Utah Utes football: Success not distracting Utes into looking ahead
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Another game, another big win for the Utah Utes.
Ever since an overtime win over Pittsburgh in the season opener, the Utes have been blowing opponents out.
Saturday's 59-6 victory over Colorado State was the latest in a string of lopsided contests that includes triumphs over UNLV (38-10), New Mexico (56-14), San Jose State (56-3), Iowa State (68-27) and Wyoming (30-6).
The success has propelled the undefeated Utes (7-0 overall, 4-0 in Mountain West Conference play) to Top 10 status. They're No. 8 in this week's Bowl Championship Series standings, as well as No. 7 in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25.
As good as things are, however, senior captains Zane Taylor and Matt Asiata insist the team isn't looking past the task at hand.
"We've just got to take one game at a time," Asiata said. "Never look beyond the opponent we're playing and just concentrate on one team."
This week: Air Force, where Utah plays Saturday.
The Falcons were on the Utes' mind as soon as the Colorado State was complete.
"We never take anything for granted — not a play, not a game, nothing. So having a victory like this means as much as any other victory," Taylor said as he walked off the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "Now we're 7-0 and we've got even more to play for this week. Now that we're done with this team we're putting all of our team and energy into Air Force."
And with good reason, even if the Falcons are coming off a 38-7 setback at TCU.
Utah's last seven games at the Air Force Academy have been decided by seven points or less, including a triple-overtime thriller in 2003. The Utes prevailed that day, 45-43 and have come out on top in three straight meeting to take a 5-2 advantage in the recent close calls at Falcon Field.
"They're a tough, hard-nosed team. They'll play the full 60 minutes for sure," said linebacker Chaz Walker. "They do things perfect each and every play. We've just got to do our job and make plays when they come our way."
That's something the Utes have done with great frequency as of late.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged they may be playing their best football of the season.
The best evidence, thereof, may be third downs.
In the win over CSU, Utah's offense converted on 11-of-15 third-down situations. The defense, meanwhile, allowed the Rams to move the chains on only 2-of-12 opportunities. The Utes also stopped them twice on fourth down.
Whittingham noted that third-downs have been big all season long.
"We have a mantra that 'third down is the only down,'" he explained. "You play first and second down to set up third down and our guys have been playing third down very well."
Taylor credits much of Utah's success to guys getting on the same page, maintaining a good rhythm and "just putting it all together."
The approach has worked, thus far. Beginning this week, though, the degree of difficultly goes up measurably.
"We've got a big run coming up and we've definitely got to tighten the screws down and get ready for next week," Walker said.
After Air Force, Utah takes on TCU, Notre Dame, San Diego State and BYU.
Utah's recent trips to Air Force
2008 – Won, 30-23
2006 – Won, 17-14
2003 – Won, 45-43 (3OT)
2001 – Lost, 38-37
1999 – Won, 21-15
1994 – Lost, 40-33
1992 – Won, 20-13
Utes on the air
No. 8 Utah (7-0, 4-0) at Air Force (5-3, 3-2)
Falcon Field, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
TV: CBS C
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