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  • Utah trying for first 9-0 start in school history

    Nov. 5, 2004 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."

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Oklahoma awaits Iowa State or Colorado
    by DJRamFan
    By Jacob Brown Daily Texan
    Austin, TX (U-WIRE) -- It's not surprising the Big 12 North Championship depends on what happens in this weekend's games. What is surprising, though, are the two teams who still have a chance to win the division.

    Either Colorado or Iowa State, both picked to finish near the bottom of the North, will play No. 2 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 4.

    The Cyclones are in if they beat Missouri Saturday or if Colorado loses Friday at Nebraska. The Buffaloes are in if they win and Iowa State loses.

    "I've got to get those Tigers fired up," Colorado head coach Gary Barnett said, referring to Missouri.

    While they were eliminated from the division title picture Saturday, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) still have a lot to play for. They need a win to become bowl-eligible and extend their streak of consecutive years with a postseason appearance to 36. They have also finished with a winning regular-season record every year since 1962.

    "I think it's really important," Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan said of the streak. "It's significant in every respect, from morale, to spirit, to tradition, to recruiting. It all ties in, so we're going to do our best to keep that streak alive."

    While the Cornhuskers hold a 44-16-2 overall edge in the rivalry, the Buffaloes (6-3, 3-4) have won two of the last three meetings, including a win at Nebraska in 2002. Barnett knows it won't take much to get his team riled up for Friday's contest.

    "It's one of those games that I think the only thing I have to do is tell our players what time the bus leaves," he said. "Not much more has to be said."

    Considering what the Colorado football team went through in its offseason, it was unexpected the team would be this position. But it might be even more astonishing if Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) makes the turnaround from a two-win season last year to a possible division championship this year.

    The Cyclones' impressive play led Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel to praise the work of Dan McCarney, Iowa State's head coach.

    "Dan has done a great job this year with the Iowa State football team. They really started off slow," Pinkel said, "[but now they are] just really playing well."

    Iowa State lost its first three conference games but is currently on a four-game winning streak, with its last two wins coming against Nebraska and at Kansas State.

    While the Cyclones have exceeded expectations this season, Missouri (4-6, 2-5) has been the most disappointing team in the Big 12. The Tigers opened conference play with a win over Colorado, but they have lost their past five games. Junior quarterback Brad Smith, a pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate, has had his worst season with the Tigers....
    -11-26-2004, 09:18 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Missouri's promising season turns miserable after four defeats
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 17, 2004 wire reports

    COLUMBIA, Mo. -- One miserable month has wiped away all the promise Missouri started with this season.


    The Tigers (4-5) have lost four straight and the star running back and the father of the star quarterback have questioned the play calling.

    Coach Gary Pinkel's mid-major background, his perceived stubbornness and his apparent decision to transform Brad Smith into a dropback passer have all come into question.

    With two games left, it's hard to believe this team began the season with the grand expectations of a Heisman Trophy contender and a No. 17 preseason ranking.

    "It's been a tough month," Pinkel said.

    Pinkel appeared to have accomplished the big turnaround last season, leading the Tigers to a 7-5 record and an appearance in the Independence Bowl -- their first postseason appearance in five years and only the third in 20 years. Near the end of last season he signed a contract extension through 2008.

    Even earlier this year, it looked like Missouri, as the school advertising slogan goes, was "on the move."

    Missouri began the year 4-1, the only blemish a 10-point loss at lightly regarded Troy in Week 2. That was the first in a series of collapses threatening the season.

    The Tigers scored two quick touchdowns at Troy, then nothing. They ran out to a 17-0 lead against Oklahoma State before losing by three at home, and in their last game two weeks ago they were poised to end an 11-game losing streak against Kansas State with a 21-0 second-quarter lead that also evaporated in a 35-24 loss.

    "If we were playing two halves, I don't think we'd be having a problem," offensive tackle Scott Paffrath said. "That's what's so disappointing about the way we've played. It's not like we've gotten beat, we've let these games go."

