Utah football: Utes’ secondary getting some extra attention
Whittingham says team needs to end its “turnover drought.”
Published: September 18, 2013 10:53AM
Updated: September 17, 2013 11:22PM

Utah’s defenders dedicate part of their practices to catching drills, but so far, all that practice time isn’t paying off.

The Utes have yet to snag an interception this year, a troubling statistic for Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who likens it to a “turnover drought.”

“We’ve got to get it corrected,” he said. “We’re working on it constantly in practice and have made a concerted effort, but so far this year it’s a turnover drought, and a carryover from last year too.”

The Utes had eight interceptions in 2012, a drop from 19 in 2011.

Utah is facing some great quarterbacks in the Pac-12, which contributes to the decline, with Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion serving as the perfect example.

Utah’s defenders were there, Whitingham said, but his passes were right on target. However, the Utes have to be more aggressive in their defense, he said.

“We have to find the football and make a play on it,” he said.

Whittingham, Utah’s former defensive coordinator, spent more time with the secondary than usual during Tuesday’s practice.

“We just want to make sure we get things shored up,” he said.

The Utes don’t expect as much of a passing attack from BYU on Saturday, but hope they get a few chances to end the drought, linebacker Jason Whittingham said.

The sophomore said it was a team issue and not a concern exclusive to the secondary.

“It has to do with toughness and will to want the ball,” he said. “You have to have the mindset that, ‘That ball is mine and I need to get it back for the team so the offense can have a chance to score.’ ”

Red vs. Blue

Utah kicker Andy Phillips is testing his family loyalties this week since his parents both graduated from BYU and his wife, Megan, is a former Cougarette and served as president in 2011-12.

Phillips, who grew up in Draper, said his family is still divided.

“No one knows what is going to happen and they’ve asked “What are we going to do if you have to kick a field goal; do we want you to miss it?’ ” he said. “There are some who are still ‘Team Andy,’ fans and others who are BYU fans at heart.”

As for his marriage, Phillips said marrying a Cougarette has earned him nothing but points from his fellow Utah teammates.

“It gets me bonus points,” he said. “Cougarettes are obviously known to be beautiful and great dancers and are like nine-time national champions. I tell someone I married a Cougarette and they are like, ‘Oh, man, that is awesome.’ ”

Say what?

The Utes expect a hostile crowd in Provo, but it won’t be any different than what they’ve grown accustomed to in the Pac-12, Whittingham said.

“Once the game starts, you tune everything else out and communicate with each other, and we’ll work on that throughout the week with loudspeakers.”

However, the Utes spent part of Tuesday’s practice with the offense inside with crowd noise piped in.

lwodraska@sltrib.com