On his 63rd birthday, Kyle Whittingham discusses Pac-12 title game, loss to Oregon
The Utah coach acknowledged his team still has a shot to earn spot in Pac-12 championship game, but will focus only on what team can control
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham spent part of his 63rd birthday Monday morning doing one of his favorite things — fielding questions from reporters days after a disappointing loss.
“Mathematically, we still have a pathway to the championship. But all we can worry about is our part of that equation. That’s where our focus lies.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
Whittingham acknowledged that his team still has a shot to capture a spot in the Pac-12 championship game against No. 7 USC.
For starters, Utah must beat Colorado Saturday (2 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network).
Besides that, No. 17 Washington needs to win at Washington State; No. 12 Oregon needs to lose at No. 23 Oregon State; and No. 16 UCLA needs to win at California.
If that scenario plays out, there would be a three-way tie between the Utes, the Ducks and Huskies. Utah would win with the highest combined win percentage in conference games of conference opponents between Oregon and Washington and would reach the championship game in Las Vegas on Dec. 2.
“Mathematically, we still have a pathway to the championship,” Whittingham said during his weekly news conference. “But all we can worry about is our part of that equation. That’s where our focus lies. We have to finish the season the right way and just be concerned with ourselves and then see what else transpires.”
Whittingham also looked back at what went right, and wrong, against Oregon.
“I thought we played exceptionally well on defense. We played the run tough,” he said. “(Giving up) 20 points should be good enough to win the game. It wasn’t in this case.”
The Utes’ defense had three takeways and scored a touchdown — on linebacker Karene Reid’s scoop-and-score in the third quarter.
But quarterback Cam Rising threw for only 170 yards and had three interceptions. The offense scored only one touchdown.
“The problematic area was we weren’t our usual self on offense. We weren’t productive enough with 10 points and 325 yards (of offense),” Whittingham said. “All that being said, we had our chances and we didn’t capitalize. Give Oregon credit. They made the plays they needed to make.”
Is there a reason why the offense wasn’t in sync?
“We didn’t do much in the throw game. That was probably our biggest deficiency. We ran for a decent amount (156 yards),” he said. “We weren’t as sharp or as efficient in the throw game as we needed to be. All three of the turnovers came in the throw game. That was the most problematic area for us.”
Rising suffered an injury against USC on Oct. 15 and was sidelined for the next game at Washington State. Rising played but he wasn’t as effective as usual against Arizona and Stanford.
Of Rising’s health, Whittingham said, “He was out there. If you’re out there, you’re good to go. Like (Oregon QB) Bo Nix. Bo Nix was out there so he was good to go. … If you’re on the field, you’re expected to make plays and produce.”
Entering the game, Oregon’s secondary had given up a lot of big plays through the air. The Utes’ longest play from scrimmage was just 18 yards.
Does Whittingham regret not taking more shots against the Ducks?
He said the “three biggest issues” for the offense were the turnovers, “the lack of chunk yardage; the lack of production in the red zone.”
The Utes were just 1 of 3 in the red zone. Oregon, on the other hand, was 3 of 3 in the red zone.
Utes on the air
No. 10 Utah (8-3, 6-2)
at Colorado (1-7, 1-10)
Saturday, 2 p.m. MST
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 700