    Behind the scenes, things were going just as poorly. Running back Damien Nash was suspended for a loss at Nebraska after remarks about play-calling were overheard by a reporter. Smith's dad, Phillip Smith, telephoned a Kansas City radio show to complain some more about philosophy and memorably said that Pinkel had the personality of a "dill pickle."

    Potentially more harmful, Pinkel snapped recently at members of a booster club, people who might be able to influence his future. He's consistently been curt with the media.

    This week he's seemed more accepting of the firestorm surrounding his program, although he went on the offensive in some aspects. He attempted some spin when he said Saturday's game against border rival Kansas was perhaps more important than a bowl trip and improbably, a possible Big 12 title game appearance, that still hang in the balance despite a 2-4 conference record....
    -11-18-2004, 01:46 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Missouri's visit a major coup for Troy
    by DJRamFan
    Posted: Wednesday Sep 8, 2004 2:00 PM

    TROY, Ala. (AP) -- Alfred Malone isn't just interested in letting people outside the state know Troy football exists or proving the Trojans can hang in there against a major conference team.

    When No. 19 Missouri visits Thursday night, the defensive tackle wants to win.

    "Second place in football is nothing,'' Malone said. "You can have individual success and say, 'Yeah, OK, we played good,' but there's nothing like a win. That's what we go out for every Saturday is a win. How can you celebrate just playing good?''

    A win, Troy coach Larry Blakeney said, would be "monumental for this program, for this university and for this conference.''

    Actually, for the fledgling Division I-A program and new Sun Belt Conference member, just having a team from the Big 12 come to town is a coup. Playing on national television for the first time (ESPN2) is a huge bonus.

    Facing fleet-footed, strong-armed Missouri quarterback Brad Smith, on the other hand, might not be so much fun.

    Smith ran roughshod over Troy -- formerly Troy State -- as a freshman in a 44-7 victory in 2002. He showed in Missouri's opener why many consider him a Heisman Trophy candidate, passing for three touchdowns and running for a 34-yard score in a blowout of Arkansas State.

    The Trojans racked up eight sacks in a road upset of Marshall in their season opener, but will have a much harder time catching up with Smith.

    "He can do so many things,'' Blakeney said. "He can beat you with his speed and carrying the football. He's the total player.''

    But, Malone points out, "It's always better when you sack a big name.''

    The Trojans caught Smith's attention in holding Marshall, normally an offensive power, to 177 total yards and constantly hounding quarterback Stan Hill. He's wary of Troy's pass rushers led by defensive end Demarcus Ware, who had three sacks and forced two fumbles in the opener.

    "You definitely have to be aware of them and you've got to make quicker decisions,'' Smith said. "That's probably the big thing is to get the ball out and let the guys run with the ball.''

    The Tigers showed their firepower early against Arkansas State, scoring 21 points in a 5:17 stretch of the first quarter. However, the game also exposed a weak spot -- the Tigers allowed 350 passing yards to two Arkansas State quarterbacks.

    Troy's strength is expected to be running the ball with DeWhitt Betterson and Jermaine Richardson, though both were mostly shut down against Marshall.

    Quarterback Aaron Leak had one of his better games, throwing for 196 yards and running for a touchdown.

    "They're going to watch the film against Marshall and know we're not only a running threat now, we're a passing threat,'' receiver...
    -09-09-2004, 11:21 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Utes became first to crack the BCS system
    by DJRamFan
    Dec. 27, 2004 wire reports

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Receiver Paris Warren knows fifth-ranked Utah is representing plenty of other schools in the Fiesta Bowl.


    As the first school to appear in a Bowl Championship Series game from a conference that doesn't have an automatic BCS bid, the Utes want to take another shot at the system.

    "We're kind of carrying the flag for all the non-BCS schools," Warren said Monday.

    The Utes (11-0) play Pittsburgh on Saturday in the Fiesta, one of the four top games in the bowl hierarchy which have never featured a team from outside the six guaranteed conferences or Notre Dame.

