Sophomore James Poole has been tabbed as Utah’s starting running back after his solid performances this season.
But he doesn’t relish the recognition the elevated role brings as much as he does the prospect of doing damage to the BYU defense Saturday.
The Nevada product is a likable guy with an easygoing smile and soft-spoken manner, but it turns out he has a bit of a devilish side, too.
“I’m glad it’s at their house,” he said. “I like to pull off big games and wins at somebody’s house. It hurts a little bit more to lose at home. We know that from experience, losing to Oregon State. It hurts.”
While senior Kelvin York is more of a bruising back, Poole is a little more versatile, as witnessed in his 117 yards rushing and 70 yards receiving in the loss to the Beavers.
Getting so much work has given him some confidence too, as well as a sense of more responsibility, Poole said.
“I know now when we have a slow start like that, I am a part of that,” he said. “I want to make sure we have a good start for ourselves because we can’t allow that to happen again.”
With BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley suspended for Saturday’s game, there is a good chance Utah tight end Jake Murphy could play an even larger role than he normally does for the Utes since it’s likely Utah will try to take advantage of Hadley’s absence.
“I feel like being at the tight end, we can make some plays,” Murphy said. “And the main thing is to not worry whatever the game plan is and stay zoned in on my blocking. If I am asked to catch passes, I will do that. But there is always a chance to make plays.”
Murphy, who has six catches for 112 yards this season, once was headed to BYU. He said the rivalry game always is a big one for his family, and he knows BYU fans will remember he switched allegiance to the Utes.
“I will hear it a bit from BYU fans,” he said. “That is how football is, how sports is. It is a fun atmosphere down there and should be a fun game.”
No future plans
There has been a lot of talk about there being more emphasis on this game since the two teams are taking a two-year break, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has dismissed that talk.
“Two years is an eternity in football, and it’s actually three calendar years,” he said. “Check back with me then, if I am still alive.”