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January 2, 2009

Brian Johnson

Paul Kruger

Kyle Whittingham


Utah – 31
Alabama - 17

THE MODERATOR: At this time, we'll begin the Utah post-game press conference. As you see, we have been joined by head Coach Kyle Whittingham and Paul Kruger and Brian Johnson. Starting with Coach Whittingham, if you will provide a few comments and we will open the floor for your questions.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: What a fitting end to a great football season for our guys.
The first thing I would like to make sure we say is, you know, give the Alabama football team, a tremendous football team. Well-coached, disciplined, physical. Just a tremendous team. They were well-deserving of their number one ranking for just about half the season. And we had a lot of respect for them and what they are doing there, what Coach Saban is doing there.
As far as our guys, I could not be prouder of a group of individuals as I am of this football team. You know, college football is about players. I've said that ad nauseam. And, you know, that's what it's all about. And these guys here and the rest of those guys in that locker room made this a special year.
And, you know, we did the things we had to do in this game to win. We felt going in, in order to win, defensively, we had to stop the run, which we were able to do, and limit the big plays up the field, which we were able to do offensively and have a high completion percentage, move the chains and not turn the ball over. And, you know, other than the one turnover, we did a good job of that.
We had a plan going in, and these guys executed the plan very well and came away with the victory.

Q. This is a question for Coach Kyle and Paul really. Nobody has been able to stop Alabama's running game all season. Why do you guys think you were able to stop them tonight? Their two touchdowns really came off a special teams and a turnover.
PAUL KRUGER: It was a combination of things. I mean, we were prepared more than we ever could have been this game. Our coaches did a great job of putting together a tremendous game plan, and guys came through and made the plays that it took to be successful in that way.
We were so focused on stopping the run, I think we did that early on. It provided us opportunities to, you know, blitz a little bit more and get a pass-rush. And so, you know, it was an awesome day all around. But I think it just came down to, you know, a great scheme and guys coming up with big plays.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Just to continue with what Paul said, exactly right. I thought they executed the plan really well. We knew we had to put eight or nine guys in the box. We had a whole assortment of run blitzes that we had in the plan for this game and just executed them very well.

Q. This question is for Brian mostly. Can you talk just a little bit about the fast start and how you guys knew you needed to get off to a fast start and how you utilized the two-minute offense?
BRIAN JOHNSON: We jumped on them early, and the coaches kind of gave me the option to jump in the two-minute the last couple of weeks and just kind of go with it and play fast. So we thought that we matched up well with them on the perimeter, and we took advantage of some match-ups, and the guys did an unbelievable job up front, giving me a lot of time to make some decisions. The wideouts made plays on the perimeter.
It was awesome, especially starting out that fast and going up 21-0. And Coach Whit had talked about it a little bit in the game, there might be a point we had to weather some adversity and we might jump out 21-0. Who knows.
It was a situation where we got a fast start, got the touchdown, and definitely had the momentum in our favor in the first quarter.

Q. Is that the first time you used a no-huddle to begin on your opening series this season?
BRIAN JOHNSON: No, we used it in the BYU game and actually ended up having to punt, though. We jumped into it a couple of different times this season, you know. But they just kind of lined up and basic vanilla looks when we spread them out, and we were able to exploit them. So it definitely worked out in our favor.

Q. Could you tell they weren't even lined up that first drive?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, we caught them not lined up on the touchdown pass, you know. They were trying to signal in the defense still. And, you know, two-minute is something we practiced a ton, and the no-huddle is something we practiced a ton. So it's great to have veteran wide receivers that understand what we're doing, and we just kind of line up and take that drill over.

Q. Even if you executed it perfectly, did you expect to be up 21-0 that quickly?
BRIAN JOHNSON: No. I thought we had a chance, you know, to come out and play well offensively. The more and more tape that we watched over the last, you know, 38 days since we know we were going to play, or whatever it was, the more and more confident we got with our scheme and what they were doing defensively. So I think we had a great bead for them defensively, and we executed at a high level tonight.

