Football Notebook: Northern Illinois

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Football Notebook: Northern Illinois


University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham thanks the fans following an NCAA Football game vs. Brigham Young University at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham thanks the fans following an NCAA Football game vs. Brigham Young University at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham thanks the fans following an NCAA Football game vs. Brigham Young University at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham thanks the fans following an NCAA Football game vs. Brigham Young University at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora

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Football is finally back at Rice-Eccles Stadium this Saturday, Sept. 7 as the No. 14 University of Utah football team is set to take on the Huskies of Northern Illinois in the home opener for the team. 

On Monday, head coach Kyle Whittingham took to the podium to close the book on the Holy War and look ahead to NIU. 

In last year’s meeting, the Utes and Huskies had a tough-fought game that wasn’t settled until a late game pick six from Chase Hansen. 

“Northern Illinois gave us fits last year and we were lucky to escape there with a win. It was a close game, a physical game. We have them at our place this year. They have had a change in coaching staff this year. We have one game to draw upon, other than that, we have had to do some digging from places the coordinators have been, so still some unknowns. But we have one game to reference and study, so that is a positive,” Whittingham said. 

While fans got to see lots of Zack Moss and the run game last week, the passing game was lacking due to the coverage that BYU was running. Whittingham expects to see the pass game open up this weekend. 

“A strong run game will open up your throw game because they have to put extra hats in the box to defend the run and when that happens, you get a chance to get the ball up the field. In the rivalry game there was a ton of drop-eight and not much chance to go over the top so you just take what is there. Zack had a big night, Tyler [Huntley] did a great job of taking care of the ball. In fact, Tyler was really, really sharp. Two of the incompletions, one was a tipped ball where the defender player got a hand on it and then the other was the drop, so he was really sharp,” he said.

Not only was Huntley sharp during the BYU game, but the Utah secondary went above and beyond expectations. Whittingham was especially impressed with the work of Tareke Lewis. 

“Tareke Lewis especially performed well out of those guys. That was a concern for us when you have a corner of the caliber of Jaylon Johnson, you know they are going to pick on the other side when they can and I thought Tareke held up very well,” he said. “I thought those guys, I thought they did well. Credit to BYU because they were getting the ball out quick and the pass rush wasn’t really a factor so it just amounted to the secondary doing their job.”

Whittingham was also rather complimentary of the offensive line and how they performed after doubts from fans heading into the season. 

Whittingham also addressed concerns about the kicker position. Andrew Strauch, who was the original starting kicker for the team, was benched on Thursday night after missing both a PAT and a field goal attempt. Jadon Redding is set to start as the kicker on Saturday.

“Jadon Redding was actually ahead statistically as far as percentage made, trajectory, get off time half way through camp and then he got injured and missed about 10 days. Andrew during that time started to really come on and kick well and when Jadon got back, he really wasn’t 100-percent and still wasn’t 100-percent until just days before the opener. So when Andrew struggled, it gave Jadon an opportunity to come in and show what he could do. He didn’t really get tested other than making a few PATs, but based on the whole body of work through fall camp and our inability to make a couple of kicks that we should have been able to make on Thursday night, Jadon will now get his shot,” he said. 

The Utah-NIU game is set to kick off at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 11 a.m. 

 

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