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Utah football: Whittingham likes his team's toughness

SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of Thursday’s disappointing 34-27 loss at home to 12th-ranked UCLA, the Utah Utes gathered for team meetings. They watched film, lifted weights and evaluated what happened in falling to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play.

“The bottom line is we played hard,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We fought to the bitter end, but we didn’t make enough plays and we couldn’t overcome the six turnovers in the final analysis.”

There was good and bad in the setback. The six interceptions by quarterback Travis Wilson — many off balls that were tipped — stymied the offense. The defense, meanwhile, wound up holding the high-powered Bruins to 404 yards — 210 below their season average.

Despite the contrast, the Utes remained in contention right down the wire — similar to their 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State on Sept. 14. Whittingham is especially pleased with such toughness, something he said they’ve demonstrated all season.

“This team has been a pleasure to coach because of that mentality and that attitude,” he noted.

The Utes have another big test this week. They host fifth-ranked Stanford on Saturday.

HE REALLY LIKES IT: Before Thursday’s game against UCLA, Utah athletics director Chris Hill accompanied Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott on a tour of the new Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center.

“I think it makes a big statement about the commitment and the seriousness Utah brings to football, that they expect to be on par with any other program in this conference,” Scott said. “And I think it’s going to pay real dividends in terms of recruits and in terms of the signal that it sends.”

Scott added that he was very impressed with what Utah officials did with the $32 million budget that was committed. Scott told Hill that he should be really proud of the facility. Hill’s response: “I said, ‘We are.’ ”

PAC-12 EXPANSION: At a pregame press gathering, Scott was asked if the Pac-12 had any plans to expand. He was specifically asked about BYU.

“I’d never say never about anything because never is a long time. But we’ve got absolutely no plans to expand in the foreseeable future,” Scott said. “We’re delighted with 12 and I don’t see any expansion talk on the horizon. It’s not something we spend any time considering at the moment.”

EXTRA POINTS: The Utes are now 6-3 following regular-season byes under Whittingham . . . Utah has eight plays of 50 yards or greater this season, second best in the nation behind Baylor entering Saturday’s games . . . Wilson’s six interceptions against UCLA were the second most in team history and the biggest tally since 1976 . . . The announced attendance was 45,272, the 22nd consecutive sellout at Rice-Eccles Stadium.


Twitter: @DirkFacer