    The BCS was adopted in 1998 and teams such as Utah in the Mountain West Conference could only watch their colleagues from the larger leagues play in the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls. But by going unbeaten in the regular season and winning their second straight MWC title, the Utes became the first to crack the system.

    Yet they still hear questions about whether they belong.

    "Like they say early in the season. We're going to try and prove people wrong," offensive lineman Chris Komeatu said. "People say that non-BCS teams like Utah aren't good enough to be here. That's what makes everything more challenging to us and helps us get to this level."

    Pittsburgh (8-3) is fighting a similar battle of public perception. As the winner of the Big East's automatic bid, the Panthers' BCS merits have been widely questioned because of their conference. Winning the Big East when it no longer includes Miami and Virginia Tech just doesn't carry as much weight as it has.

    "This is a game of two teams that haven't garnered much national interest or respect," Pittsburgh defensive lineman Vince Crochunis said. "I think it will be an interesting game because each team is going to be out there trying to prove that they belong in this game."

    Any pressure the Utes are feeling as a heavy favorite and playing for the BCS outsiders is actually a welcome change from the weeks that immediately followed the regular season. Coach Urban Meyer was courted by Notre Dame and Florida and it was very apparent he was probably not going to be back next fall for a third season at Utah.

    When Meyer took the Florida job, it opened the spot at Utah and more coaching uncertainty. Defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham was offered the Utes' job as well as the one for rival Brigham Young, Whittingham's alma mater.

    But once Whittingham chose Utah, the Utes were able to relax a little, knowing there would be at least some continuity on the coaching staff. And now, they get to treat their time in Phoenix like any other game week -- just with better weather.

    The Utes also...
    -12-28-2004, 10:51 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Utah ready for big finale to breakthrough season
    by DJRamFan
    Dec. 31, 2004 wire reports

    TEMPE, Ariz. -- Utah used an unstoppable offense to break through the walls surrounding college football's big bowls.


    Now the unbeaten Utes are expected to do more than merely win the Fiesta Bowl. They are supposed to win big over Big East champion Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

    That's heady stuff for the Mountain West Conference champs, who will bring a large chunk of Salt Lake City's population with them for the game at Sun Devil Stadium.

    "This has been pretty dreamlike," quarterback Alex Smith said. "This has been a goal of ours since January, and to finally reach it, it's pretty surreal. I'm just trying to take it all in and not let it go by too fast."

    Coach Urban Meyer, who brought about Utah's improbable climb to national prominence, will coach his final game for the Utes, sharing duties with his successor, defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham.

    After two years at Bowling Green and two at Utah, Meyer is bound for Florida. He leaves behind a Utah program that represents the hopes of every school outside the six conferences that make up the Bowl Championship Series.

    The Utes (11-0) are the first non-BCS team to make it to one of the four elite bowls - automatically qualifying by finishing sixth in the BCS rankings.

    They did it with an offense that averaged more than 500 yards and 45 points per game. On 60 trips inside an opponent's 20-yard line, the Utes scored touchdowns 85 percent of the time. Utah scored fewer than 40 points in a game only twice.

    Meyer's explanation of his offense is simple.

    "It's a personnel-based offense," he said. "Spread the field, and let the good players touch the ball."

    Smith, fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, is the best of those players.

    Second in the country in passing efficiency, the junior from La Mesa, Calif., completed 66 percent of his passes this season for 2,624 yards and 28 touchdowns, with just four interceptions. He also ran for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

    "They have an extraordinary player at quarterback," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "He's not only a good runner -- runs the option well -- he's also an outstanding passer. I think the other quality that separates him from most quarterbacks is he's tough as nails. He's the guy that makes it go."

    Smith, who might enter the NFL draft after this season, said there is no more enjoyable offense to run than the one Meyer has developed.


    "We give a ton of different looks," the QB said. "It's pretty amazing when you can run the option and the spread from the same formation."...
    -12-31-2004, 03:56 PM