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What Kyle Whittingham Said After Utah Beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship

Everything Kyle Whittingham said after winning Utah's first Pac-12 title.

The Utah Utes (10-3, 8-1 Pac-12) demolished the Oregon Ducks (10-3, 7-3 Pac-12) Friday night at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium to win the 2021 Pac-12 championship.

Below is a transcript of Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham's postgame press conference.

Opening statement:

"Very proud of our guys for putting the punctuation on the last game, the last PAC 12 game of the year. Very difficult to beat a team twice, especially a team the caliber of Oregon. They're a heck of a group, they've got a ton of talent. And for our guys to be able to do that 13 days ago, and then turn around and do it again, that just lets you know how tough those guys are and the high character level these guys have.

"It's been a pleasure to coach them all year long. What we've been through this year --has been the most difficult year of my coaching career in many respects. And our guys and our leadership, couldn't have done it without those guys and the leaders and the seniors and the upperclassmen who did such a great job all season long of persevering. You know, our mantra after the tragedy was, we're not going to get over it, but we'll get through it. And I believe our guys really did that. And like I said, couldn't be more proud of them. I haven't seen the final numbers, but I know that our defense was suffocating up until you know, they got a few yards in the fourth quarter. But I think they only had like 150 yards through three if I read the board right, something like that. 

"And Cam Rising, what a what a story that kid's been this year. Was the second string quarterback the first three games and just persevered, prepared like he was the starter, had a great attitude and when he got his shot he made the most of it, and the rest is history. It's a history-making football team at Utah, we've never won the PAC 12. And so proud of them for that. And in the the convincing fashion that they did it. If you'd have told me that after three games that we're going to be here right now, I would have said that you're crazy. But these guys just buckled down and what did we go nine and one? I guess the rest of the way after those first three. And so couldn't be more proud. Just a year that's filled with so many ups and downs. And Ty and Aaron, we love those two young men and they were with us tonight. I'm positive of that that they were here."

On Devin Lloyd and his impact and value to the team:

"Yeah, his impact and value cannot be overstated. I mean, he is such a leader such a pure talent. He could have come out last year and been a first or second round draft choice. I think he's probably played his way into the top 10 or 12 in the first round now that's what I'm hearing. And he came back and he was a man on a mission he wanted to win the championship. He wanted to be an All American. He had these goals. We sat down and he told me all of his goals when we had the meeting just a little over a year ago when he was making that decision. He says I'm coming back and here's why. And here's what I want to accomplish. And he's checked every box so far."

On what was different with his team this time around in the Pac-12 championship, not letting anything phase them: 

"Well, just that. They handled adversity all season long. The resiliency that they've shown all season long has been incredible. A handful of our guys were with us for those two previous championship games, '18 and '19, Devin and Cov, and maybe another 10 or 12, guys, and so they were not to be denied this time around. And they they had a big influence on the rest of the football team. 

"And really, the practices all season long were outstanding, and especially when we started to get some momentum. And they wouldn't have it any other way. This team was governed from within, and I can't say enough good things about the leadership and the coaching staff. I think we got one of the best assistant coaching staffs in the country. Morgan Scalley, Andy Ludwig did a great job playing off of their game plans from 13 days ago and added some little subtle changes and some some tweaks and some modifications that really complemented what we did 13 days ago and it was great to see that game plan come to fruition. Of course it's the players who executed, but couldn't be more proud of our staff and that's not only the coordinators, but all the position coaches all the way through."

On his team's mentality:

"Well, we had the same mentality and mindset and focus and that look in their eye that they had two weeks ago. I think in either of those games I don't think it would have mattered who we were playing. These guys were absolutely locked in and on a mission and they were not going to be denied. And as talented and as good a football team as Oregon is, I mean, they beat Ohio State at Ohio State they were what third in the nation at one time and they're a talented crew. But our guys I guess I don't know how you can say it, but they were very determined very motivated."

On Cameron Rising's early fourth down conversion and if it set the tone:

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"Absolutely. And we played it aggressively. And we were in really-- the last eight ball games, we've opted to take the ball seven or eight games in a row. And that just is more of that kind of mentality, that attitude and our offense had so much confidence as the season went on that I personally thought they were gonna score every possession. They ended up I think the last seven or eight games of the year, we might have led the nation in points per possession, or at least in the top five. And that play really set the tone and we ended up scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. And in I can't remember how many fourth downs we went for tonight two or three, but I think we converted every one of them. And so that's a credit to the offensive line too cause those situations are really where you lean on your offensive line and and get that push that you need to get the first down."

On the most unexpected thing for him in Friday's game:

"Unexpected? I don't know if I can name one because as you put the plan together and you analyze it and you go over and over and over it you try to visualize the outcomes and how each play complements and sets up another play. I don't think there's anything offensively or defensively or special teams wise for that matter that really was a surprise tonight. Went very close to as planned. I don't know if there's anything that was, that I could give you an answer to or an answer that was something that we didn't expect. But just cause you expect it doesn't mean it's gonna happen. But but that's what we expected to happen."

On when he realized the heavy Utah fan presence and what he made of the venue change:

"In warm ups. It was incredible. It was five-to-one is what it looked like during warm ups. And then when the game actually started, it was probably still close to that four to one three to one, but, but it was definitely a crowd in our favor. Appreciate our crowd. They've been awesome all year long. The crowd at Rice Eccles 13 days ago for that Oregon game was the best environment I've ever been in. And this was just a great show of support from our fans. I promise you one thing, they're gonna travel to the Rose Bowl. I guarantee you that."

On what the tight ends meant to the offense vs. Oregon:

"It's been huge for us. Not only tonight, but all season long. We think that's the best trio of tight ends in the country. You'll be hard pressed to find any team that's got three guys that are as talented as those three. And you know, like you said Brant was not as prominent tonight as Dalton but every week, it's all three of those guys as a group always bring great results. It's an elite group, we might lose them all. They may all turn to the NFL. If so we wish them well. But they were really the--I don't want to say the core of the offense this year. But they were huge. And we played so many, two and three tight end sets. We probably lead nation in two or three tight end sets. And and that's because of their talent level."

On if it feels like he's gotten to the pinnacle as a Pac-12 coach after reaching the Rose Bowl:

"Well, certainly a great feeling. And it's something we've been working towards for a long time. We've been in the league what, 10 years now, 11 years and it's been a process. We got in the league, we knew we were going to have to have some things improve. Our roster, we had to-- the perimeter, the skill players we knew we were a little behind there. Facilities budget, but we've just been working away at it ever since we joined the league. And this is the culmination of a lot of years of hard work and effort not only by us, by our administration by everybody involved. It takes a lot of people to make this thing go."

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