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December 31, 2018

Kyle Whittingham

Jason Shelley

Francis Bernard

Cody Barton

Jaylen Dixon

San Diego, California

Northwestern 31, Utah 20

THE MODERATOR: We're going to do players first, followed by Coach Whittingham.

Q. After everything went so well in the first half, what changed for you guys?
JASON SHELLEY: We just lacked ball security the third quarter. We had way too many turnovers. Pretty much cost us the game.

Q. Jaylen, talk about the third quarter, seemed like everything snowballed.
JAYLEN DIXON: Like, we had it, doing good the whole game. Just that one play, I had the ball in my hands. Just with it being so wet and slippery out there, I'm not going to say that was the main cause of it, but that was for sure part of it. Just slipped out, so... Just got to be better.

Q. Cody, the turnovers on the offensive side made it a little difficult for you guys. How hard is that, knowing you have to keep coming out and defend something like that?
CODY BARTON: You know, that's adversity we have to face. We kind of smile in the face of adversity. It was a shame when we were going out there, we weren't making plays either.

Yeah, they got turnovers. As far as our defense, we have to make turnovers, as well. It was unfortunate we weren't able to make turnovers, but they were.

Q. Talk about what it was like coming into this game, you didn't have a lot of your starters. What was your emotional state?
CODY BARTON: Emotionally we were hyped up, juiced. We wanted to play this game. We wanted to show those East Coast boys what we're about.

First half, we were great. That's our emotions, what we've been doing in the last three weeks for bowl prep. We showed what we were like in the first half. The second half, we kind of just shit the bed. Offense was making plays, defense was making plays.

Football goes that way sometimes. We were on the short end of the stick.

Q. Cody, as a senior, this was obviously not the way you wanted it to end. What are the emotions of this?
CODY BARTON: Of course, I didn't want to end this way. Emotionally I'm down. Losing sucks, it's a bitter taste. But looking back on my career, I've learned a lot through the ups and downs. I've had a great senior season. Nothing to hang my head about. No one on this team should hang their head. You learn from experiences like this, win or lose.

With that being said, I'm going to enjoy this with my teammates one last time, savor this moment.

Q. Jason, things were going well in the first half. Second half the ball got slippery. Talk about kind of a tale of two halves.
JASON SHELLEY: Yeah, that's why you got to play 60 minutes. We had a good 30, first 30, then a very sloppy 30 in the second half. We just got to put two halves together. Once we do that, we'll be hard to beat.

Q. Francis, there were so many stops, three-and-outs in the first half, so hard to get those in the third quarter.
FRANCIS BERNARD: It was a game of momentum. Obviously they had more turnovers than us. They had those turnovers, the momentum kind of shifted. As soon as they got that, it kind of killed our morale. That's the way the game goes sometimes.

Q. Cody, what did the Northwestern players do out there to earn your respect?
CODY BARTON: They just kept playing hard. We knew that going into this game. You can see on film, even when they're losing, they always play hard. That's kudos to their coaches as well. They're coached well. They don't give up.

You have to respect a team that doesn't give up, you know what I mean?

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.

KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I've been coaching a long time, and I don't think I've ever been part of a quarter quite like that third quarter. Had complete control of the game coming in at halftime, 20-3. Came out in the second half and proceeded to turn the ball over five times. Can't win turning the ball over six times total, six turnovers.

Two biggest factors in the game, the six turnovers and our inability to run the football. For whatever reason, we couldn't get anything going in the run game, no consistency, no movement on their front. They did a great job, credit them. There was no real halftime adjustments, anything like that, we just turned the ball over five times. You cannot do that. That's the short version of what transpired.

Shame our seniors, who accomplished so much this year, did such a good job this year, that team accomplished so much, to end on a sour note like that. But you judge the body of work as a whole. You don't judge the season on one game. It's a 9-5 season. They won the South. So a lot of positives.

We certainly let that game get away from us. Credit Northwestern, like I said, doing a great job, hanging in there, coming out in the second half and creating those take-aways, capitalizing on them. Got into a little bit of a funk on defense in the second half where we didn't do a good job defending.

Overall, the defensive performance, not bad numbers, a little over 300 yards we gave up. Only had one take-away, though. When you're minus five, which was the net result, you're going to win almost never.

So questions.