Q. Kyle, how much did the Saban quote as far as only being the real team to finish undefeated in the BCS as far as the regular season, how much did that play into your motivation for getting these guys going?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Really not at all, at least not from my standpoint. Like I've said in the past, our guys are not oblivious to what is out there. They read things, they hear things. You have to ask them if it added any extra fuel to the fire.
But I never made a point of that. Coaches say things at times, you know, that maybe they don't - I don't know how to say this - but we didn't do a lot with that at all. Maybe the players, you know, fed off that. But certainly that wasn't, you know, due to my presenting it to them.

Q. And then how did this team compare to the other teams that you played in the Mountain West?

Q. How did Alabama compare to the quality teams you played in the Mountain West.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Very good football team. Defensively comparable to TCU. That was the comparison that we felt was the most similar going in, and that proved to be the capes as far as speed, size, just the sheer quality of the defense.
Offensively, maybe Oregon State, and that's not the Mountain West Conference, I understand that, but just looking at teams we played this year, probably Oregon State had a similar type of offensive attack.

Q. The two players, if you guys can answer this for me. He kind of asked it of the coach. But did it have any motivation personally for you to prove them wrong that Coach Saban talked about 12-0 in a BCS, a real conference? Did you think about that at all? Was that brought up in meetings at all?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, you know, I know from my perspective, I was angry. I thought, you know, not just because of what Coach Saban said, but everything that was out there, us being ten-and-a-half-point underdogs, and watching ESPN and everybody was saying how big and strong they were. It felt like we were being completely disrespected. Everybody making the Hawaii and Georgia comparisons from last year's Sugar Bowl. It made me angry. And I got a chance to go out there and play with that chip on our shoulder. And I think it was something we strive [sic] on as a team and it was something the entire team kind of fed of individually and collectively, was the fact that nobody gave us a shot, and the only people that mattered were the people in the white jerseys.
We knew we had a chance to win this football game, and we thought we were a pretty good team. So it was very exciting to go out there and play the way we did tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Paul, did you want to take a stab at that?
PAUL KRUGER: Yeah, same thing. Just, I mean, overall the underdog feeling. You just want to come out there and fight and be aggressive and show everybody who was watching the game that we deserved to be here and we can compete with any team. So it was an overall feeling.

Q. Kyle, after this game, what more do you think possibly needs to happen for an undefeated non-BCS team to get consideration for the national title?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, that's a good question. I think I've been asked that question before. And I think that, number one, I believe you've got to be fairly highly ranked going into the season. You have got to be in that top 15 or at least the top 18, get a start on it, a head start on it, in that respect. Of course, you have to run the table. I don't think that it can happen any other way. And then you have got to get a lot of help from outside, external things that you have no control over.
So the way things are structured right now, I think that is probably the formula: start out highly ranked, run the table, and get a little bit of help along the way.

Q. I am sure you have better things to do than sit around and worry about things that aren't in your control like that. But how much would it mean to you and how much do you think your team deserves that consideration?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, I don't know why they wouldn't deserve that consideration. Somebody has to explain to me why they wouldn't. There is only one undefeated team in the United States of America right now in Division I football, and it's these guys right here. All you can do is go out and beat the people that are on your schedule, beat the people you play against, take care of your business and do what you can do, and that's about all you can do. All the other things are beyond your control.

Q. Brian, where would you rank yourselves in your final poll?
BRIAN JOHNSON: Number one. You know, what else do we have to prove? I mean, our strength of schedule going into this game was actually higher than Alabama's, and we beat Alabama by more than Florida did.
So you can call it a neutral field, but that was clearly an advantage for Alabama. They had way more fans than we did.
And the resume's in itself. I think people get caught up in looking at the athletes and the glamor of a name that a program carries. But that's the reason why you play the game. The game is played on the field by players. And, you know, people take this stuff personally. And I know this team, you know, it is a blue-collar team, we work for what we get, and this is something we wanted really bad.
So I think we deserve it, and I definitely think, without question, we are one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the country.

