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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes running back Lucky Radley (44) runs past UCLA Bruins linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) In third quarter action between the University of Utah and UCLA at Rice Eccles stadium on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Utah football: Utes start preps for tough Stanford team
Pac-12 football » With 0-2 conference record, Utes are set to face mighty Cardinal.
First Published Oct 06 2013 04:09 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:35 pm

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham spent his weekend like a lot of other people did — watching football.

Whittingham and his coaching staff took advantage of the extra days to prepare for Saturday’s game against Stanford by immersing themselves in film of the Stanford Cardinal (5-0, 3-0).

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What Whittingham saw was what he expected of a highly ranked team.

"They are a physical football group with a good quarterback, receivers who are playing well and solid running game," he said. "They are a physical front seven on defense and have an O-line that is playing well. Overall, they are just a talented group."

While the Utes (3-2, 0-2) were resting, Stanford was battling to a 31-28 win over No. 15 Washington in which receiver Ty Montgomery had 290 all-purpose yards and Stanford’s defense sacked Washington quarterback Keith Price five times. The Cardinal recorded 11 tackles for loss.

The last time Stanford visited Utah was in 1995, when Stanford took a 27-20 win. Overall, the Utes are 2-3 against the storied program that Whittingham said he respected for its tradition.

"I remember when John Elway was there (1979-82) and then they had a resurgence under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw has kept it going at a high level. The players in the program have embraced what they are doing."

Facing the Cardinal after a tough 34-27 loss to No. 12 UCLA is a difficult task for the Utes, but Whittingham said his players remain upbeat despite their 0-2 league start.

"We have a tough group," he said. "They have a lot of resiliency and a lot of excellent leadership.

"They played hard against UCLA and played with toughness, we just needed to make a few more plays."

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Whittingham said he was confident quarterback Travis Wilson would bounce back from his six-interception performance against the Bruins.

"Not all of those were on him," he said. "If you break them down, our receivers have as much to do with it as anyone. They need to be more sure-handed, and some of their defenders made great plays. If you play long enough, some of that stuff is going to even out."

Stanford is led by quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is 10-0 as a starter and is in charge of one of college football’s most balanced offenses with the Cardinal averaging 221.3 yards passing and 218 yards rushing. Hogan was 12-of-20 against the Huskies for 100 yards and a touchdown with an interception, while running back Ty Gaffney rushed for 19 times for 72 yards and a touchdown.

"They don’t really have a weakness," Whittingham said. "They are well coached and they don’t beat themselves. It will be interesting to see how we match up with their lines. I feel good about our defensive and offensive lines but they have great lines, too."

Playing the Cardinal is a formidable task, but Whittingham said he remains positive despite Utah’s start in league play.

"We’re working hard and they have a good attitude; that is all you can do," he said.

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