Ute football: Utes refuse to fall into trap

Published September 28, 2008 3:11 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With a Thursday night game looming against a team that just upset the top-ranked program in the country, it would have been so easy for the No. 17 Utah Utes (5-0) to overlook Weber State (3-2) Saturday and do what they've done so frequently in the past - lose a game they shouldn't.

In that respect, Utah's focus on Saturday could be considered more impressive and meaningful than the final score of their 37-21 win over the Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes have said all season this was a more mature and better focused team than in recent years and they've proved it by avoiding letdowns. Nearly halfway through the season, there has been no UNLV of 2007, no New Mexico of 2006 and no San Diego State of 2005 for the Utes.

Saturday's contest against the Wildcats certainly could have been one of those, with the Wildcats motivated by coach Ron McBride's first return to Rice-Eccles Stadium since he was fired as the Utes' coach in 2002 and the Utes possibly looking ahead to Oregon State (2-2) Thursday.

Instead, the Utes came out and took care of business. That is something few teams did on the busiest upset Saturday of the season. Of the 15 matchups that featured teams ranked in the Top 25, six higher-ranked teams were upset.

"There were a lot of letdowns we saw today," Utah running back Darrell Mack said. "Florida, Wisconsin, USC on Thursday; we didn't want to be in that situation as those teams. They were a good lesson for us."

The Utes knew Oregon State's upset over USC on Thursday would make their game against the Beavers a higher-profile event, but only if they played well enough to not be upset themselves.

The Utes did so by taking a 34-7 lead behind an offense that was more consistent than in past games. Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was 18-for-22 for 194 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Unfortunately the Utes still had trouble finishing drives and had to settle for three field goals by Louie Sakoda. His third, a 38-yarder, gave him 238 points, making him the school's leading scorer.

The Utes can't afford to have similar stalls against Oregon State, Johnson hinted.

"We obviously don't feel like we lost, but we didn't play to our capabilities," Johnson said. "We only get 12, 13 chances and we want to make the most of every one. We want to come out and play well and come out and do our job on Thursday night."

Well, at least the Utes always have their defense to rely upon, at least the first team anyway.

The Utes held Weber State to just two first downs and 25 yards of total offense in the second quarter. Utah's second stringers gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Overall, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was an average performance by the Utes, but he wasn't going to spend too much time dissecting it, not with Oregon State coming to town.

"You'd like to play great every week, every team in the country would like to play great every week but no team does," he said. "We certainly would have liked to have played better, but we're five games in and 5-0. This game is behind us now."


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