Thursday, September 8, 2011

Former BYU Running Back Talks About Playing at Texas

For the second time in school history, the Brigham Young Cougars will play the Texas Longhorns in their home stadium. The first time it happened was 1987. BYU came out victorious, 22-17. Fred Whittingham was a running back on the 1987 Cougar squad. BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL recently caught up with him and talked about his experience playing in Austin.

Q. What was the game day atmosphere like in Austin?

FW: It was cool to go there. The campus was beautiful. There was so much history and tradition. The Texas program was down at the time, but it was still really exciting to play in Austin. We walked around campus the day before. There was a great crowd at the game. They were knowledgeable about college football, and they were not verbally abusive.

Q. How was it different from other road games?

FW: Going to an opponents stadium and seeing lots of fans was a difference. We were used to playing in front of lots of fans at home, but other WAC stadiums were a lot smaller. To go to that big stadium in Austin and see it full of burnt orange, see Bevo, and just think about all the tradition. Texas was such a big name program compared to those we played week to week.

Q. Was the tradition and the crowd intimidating?

FW: We were not intimidated. They were kind of down. One cool thing was playing against Eric Metcalf. His dad had played in the NFL, and they tried to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.

Q. How can BYU neutralize the home crowd on Saturday?

FW: I imagine some Texas fans will be on edge since they weren’t very good last year. It doesn’t seem like they are settled on a quarterback. They are predicted to finish fifth in the Big XII. I don’t expect them to be as good as they have traditionally been, similar to when we played them. BYU just needs to go and play their game. BYU is pretty good. They have talent and depth. I think they should beat them. BYU is not an underdog. If BYU will put some scores on the board it will silence the stadium.

Q. Was Texas the toughest road game of your career?

FW: No, playing against Miami in the Orange Bowl (1988). The Hurricanes were full of NFL talent and speed.

Q. Texas has more speed and talent than BYU. How does BYU neutralize that?

FW: BYU has done that well for 30-40 years. BYU has had talented NFL players, but they still need to focus on execution and doing there assignments: play smart, pick up the blitz, read the defense. BYU’s strategy is dependent on that. The mentality the last 30-40 years has been that if you execute, then you don’t have to have faster players to win. No one on the ’87 team was close to being as fast as Metcalf. He had some nice runs, but ultimately you had a defense that played assignment sound and they overcame the superstars.

Texas has a great recruiting ground. They don’t have to leave the state to get 85 of the best high school football players available. However, they have not done a good job of identifying quarterback talent. They have lots of athletic receivers and defensive backs, but the game is so dependent on quarterback play.

Q. What will BYU need to do to win?

FW: BYU will need to play good special teams. Punt and kickoff returns can bring big momentum changes. It will depends on how much man coverage Texas plays. If I was a defensive coordinator and I was playing BYU, I would put on blitz pressure and go with my corners and have no free safety. I would bring a lot of pressure and see if my corners can be better athletes than their receivers. One thing that remains to be seen, though, is how much Brandon Doman will use the running backs.

View Fred Whittingham's Past Player Profile to learn more about his playing career and what his life is like now.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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