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Utah Utes football notebook: Defense good at keeping end zone off limits

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 28 2010 1:11 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's defense didn't panic when San Jose State's Brandon Driver returned a kickoff 71 yards to the Ute 20 early in Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"Right when that happened we all looked at each other like 'We've already been here. We've already been through this, so let's just go do it,'" said defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. "We already knew we can stop them. We knew they couldn't score (a touchdown) on us."

The Utes forced the Spartans to punt after the three plays the first time around, giving up just three net yards.

"It was cool," Siliga said while noting the success they've had earlier in the season. "We knew that if we played our defense and if we got put in those situations, we've already been through it. We already know how it feels.

"We weren't nervous for it," he added. "If stuff like that happens, it's good."

It certainly was in the 56-3 win over San Jose State. Aside from a 20-yard field goal they surrendered after the lengthy kickoff return, the Utes pitched a shutout. They've now kept opponents out of the end zone for five consecutive quarters and eight of the past nine.

For the season, Utah's defense has given up just three touchdowns.

Defensive end Christian Cox credits a team approach for the success.

"We are really close," he said after the SJSU game. "We all have something to prove and we are playing for each other."

The Utes enter their only bye week of the season as the Mountain West Conference leaders in total defense.

IOWA STATE KICK: Utah's game at Iowa State on Oct. 9 now has a kickoff time. It's set for 5 p.m. (MDT) and will be televised by Fox College Sports.

NEXT YEAR'S SCHEDULE: The 2011 game between the Cyclones and Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium has officially been canceled because Big 12 teams are officially moving to a nine-game league schedule next year. The Pac-12 is expected to do the same.

"The changes to our football schedule are the result of the recent conference re-alignment moves that have affected several leagues across the nation," Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard announced on his department's web site. "Moving to a nine-game conference schedule in the Big 12 required us to drop a non-league game. Utah was in a similar position with its move to the Pac-10 so we've agreed to drop the 2011 game with the Utes."

Montana State is expected to fill the void on Utah's home schedule. Other changes are also likely as the rivalry game with BYU in Provo is added. The Utes are currently slated to visit Pittsburgh and Boise State in non-conference play next season — meaning something — most likely the latter will have to altered to accommodate things.

Utah athletics director Chris Hill said any additional announcements wouldn't be made until after the Pac-10 meetings, Oct. 6-7.

The Utes will probably need a favorable conference schedule (five home, four on the road) in 2011 to ensure six home games at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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