Utah Utes football notebook: Montana State has their attention

Published: Thursday, Oct. 8 2015 12:59 p.m. MDT

Head coach Kyle Whittingham communicates with his team during the University of Utah's scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2009. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News) Head coach Kyle Whittingham communicates with his team during the University of Utah's scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2009. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A lot of folks might be expecting a walkover for the Utes Thursday night in their season-opener against Montana State.

After all, the Bobcats are a Football Championship Subdivision team — what we used to call Division I-AA, a step below the Utes.

One thing for everyone to keep in mind, however, is that MSU is one of the best FCS teams in the country this year, ranked No. 5 in preseason polls out of 126 teams. And in the past, some of these FCS teams have risen up and shocked major-college teams.

Of course, everyone remembers Appalachian State's stunning 34-32 win over Michigan in 2007.

But just last year, a ranked Virginia Tech team was upset by James Madison, Minnesota was beaten by South Dakota, Kansas lost to North Dakota State and Mississippi was knocked off by Jacksonville State.

And Montana State came within a whisker of beating Washington State, losing 23-22 in the fourth quarter. Later in the year, MSU defeated eventual FCS national champion Eastern Washington 30-7.

So it's not really coachspeak when Kyle Whittingham says, "It's a very good Montana State team coming in here. They have our full attention and all of our respect."

KICKING UPDATE: Nick Marsh and Coleman Petersen have been competing for the starting placekicking job all month, but still nothing has been decided yet.

Whittingham said a decision on who gets the kicking job would likely be made after Tuesday's practice. However, no announcement will be made, giving Utah fans something to look for in Thursday's opener.

WALKER ELIGIBLE: The NCAA has granted a waiver that allows for Hawaii transfer Lewis Walker to be immediately eligible for Utah. The former Judge Memorial star appeared in 24 games for the Warriors over 2009 and 2010, making 28 tackles. He has been practicing with the Utes this fall.

"That was great news," Whittingham said. "He's a guy that will be a contributor on special teams and challenging for playing time at the corner position."

HOME GROWN: Utah has no Montana players on its roster while Montana has no Utah players on its roster.

Both teams have the most players from their own states, listing 45 apiece, and both get most of the rest of their talent from California and Texas.

Utah has 30 players from California and 13 from Texas, while Montana State surprisingly has 18 players from Texas and 16 from California.

EXTRA POINTS: Limited bleacher seats and standing-room tickets may be purchased at UtahUtes.com, at Rice-Eccles Stadium or by calling 801-581-UTIX. ... Classes have been cancelled Thursday night at the U. because of the game and the parking congestion on campus. ... After Thursday's game, the Utes will have nine days until their second game, Sept. 10 against USC at the L.A. Coliseum. The Trojans open their season Saturday against Minnesota at home.

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