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Kyle Whittingham would have ‘bet my house’ the Utes would win the line of scrimmage vs. BYU. They didn’t, for different reasons.

Utah’s offensive line is now in focus; kickoff time set for Washington State’s visit to Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sept. 29

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham checks out the scoreboard as the Utes tail the Cougars, late in the 4th quarter, in football action between the Utah Utes and the Brigham Young Cougars at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

Kyle Whittingham would have been looking for new digs if he’d wagered on Saturday night’s game.

“They beat us at the line of scrimmage, which I would have bet my house going into the game, that we wouldn’t lose at the line of scrimmage,” the Utah football coach said. “My house isn’t worth that much, so it’s not that big of a deal, but I never would have seen that coming where we didn’t control the line of scrimmage.”

Roughly 36 hours removed from the University of Utah getting firmly outplayed in a 26-17 loss at BYU late Saturday night, with hindsight and having watched the film, Whittingham’s overarching point on the evening hadn’t changed much.

The Utes — on both lines and plenty of other areas — weren’t good enough.

“It was a very poor performance by us, which is my responsibility,” Whittingham said Monday morning during his usual start-of-the-week news conference at the Eccles Football Center. “I have to get the guys ready to play, and we weren’t good enough. My job is to make sure we are good enough.”

The problems that faced the offense and defense are not the same.

Whittingham pinned the offensive issues on mental mistakes and blown assignments, especially up front where the Utah offensive line clearly lost the evening against the BYU defensive line. Whittingham lamented the fact that the offense appears to be out of sync through two games. The Utes are pressing the play clock too much, not getting out of the huddle in time, not getting the play called in a timely fashion.

To one extent or another, those issues, either up front or what’s happening in the huddle, fall on some combination of Whittingham, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, and Charlie Brewer, who started his second game for Utah after playing in 44 across four seasons for Baylor.

Brewer was 15 for 26 for 147 yards, a second-quarter touchdown pass to Brant Kuithe, and a first-quarter interception in which he was under duress and rushed into a bad decision.

“With some of the blown assignments, there were some loopers and guys coming free on pressure and so, we can all play better,” Whittingham said. “He’s capable of playing better than he did, but we didn’t do a lot to help him out.

“It’s tough enough to move the ball and score touchdowns when you’re doing things right, let alone having drops, getting penalized, just doing things to kick yourself in the foot.”

Conversely, Whittingham called his defense “assignment-sound,” but believes that side of the ball, especially up front, was beaten up physically and worn down as the second half wore on. The raw numbers bear that notion out as BYU rushed 46 times for 219 yards on what is typically a staunch Utes rushing defense that annually ranks at or near the top of the Pac-12 in that category.

Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall picked up 92 yards on just eight carries. Those figures included 61 yards on five carries on either third or fourth down.

As Whittingham said, not good enough.

“They did a great job of sticking to their game plan, not deviating and continuing to run the football, and softening us up and usually, we don’t soften,” Whittingham said. “It was very disappointing to see that we were pushed around in the second half. I can’t remember that ever happening.”

The Utes will next play San Diego State 115 miles north of San Diego in Carson, Calif. (Saturday at 5 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Bam Olaseni impresses as offensive line comes into focus

Whittingham said multiple times late in fall camp, and in the days leading up to the Sept. 2 opener vs. Weber State, that his offensive line is banged up, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Jaren Kump, who started all five games in 2020 at right tackle, made his season debut at left tackle vs. BYU, joining Braeden Daniels at left guard, two-time All-Pac-12 lineman Nick Ford at center, Sataoa Laumea, who also made his season debut vs. BYU, at right guard, and Simi Moala at right tackle.

Assuming continued health, those are the projected starters vs. San Diego State, if not beyond, but Whittingham singled out 6-foot-8, 330-pound senior Bam Olaseni for his continued positive production at left tackle.

“Even though he didn’t start, he came in and gave us really good reps,” Whittingham said. “He played some of his best football at left tackle.

“He played at a high level, so he earned the right to play. It’s all about practicing the right way and doing things correctly to gain your coaches’ trust and confidence. If he continues to do that, he’ll continue to get reps on Saturday.”

Paul Maile, who started the opener at right guard with Laumea unavailable, but did not play versus BYU, will continue to get a long look, as will Keaton Bills, who has played in both games at left guard in relief of Daniels.

Utah-Wazzu set for 12:30 p.m. kickoff

The Pac-12 on Monday morning released kickoff times for games on Sept. 25, with Washington State’s visit to Rice-Eccles Stadium set for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Pac-12 Networks.

Kicking off at 12:30 p.m. is on the early side for the Pac-12, which will have three games, Arizona at No. 4 Oregon, Oregon State at USC, and Colorado at No. 19 Arizona State, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. or later locally.

Accounting only for non-COVID seasons, a 12:30 p.m. kickoff represents the earliest Utah has played vs. a Pac-12 opponent since Nov. 17, 2018, an 11:30 a.m. start at Colorado. The last time Utah played a Pac-12 game this early at Rice-Eccles was Nov. 28, 2015, also against the Buffaloes.

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