Utah trying for first 9-0 start in school history
Nov. 5, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
SALT LAKE CITY -- Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick is impressed with what former Rams assistant Urban Meyer has done in just two years at Utah.
The No. 7 Utes are one win away from the best start in school history and three victories away from a perfect regular season. Next up are Lubick's Rams on Saturday.
"Since I've been here, I think this Utah team probably is as good as any of them," Lubick said of the conference teams he's seen in 11-plus years at Colorado State.
Utah (8-0, 4-0 Mountain West) is trying for the first 9-0 start in school history. The Utes have opened the season with eight consecutive wins twice, most recently 10 years ago. And if that isn't distracting enough, there is also the rampant speculation that Florida may be interested in hiring Meyer, Utah's Bowl Championship Series standing and quarterback Alex Smith's Heisman Trophy candidacy.
Yet none of it seems to faze the Utes.
"I'm glad to say this. There's nothing phony about (Smith), me, the staff, the team. It's one of the most unselfish programs I've ever been around," said Meyer, who has refused to comment on the Florida job since Ron Zook's firing was announced last Monday.
The Utes have maintained they don't closely follow the BCS list, which could put them in one of the top four bowls when the season ends. Utah has been at No. 6 the last two weeks, although No. 4 California and No. 5 Wisconsin both jumped ahead of the Utes, who beat San Diego State 51-28 last week.
It was a reminder that teams from larger conferences have a chance to pass up the lesser-known Utes, even if they keep winning.
"We could care less about the BCS. We have no control over it. All we have control over is winning games. That's all coach Meyer expresses to us," defensive back Eric Weddle said. "If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."
Smith learned this week that he officially is a semifinalist for the Heisman, which has never gone to a Ute. Smith is third nationally in passing, completing 131 of 203 passes for 1,905 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has also run for eight touchdowns.
"What makes them so good is their quarterback (Alex Smith) is very fluid and just very composed. Not only can he run the ball, he is very smooth in running it and makes people miss," Lubick said. "He reminds you of a nice sleek halfback. But then he also has the real poise to sit back there and is a very accurate thrower."
Smith shrugs off Heisman questions. He's still a little bit baffled by all the attention he's been getting and tries not to focus on the early Heisman lists.
"If I'm out there thinking about the Heisman on Saturday, that's going to be bad for me and this team. The bottom line is to win," Smith said. "If you think about it, of the 15 guys on that list, I doubt any one of them is on a losing team. Winning is all that matters."
Utah edged Colorado State on the road last year, 28-21, on an 80-yard fumble return with 1:33 remaining. It broke a five-game losing streak against the Rams and was especially nice for Meyer, who was an assistant to Lubick from 1990-95.
The Rams (3-5, 2-2) were the preseason pick to finish second to Utah in the MWC, but have struggled this season. Starting quarterback Justin Holland broke his leg Oct. 16 against San Diego State, leaving the offense in the hands of freshman Caleb Hanie.
Hanie completed 20 of 36 passes for 285 yards last week, but the Rams still lost at home to New Mexico. He also gets the start against a team trying to become the first from a non-BCS conference to play in the Fiesta, Rose, Orange or Sugar bowl during the BCS era.
Lubick said he wants the Rams to think of the Utes more as an MWC opponent than a BCS contender.
"Like it's New Mexico, like it's Wyoming," Lubick said. "We want to win this game as badly as any game we'd played. We want to win it as badly as we can. We don't think about (other) things."