Q. Talk about Shelley's performance.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Looked good early. Jason was doing a good job, taking care of the football. We did have the one fumble in the first half. Then the second half we just, for whatever reason, weren't as sharp. That's an understatement, saying we weren't as sharp in the second half.

Jason struggled at times like everyone else did on offense at times.

Q. Why do you think the defense, so many three-and-outs in the first half, couldn't get off the field in the third quarter?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: First of all, when you keep turning the ball over, the momentum is a funny thing in football, not a funny thing, but a powerful thing. They got momentum there. It was like a landslide. We couldn't get it heading the other direction.

They did some nice things with their scheme, a little pin and pull scheme on the zone plays, the stretch plays, which was nothing new. We practiced it for the last four weeks. It was nothing we haven't seen. But they executed that very well. More so in the second half. We went to an odd front, kind of stopped that. That turned things back in our favor in the run game.

But like I said, we just kept turning the ball over in succession. Defense got on their heels a little bit. Northwestern did a great job with capitalizing on those take-aways.

Q. You mentioned you couldn't get much of a run day. Couldn't in the Pac-12 title game either. Two things tied together or different circumstances?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: No one's really ran the football real well in Washington, going back to the title game. They're outstanding up front, the front seven. That is concerning. The last two games of the season, we weren't able to get much run game generated. Something that we got to go to work on in the off-season.

I'm a firm believer you don't have to run the ball for 300 yards a game, but you got to run it efficiently. We didn't in either of those last two ball games.

Q. When did you know Tyler and Chase would not be available?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Chase was just a matter of could he heal fast enough. It got really bleak the last four or five days, four or five days out from the game. He wasn't making much progress. He's such a tough kid. He's made miraculous recoveries in the past, playing when no one else probably could have done it. Four, five days as we got out from the game, it looked really bleak.

Tyler wasn't able to be clear, wasn't clear at his last x-ray spot, which was a week ago or so, maybe 10 days. He's lost some weight in this whole thing. He can't lift. It wasn't the right thing to do, to play him tonight, subject him to reinjury or something like that.

Q. Talk about the 86-yard fumble recovery.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: That was awful. Strip sack. Got to get the ball out. That was an RPO. You can't hold onto the ball with an RPO, got to get it out, throw it away, do something. They did a nice job of stripping it. We didn't have the ball put away. The ball was loose. Scooped it up, went the distance.

Like I said, everything in that second half was like a nightmare. One thing after another. As I said, I can't remember that ever in the 25 years. We've had some games where we didn't play very well, but when we're controlling the game at halftime, we win about 98% of those. Didn't do it tonight.

Q. With this game in context, maybe even the Pac-12 championship game, is this something that will kind of lead you into finding a new offensive coordinator? How close are you to maybe finding a new offensive coordinator?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Well, I've been working through it, reaching out, cyphering through all the interest that's come in through the various mediums. Haven't had a chance to really completely turn my 100% attention to it. That's what will happen now obviously with the bowl over with, the dead period in recruiting that's going to extend another 10 days or so. Full attention to that.

As far as a timeline, it would be ideal to have the guy in place by January 6th, the Sunday before we come back for school, when we have a team meeting. If we haven't got the right guy by then, I'm not going to hold myself to that date. That would be ideal.

The most important thing is getting the right guy, not the timing of it, but making sure we get the right guy. The same thing with the linebacker position, which could be a safety position, could bring a safety guy in.

Q. We've seen a lot of quotes from your players over the years about not wanting to be the team that saw this lengthy streak winning bowl games be snapped. Tell us about the feel in the locker room.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, disappointment. I guess nothing lasts forever. We've had a terrific run the last 15 years in bowl play. Just didn't get it done this year. I think the important thing here is understand that you judge the season, again, in its entirety. You don't judge it in segments. You look at the whole season, decide what you did well, what you got to work on.

Without question, this was a big step forward for our program this year. As disappointing as this game was tonight, when you look at the body of work, we took a step forward. We can line up and play with anybody in the Pac-12. Took us eight years to get to this point.

Q. How many of these turnovers do you think were really good plays by Northwestern? How many do you think were mistakes by the Utes?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Ball security wasn't good on our part. Of the six, I don't know, probably half were on us, half the good job by them.

I got to look at the film, as well. I'm looking at the board, trying to see the replays as best I can. But you just got to do a better job securing the football. We had an interception, deflected off our hands. Like I said, the floodgates opened. It was like getting just buried.

Anyway, does that answer your question? Probably not. Sorry about that.



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