Yesterday afternoon, I got to talk with Utes starting LB Matt Martinez about the UNLV game and the defensive unity. After talking to Matt, I am completely sold that the Utes “D” is one of the best in the nation. Here’s the interview in Q&A format.
DC- Matt, heck of a game yesterday. How ya feeling about it?
MM- I’m feelin’ great! It was a good win man we uh, we’re excited about it. We wanna win any way we can you know?
DC- Oh absolutely. The defense was outstanding. Both UNLV’s scores came from special teams. What was the game plan in pitching the defensive shutout yesterday?
MM- Uh, I mean, we just go into every game thinking that we don’t want to let ‘em have any big yardage or chunks of yards. I gotta give the credit to my D-Linemen holding UNLV’s O-Line. When their O-Linemen don’t come up on us, we’re able to make those tackles so I mean that’s pretty much what it is. Our secondary played great. Just a well executed game.
DC- Well, you know you’re solid when you’re runnin’ 11 deep on your Defensive Line
MM- (laughs) exactly
DC- Well, like you said, you didn’t want to give up anything long. UNLV was running the short slant pattern like their life depended on it. Is that kinda what you were expecting out of them?
MM- We didn’t know because uh, going into film we saw them play a lot of run and draw against Wisconsin, trying to open up the middle but we didn’t expect to see them run it up the middle after we pretty much shut the run down against Pitt. So they had the short passes and their Quarterback did a great job getting away from our pressure, which we need to get better on but yeah, it came around to that’s what they did so…
DC- Well, it was definitely a dominant performance from the line backing core. You, Chaz (Walker) and Chad (Manis) finished 1, 2, and 3 in tackles on the day so that’s always good to see.
MM- Yeah it was fun
DC- Well, a lot of people didn’t know what to expect from the Utes line backing this season with all of you being first year starters and Nai Fotu going out for the season, but you, Chaz and Chad have been playing together going all the way back to ’08 so is your chemistry just through the roof?
MM- Yeah. That’s exactly the word to describe it. Um, our chemistry’s great. Down the line through our 1’s, 2’s and 3’s [LB depth chart] we just have a great chemistry. It’s not ‘Who’s a starter? Who’s not a starter?’ we all just play great together. And not just in the line backing core, it’s the defense as a whole, as well as team chemistry. We’re not selfish by any means at all. We just play great together and we have fun.
DC- That’s Whittingham defense for sure. And Coach Sitake (defensive coordinator) has done a great job with you guys this year. I’ve got a little bit of a tough question for ya. If you had to pick one, would you say you’re more of a coverage guy or a hard hitter?
MM- Oh, (laughs) I don’t know I’m probably more of a hard hitter. Not to take anything away, I’m ok at covering but I can do better at both so, I guess if I had to pick.
DC- Next week you guys go down to New Mexico. Is there anything that you want to clean up specifically before then defensively?
MM- Yeah our pass rush needs to hit. Especially myself. I need to get off blocks and we need to pressure the Quarterback more, make him panic and get rid of the ball. I guess with UNLV we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to. We had a lot of guys back there but somehow the Quarterback got away. That’s pretty much what we wanna clean up and again, we wanna trim down to as little yards as they can get so…
DC- Well I’m looking forward to it. Matt, thanks so much for your time man. Keep up the good work and hopefully I can call on ya again later in the season.
MM- Well thanks. Appreciate it buddy.
The Utes are now 2-0 (1-0) and have jumped to #14 in both the AP and Coaches polls (highest ranking ever for the Utes after week 2). The Utes travel to face in-conference foe New Mexico. Somehow, I’m not incredibly concerned about the outcome here but hey, in ’08 we sneaked by 13-10 so you never know.