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After toppling Arizona, Utes head into week 2
By Chris Bellamy Daily Utah Chronicle
Salt Lake City, UT (U-WIRE) -- With game one of the 2005 season in the books, the center-stage debuts of Kyle Whittingham and Brian Johnson are behind them, and now the Utah football team forges ahead to face an opponent it doesn't know much about.
This Saturday, the Utes will host Utah State, continuing a lengthy in-state rivalry with the Aggies, whose first game of the season, a home meeting with Nicholls State, was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina.
WEDDLE, BEARDALL EARN HONORS
While Quinton Ganther's 177 yards of total offense weren't enough to get him recognized by the Mountain West this week, a couple of his Ute teammates did earn conference honors.
Junior safety Eric Weddle was named the MWC's Defensive Player of the Week, while first-year kicker Dan Beardall was honored as the MWC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Weddle led all Ute defenders with 10 tackles Friday night. He also put some points on the scoreboard, running an interception back 24 yards for a touchdown to help Utah open up a 17-point lead. The honor was the first of Weddle's career.
The kicking game was considered one of the Utes' biggest unknowns entering this season, but Beardall passed his first test, connecting on all three of his PAT attempts and both of his field-goal tries, including a 45-yarder in the third quarter that marked the team's longest field goal since 2002.
"The kicking game was a question mark, and hopefully what we saw Friday night will be a sign of what's going to transpire the rest of the season," Whittingham said. "Beardall did a nice job. He hit two crucial field goals for us."
NO TOP 25 LOVE FOR UTES
The Utes' 27-24 win over Arizona didn't change the views of the national media, as the team failed to break the top 25 despite extending the second-longest winning streak in the nation to 17 games.
Utah instead dropped a spot in both polls.
The Utes themselves, however, aren't too concerned about it.
"That's irrelevant at this point. It's neither here nor there," Whittingham said. "We don't pay much attention to that, especially this time of year."
Johnson agreed. "It doesn't matter to us right now. We know what we can do as a team. We got a victory," he said. "We really can't worry about what the national media thinks of us right now. It's only week two."
This week, both The Associated Press and USA Today polls feature plenty of new faces in their respective top 25 polls, including new MWC foe TCU, which upset No. 7 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., over the weekend. The Horned Frogs jumped to No. 22 in the AP poll.
PLAYING TIME STILL UP FOR GRABS
Freshman wideout Brent Casteel shined in his Utah debut, scoring on a 59-yard run and catching three passes for 31 yards. It's that type of performance, coach Whittingham said, that will get players more playing time.
"If he keeps making plays, he'll play more," Whittingham said. "He's gotta put it on tape and earn his reps. If he keeps producing, then his reps will go up. It's all about production."
The Utes still have quite a competition going at middle linebacker, where sophomore Joe Jiannoni will push expected starter, Grady Marshall.
While Whittingham still lists the two as co-starters in the middle, he expects Jiannoni to get the start this weekend.
"They're still both No. 1 and 1-A, but Joe will probably get the start this week. Nothing's for certain, but he'll probably start," Whittingham said. "They're so close. They split reps in the game, and they'll probably do the same thing this week."
(C) 2004 Daily Utah Chronicle via U-WIRE
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