real good job in stepping up and filling in for coach Whittingham,” White said.

After an embarrassing performance against New Mexico, along with the loss of Whittingham, the attitude of the team must have taken a hit. “I think we are even preparing harder as a defense so we are ready come Saturday,” White said. “Coach Whittingham will be back Saturday and we need to make sure we are ready by then.”

The scheme that they will have to prepare for this week is the option, which may play into the strength of the Ute defense.

“I think we have enough speed to guard the option, but we have to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes we did against New Mexico,” White said. Those mistakes included allowing way too many big plays. The Lobos broke many runs into the secondary, along with a 78-yard run by a fullback.

“If a team gets four or five big plays a game like New Mexico did, their chances of winning are like 90 percent,” White said.

White also believes the team knows what it did wrong against New Mexico, and has figured out how to stop the big plays.

“We just never took the opportunities when we had them, we missed tackles and it leads to big plays,” White said. “We need to stay focused and make sure we seize those opportunities.”

Even though the Falcons are a running team, U coach Urban Meyer knows they can throw the ball if the opportunity presents itself.

“Air Force has hurt people with the throw this year more than in the past,” Meyer said. “Some of their big plays have come on passes after they’ve just pounded on people by running down after down.”

Last season against the Falcons, the Utes gave up a 23-3 lead, and the game-winning touchdown for Air Force was a play-action pass.

Without Whittingham, the defense has to make sure it doesn’t melt down again, or else the Utes will lose their conference lead and might never see it again.

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