Utes motivated by being 16-point underdogs

Published November 9, 2009 9:16 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The No. 16 Utah Utes admit they were quite surprised when they saw the polls and BCS standings Sunday.

They figured after their solid win over New Mexico, plus several upsets and close wins in the teams ranked ahead of them that they'd move up. They never anticipated they'd moved down from No. 14 to No. 16 in the BCS standings.

"I was dumbfounded by it," backup running back Sausan Shakerin said.

Now he and the rest of the Utes are motivated by the perceived slights. Seeing they are 16-point underdogs has only made them more eager to face the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.

"When I heard about it, it makes you mad," corner Brandon Burton said. "We have to channel that into playing hard and playing good."

The last time the Utes were such big underdogs was the Sugar Bowl, when No. 4 Alabama was favored by nine points over the No. 7 Utes and was stunned, 31-17.

Just as he did then, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he didn't pay attention to the rankings and polls, but he didn't deny they could be used as motivation either.

"Whether I cared a great deal about it or not wouldn't have any bearing," he said. "All we do is try to win the next game and get that MWC title and that is a big step in that direction this week."

Eliapo sidelined again

Utah defensive lineman Kenape Eliapo , who missed the Air Force and New Mexico games because of an eye ailment, won't play Saturday against TCU and could be done for the year, Whittingham said.

The Utes aren't releasing many details about the illness. They aren't sure exactly what it is and tests are still being done on the senior, Whittingham said.

"It's interrelated, several things," he said. "We don't have a determination of what it is but he definitely won't play this week and might not the rest of the season."

Eliapo has 16 tackles and a fumble recovery in his seven games.

Expected to fill his spot at nose tackle is freshman Dave Kruger , who started Saturday and had just one tackle.

Injury report

Backup linebacker Matt Martinez is out two-to-three weeks with a quad strain. Otherwise, the Utes should be close to full strength for the Horned Frogs.

"Everything from the game on Saturday is minor, nothing that should cause anybody to miss the game," Whittingham said.

Rare sellout

Saturday's game is a sellout, making it the first for TCU since the 2006 game against Texas Tech sold out. This season, the Horned Frogs are averaging 34,269 fans in Amon G. Carter stadium, which has a capacity of 44,358.

Only Air Force, with an enrollment of 4,400, has a smaller student body than TCU (8,865) of the MWC schools.

ESPN's "College GameDay" will broadcast from Fort Worth.

The last time the Utes played a game in which the popular show was present was in 2004 when it broadcast from Rice-Eccles Stadium prior to Utah's 52-21 win over BYU.

lwodraska@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">lwodraska@sltrib.com

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