Utah's second "Blackout" game may lack the star power of the first one — last November, when the No. 9 Utes edged No. 11 TCU, 13-10 — but tonight's contest against Wyoming is still eagerly anticipated.
"Oh, yeah. Everybody's talking about it," said linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. "The team, we want to wear black jerseys as much as possible. This one time a year thing is not what we like."
The combination of the "Blackout" and Halloween, he added, will make for a good night. He expects the Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd to "go nuts."
Sylvester thought it helped the Utes turn back the Horned Frogs last year.
"It looked nice. The whole stadium was dark," he said. "It was a huge advantage for us on the field, just the atmosphere on that type of game."
Defensive end Koa Misi agreed.
"I think everybody gets pumped up to get all blacked out and play in that game," he said. "I don't know, I guess it's a different feeling than playing in your regular colors."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is OK with it.
"Our players came up with the idea last year, and if the players are for it, then I have no problem with it," he said. "They're excited about it. I wouldn't call it a gimmick. Several teams in the country wear different uniform combinations and colors. I don't think it's that out of the ordinary."
And if provides a little extra boost, then, all the better. The new tradition, he continued, will continue as long as the players want to do it.
When asked how the Utes looked in black last year, Whittingham had a quick response.
"Pretty good last year," he said.
Now comes the encore, featuring a lot of new faces.
"I haven't been involved with one, but I hear it's pretty exciting," said quarterback Terrance Cain. "It'll be exciting for our team to get everybody juiced up and get ready to play."
A victory will assure the program of its seventh consecutive winning season.
Another notable streak is also on the line.
Running back Eddie Wide can equal a school record with a fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He'll try to do so against a Wyoming rushing defense that allows 140.6 yards per game.
Wide credits the offensive line in the trenches and the receivers on the perimeter for his success.
"Eddie's a great runner. He's an explosive guy, an exciting guy when he gets out on the field. He gives us credit, but I think it's on both sides. You can't have one without the other," said left tackle Zane Beadles. "You can have a great back that's not going to gain any yards if he doesn't get the blocking he needs. And you can have all the blocking in the world, but you're not going to get any yards if the running back doesn't find the hole, run off blocks and things like that.
"It's really a team effort," he added. "It's on both sides."
Utah's defense, meanwhile, is also benefitting from a group mentality. The Utes have four players with 41 or more tackles this season.
Sylvester leads the team with 45 stops, but Mike Wright (43), Robert Johnson (41) and Misi (41) are in pursuit. Misi is in the mix despite missing the season opener against Utah State with a back injury.
"I'm just trying to do what I can. Making a lot of tackles is something I always try to do," Misi said. "It would be cool to end up being the leading tackler on the team."24 comments on this story
EXTRA POINTS: Utah leads the all-time series, 49-31-1 — including a 30-11-1 advantage in Salt Lake City. ... The Utes rank No. 6 in the nation in opponent third-down conversions (29.4 percent), No. 8 in pass defense (160.4 ypg) and No. 9 in pass efficiency defense (96.6 rating). ... The Utah men's basketball team will sign autographs before the game. ... A trick-or-treat zone for Halloween has been created for ticket holders. Gates open at 4 p.m.
Utes on the air
Wyoming (4-3, 2-1 MWC) at No. 19 Utah (6-1, 3-0)
Today, 6 p.m.
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 700 AM