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Utah football notes: Hackett getting national attention

SHARE Utah football notes: Hackett getting national attention

SALT LAKE CITY — Tom Hackett didn’t have a lot to say after Utah’s 59-27 win over Fresno State on Saturday. Although the junior from Australia pretty much let his punting do the talking, he managed to draw some laughter in the postgame press conference.

After downplaying his success by saying he just kicks it as hard as he can and hopes for the best, Hackett responded to an inquiry about how he does it.

“That’s for me to know and you guys not to find out,” he said.

Hackett, who was named the Ray Guy Award Player of the Week, averaged 55.4 yards on five punts in the victory, pinning two inside the 10-yard line — one on the 4 and another on the 9.

“I went and told him ‘thank you’ right after the game. That’s huge for us when we get to start inside their 10,” said defensive end Hunter Dimick. “He does and extremely, extremely good job of that which takes a lot of pressure off of us.”

None of Hackett’s punts were returned by Fresno State and a 65-yarder he kicked is the longest in the Pac-12 this season.

“It’s great having Tom. He’s done a phenomenal job,” said defensive tackle Clint Shepard. “I think he’s the best in the country.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham also thinks highly of Hackett, noting that he’s doing a great job flipping the field. The coaching staff named him the player of the game following Saturday’s win.

“He’s been a weapon through two games. We hope it continues. We need it to continue,” Whittingham said. “I applaud the rest of the punt team. It’s not just Tom. The snapper and the coverage and everything that’s going on there has been solid, but Tom has stood out. It’s good to see him be recognized nationally and well deserved.”

Utah is second in the nation in net punting (49 yard average) and has only had one of 10 returned this season, netting just one yard.

OPENING STATEMENT: Whittingham opened his weekly press conference with an overview of things entering the first of two bye weeks this season. The Utes return to action Sept. 20 at Michigan.

“I think we took a step forward in our game against Fresno State, relative to the season opener in a lot of different areas,” said Whittingham, who noted the improved run defense and the five consecutive 3-and-outs registered by the defense that allowed the offense to get off to a fast start. He was also pleased with the special teams overall.

The only glaring negative, Whittingham added, was the play of the second defense.

As for Michigan, Whittingham said the Utes will start getting ready this week.

TOUGH DAY: Utah quarterback Travis Wilson noted that it was exactly one year ago Monday that his best friend Nick Pasquale, a UCLA wide receiver, died when he was hit by a car in their hometown of San Clemente, California.

“It’s definitely a hard day for me. I’m really happy that I get to play football and play for a bigger purpose and that purpose is also playing for him,” Wilson said. “I’m really happy that I can kind of carry on his legacy with my career. He’ll always been with me when I’m playing.”

PAUL UPDATE: There’s still no definitive timetable on the return of junior linebacker Gionni Paul. The transfer from Miami is recovering from a broken foot he suffered in spring ball.

Whittingham is hopeful Paul will make his Utah debut against the Wolverines, but acknowledged it’s unknown at this time.

“I think we’re on the verge of getting him back,” Whittingham said. “But we don’t know. As we sit here right now, that’s question mark.”

EXTRA POINTS: The Utes lead the nation with 21 tackles-for-loss and are tied for second in sacks with 11 . . . Wilson is No. 2 in the country in pass efficiency with a 213.9 rating . . . Dres Anderson is just 83 yards away from becoming the fifth player in team history to reach 2,000 yards receiving . . . Utah still has approximately 400 of its allotment of 2,500 tickets for the Michigan game available — for $80 each . . . Running backs Devontae Booker and Bubba Poole enter the bye week as co-starters on the depth chart . . . Freshman Kenric Young is now listed as the backup to Anderson at 'X' receiver . . . Scholarships have been awarded to wide receiver Jameson Field, defensive end Kylie Fitts, defensive end Wallace Gonzalez and wide receiver Tim Patrick.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer