Although many players are calling it "just another game," a few Ute football players are willing to acknowledge Saturday's game against BYU is a bigger deal than usual.
"We understand the implications of the game and we're not oblivious to it," quarterback Brian Johnson said. "This game means everything to us."
"It's always a bigger game because it's at the end of the year and is a big rivalry," defensive tackle Greg Newman said.
But nothing will change as far as preparing for this game, the players say.
The Utes took Monday off, as they have for the last several weeks except for the short-week game against TCU, and they're following the same routine they have all season.
"The preparation will be the same," Newman said. "Why would you change when you've been successful all season?"
"We need to keep the same mentality and same work ethic," Johnson added.
Johnson on the run
Ute coaches have been very conservative in letting Johnson run the football this season, actually the past two seasons, because of injuries to his knee in 2005 and shoulder in 2007.
Ute coaches have been careful to shield their quarterback as much as possible to make sure he stays in ballgames, and Johnson often slides to avoid tackles.
So now that it's the final regular-season game of the season against Utah's biggest rival with a BCS bowl game on the line, will Johnson be free to run Saturday?
"You don't want to take unnecessary hits as a quarterback, but at the same time there might be some extra stuff that we might do offensively," he said. "We're at the point where they're really (is) nothing to lose. You've got to be ready to play and use every tool in the toolbox. You've got to do what you've got to do to win."
It's been a year since the nightmare, and Utah defensive back Brice McCain would just as soon not worry about the past.
McCain was the guy BYU's Austin Collie got past for the key fourth-and-18 catch last year in BYU's come-from-behind victory. He couldn't avoid the question at Monday's press conference.
"I'm not really worried about the last year," he said. "Last year was last year and I'm focused on this year and winning a Mountain West Conference championship."
Ute notesFor most of the season, Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack have had nearly identical rushing numbers. But the last couple of weeks, Asiata has pulled away and now has 633 yards on 122 carries compared to Mack's 493 yards on 110 carries. ... Johnson admitted this week that he would have liked a chance at the Ute record for touchdown passes in a game after getting five in the first half against SDSU. He did move into second place at Utah for career touchdown passes with 50. ... The Utes didn't have any punts last week and still rank No. 3 in the nation in punt coverage (3.11 yards per return). ... Utah leads the nation in touchbacks with 44 thanks to Ben Vroman's strong leg.
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