Utes ‘cannot sit there and sulk,’ must prep to face UCLA


— Chris Ayers

After a gut-wrenching Homecoming defeat at the hands of quarterback Connor Halliday and the Cougars, the Utes have no time to squander before facing Brett Hundley and eighth-ranked UCLA in Pasadena, Calif. this Saturday.
At the Utes’ weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Kyle Whittingham reflected on the disappointing 28-27 loss at the hands of Wazzu.
“Obviously a big disappointment,” Whittingham said. “It was a game that we had complete control of and let get away from us.”
After building a sizeable 21-0 lead in the first quarter, the Utes struggled to find a rhythm on offense and couldn’t come up with timely stops on defense. Whittingham shot down any hint towards a lack of effort, saying his team just couldn’t come up with big plays in big situations.
“I don’t believe our guys stopped playing hard, we just quit making plays. We didn’t make the plays throughout the rest of the game that we were making early,” Whittingham said.
Sophomore defensive end Hunter Dimick couldn’t explain the defensive breakdown in the second half against Washington State, but he offered examples of problems the defense saw after reviewing the game tape.
“After watching film, we saw it was little things,” Dimick said. “A slip here and there, almost this, almost that. I wouldn’t say we lost an edge, we just couldn’t quite make the plays we needed to.”
While Dimick and the rest of the team were visibly disappointed after Saturday night’s contest, Whittingham said they need to move on from it and focus on a very good UCLA squad that has just come off of a 62-27 massacre of Arizona State in Tempe.
“There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves. There’s nothing to do but look forward,” Whittingham said. “You got to forget about it, but you have to learn from it. You have to learn from your mistakes, but you can’t sit there and sulk.”
When it comes to the Bruins, there’s no doubt the Utes’ first priority will be to slow down dual-threat quarterback Hundley, who is fresh off an 18-for-23 passing performance for 355 yards and four touchdowns against the Sun Devils. Whittingham said Monday that Hundley has vastly improved from year to year in the Pac-12.
“As a freshman, it was very obvious that he had a ton of talent,” Whittingham said. “He’s really honed and fine-tuned his game, and he is absolutely a complete quarterback in every sense of the word. He runs the ball effectively, throws the ball effectively, makes great decisions, great leader, you can just tell he’s the charge of that football team.”
Hundley won’t be the only player the Utes have to worry about on Saturday. The Bruins’ defense is highly touted as well, with players like linebacker Myles Jack and cornerback Ishmael Adams, who had a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown in addition to a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Utah’s junior quarterback Travis Wilson said Monday that breaking down the UCLA defense will be a challenge but that their offense isn’t scared of challenging anyone.
“Obviously they have a lot of talent, a lot of speed on that defense but I don’t think we should ever avoid anybody or go away from anybody,” Wilson said. “They’re going to be a tough defense, but if we execute on offense like we have been the last couple weeks, I think we should be just fine.”
That will be a considerable challenge for Wilson, who is coming off of his worst showing of the season with an 18-for-38 passing performance for only 165 yards and no touchdowns to show for it.
Sophomore kicker Andy Phillips was responsible for all six of Utah’s points scored after the first quarter against Wazzu, hitting from 43 and 46 yards after missing his initial attempt, which was also from 46 yards out. He said Monday that the Utes will no longer take leads for granted, especially in their next six games against UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Arizona State, Oregon and Stanford.
“Throughout this whole stretch, the next couple weeks coming up, we know we have a big game. Every week pretty much is a big game from here on out. We’re going to try and not get too comfortable with any lead we have,” Phillips said.
The Utes will take on the Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. this Saturday, Oct. 3. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. MT.
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