Q. Paul, can you talk about what you expect leading into next year.
PAUL KRUGER: The same thing. I don't think our mindset or preparation has changed, you know, in any way through the course of the whole season. This is a program where we work hard, and, you know, we have a family-type environment at the University of Utah. Salt Lake is behind us every step of the way.
So it's a bunch of guys that work hard, a bunch of coaches that love their players and support them in not only football but with their families and academically.
You couldn't choose a better place to go to school. But as far as next year, it's not really going to change at all, it's going to be the same.
Coach Whit calls it 'the process', and what the process is, and that's just working hard and coming to work every day and doing what it takes to be champions.

Q. Coach, go back to the beginning of the game. How big were those two little breaks in setting the tone for the football game tonight?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: During the course of the football game, you are usually going to have five, six, seven plays that are momentum-type changing plays, and you have to make them. It's no accident we covered that muffed punt. We got the guy hustling down right there to make the recovery. R.J. Rice, I think it was, who was right there on the spot, due to great hustle. And then, you know, the offense, you know, capitalizing on field position and the situations early in the game.
And again, I think you can really look at most football games that are played, and there are those five, six, seven momentum-type plays. And the team that makes the majority of those plays most often will win that game.

Q. Coach, you have a lot of guys coming back next season. One of the guys up don't have coming back is the guy sitting to your left there. Talk a little bit about what Brian's legacy will be at the University of Utah.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Brian Johnson has meant everything to this football team. He is our team leader. That was never in question. From the time when he took over, back in '05 when Alex graduated and Brian was our quarterback. And not only is he a great athlete, but he has all those intangibles that you look for in a quarterback: the leadership, the field presence, the intelligence, all of those things if you could design the perfect quarterback, Brian possesses those.
And he has meant a ton to our team. He is the winningest quarterback in Utah football history. And in my opinion, that is the single most important barometer to rate a quarterback, is his win-loss record. And Brian Johnson has won more at Utah than anybody. That is not to discredit or discount Alex Smith. There have been some great players that have come through there. But the bottom line is nobody has won more football games for the university than Brian has.

Q. You finally got a chance to see what the Utah turnout would be. Would you talk about the way your fans traveled.
COACH WHITTINGHAM: I think they traveled very well. In the economic climate that we are in right now and the logistics of the game, it wasn't an easy game to get to. I am very pleased with the turnout. As pleased as we were with the fans that turned out, even more pleased with the way they supported and reacted. There was maybe, what, 15,000, 20,000 Utah fans, but it seemed like 30 or 40 because of the way they handled themselves and the emotion and the passion that they had.
We talked about football teams having passion and emotion. I think our fans did, and all season long. We averaged more than a sell-out for the home schedule. What more can you say? Those guys are behind this team. It was great to see them in the stadium tonight. And, again, in spite of -- one guy told me he had to refinance his house to get here. That type of commitment and that type of sacrifice is what a lot of those people made to get here and watch this football team play. And I guarantee you there is not one of them that regret it.

Q. Coach, so if your old buddy Urban Meyer takes down Oklahoma, no cameras, Balboa, Apollo Creed style? Both teams meet up somewhere undisclosed location?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: You tell us where to be and when to be there, and we will be there. I can tell you that. Those are two great football teams. Those are two football teams that deserve to be where they are.
Again, it is very difficult to go undefeated in this day and age. As like I said, we are the only ones standing right now that have an unblemished record. It is what it is. But we think that we're a pretty good football team.

Q. Coach, where would you put your team on your poll?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: You know what? If I can, you know, first of all I have to see how things play out. You have to watch the championship game and so forth. And we have the Fiesta Bowl left, and so there are some things to look at.
But as I sit here right now, why wouldn't you be number one in the country? You tell me. Somebody out there has to tell me why you wouldn't. Like Brian said, our strength of schedule is very good. All you can do is beat who you played, and that's what we did each and every week for 13 straight games.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.

End of FastScripts

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