Football: Utes moving forward after loss

Bubba Poole, sophomore running back, reaches the ball out to the end zone.  Bubba rushed for 117 yards against OSU on Sep. 14, 2013.  The Utes lost 48-51.  //Conor Barry
Bubba Poole, sophomore running back, reaches the ball out to the end zone. Bubba rushed for 117 yards against OSU on Sep. 14, 2013. The Utes lost 48-51. //Conor Barry

After a deflating three-point overtime loss to Oregon State last weekend, Utah is moving on. Head coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the Utes’ shortcomings but is focusing on the areas where his squad showed the most promise.
“Overall, a loss is a loss and that’s not how we wanted to start out conference play,” Whittingham said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “We gotta look forward now and move on to our next opponent and regroup and try to correct our weaknesses and our deficiencies.”
Whittingham was most pleased with the offense, although quarterback Travis Wilson threw three interceptions.
“The only negative thing to say about the offense is a slow start and the three turnovers. Other than that, there’s a lot of good things,” Whittingham said. “We’re doing some good things on offense and the explosiveness of the offense continued. We had several drives of 60 or 65 yards … five or six long, sustained drives that resulted in scores.”
One of the bigger storylines to come out of Saturday’s game was Bubba Poole, who claimed a feature role by overtaking Kelvin York on the depth chart at running back. Poole solidified his spot as a three-down back with 117 rushing yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.
Although it was an emotionally draining game against the Beavers, Poole said players have put it behind them and he is confident that there is still plenty of room for optimism.
“Of course it’s hard to take and hard to swallow, but we know that it’s still a young season,” he said. “We are going to get to our goals. Yeah, that was a Pac-12 game, but it wasn’t the [Pac-12] South. That’s a big thing for us. We still have a chance to win that South [division].”
Defense
In order to stay in the running for the Pac-12 South title, Utah will have to start manufacturing some turnovers in its favor. Coming up with takeaways is something the team practices daily, but the Utes had none against OSU.
“So far this year it’s been a turnover drought. If we do things the right way and hustle to the ball, good things will start to happen,” Whittingham said. “A lot of it is fortuitous bounces of the ball or the personnel you may have that year. I don’t think there is any magic to get it fixed.”
While Utah will continue to work on shoring up the turnover disparity, the team will also keep developing an area where it has been having success.
“Defensively we continue to play the run tough,” Whittingham said. “So there are some positives to draw upon.”
The Utes’ defense only gave up 48 yards on the ground to the Beavers’ backfield on Saturday.
Kicking game
The offense will work on hanging onto the ball while the defense will be focusing on taking it away, but there is no room for improvement from the Utes’ field goal unit, as kicker Andy Phillips has been perfect on the season.
“Andy Phillips continues to be a positive,” Whittingham said. “He drilled a really crucial kick for us in overtime [on Saturday]. That was not an easy kick to make.”
Although Phillips’ kicking proficiency couldn’t be better, football is still a new gig for the former U.S. Ski Team member and soccer player. Whittingham has been elated with Phillips’ performance so far, but the rookie kicker remains humble.
“Every kick is an opportunity for me to learn with this being my first year. I’ve never kicked in an overtime before. Everything is my first time,” Phillips said. “Every opportunity I can use to learn, I’m trying to do that and I think I’ve done well so far this year.”
His success has garnered national media attention and he is just enjoying the ride.
“Everything is kind of surreal at this time,” he said. “My first game against Utah State and, you know, my first overtime kick against Oregon State. It’s all so new, but it’s also exciting. It’s fun.”