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Utah Utes, BYU football: Big Game lacks national hype

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 7:32 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Two practices are in the books as Utah prepares to meet BYU for the first time in September since 1958.

"We got a great start yesterday and then today was a physical, heavy duty work day," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday evening. "We got a lot done and the week will just progress from here."

Things, however, aren't the same.

Whittingham acknowledged facing the Cougars so early in the season and without conference implications has a "different feel."

Even so, the Utes are working hard to bounce back from last week's 23-14 setback at USC.

Whittingham said the team has a good work ethic and it starts with the senior leadership and captains.

"We've had two good practices and everyone is kind of ready for the rivalry game," said quarterback Jordan Wynn. "It's a big deal out here. I think we're on track."

Wynn acknowledged it's a little weird to be preparing for BYU when the weather is warm, but the Utes have just got to adjust.

So far, so good.

"This is definitely different because I'm used to a whole week of cold practices," said wide receiver DeVonte Christopher. "(But) it should be fun getting them early in the season."

And at night, he added.

LESS ATTENTION: "It is different," that's how Liz Abel, Utah's senior athletics director for communications, describes the national attention for this year's rivalry game with BYU.

Interest has dropped since the Utes and Cougars are no longer in the same conference and are meeting in September instead of November.

Abel said unlike past years where national media inquiries easily reached double figures, only four or five have made calls about this Saturday's game. The first didn't come until Monday.

"We're having plenty of local stuff," Abel said. "But in the past this was kind of the game that I think the national people highlighted on their schedule."

There was definitely more outside media interest, she said, in last week's Utah-USC game.

PUNTING CHANGE: It didn't happen with any fanfare, but sophomore Nick Marsh, who lost the placekicking battle to walk-on Coleman Peterson, replaced two-year starter Sean Sellwood as the punter in Saturday's game at USC.

Marsh did well, punting seven times for a 40.9-yard average, better than Sellwood did in the opener against Montana State with a 37.8 average on five kicks Sellwood, who prepped at Judge Memorial, averaged 42.9 yards as a freshman and 41.0 yards last year.

Whittingham explained the change, saying, "We just felt that during practice, Nick had outkicked Sean and was doing a nice job and earned the right to punt. We thought he handled it pretty good. We had a pretty decent net at 37-plus yards."

Whittingham said Peterson will continue as the placekicker, Marsh will handle kickoffs and punts and Sellwood will be the holder on placekicks, although he added, "You may see Sean in some punting situations, but Nick is the primary punter right now."

Contributing: Mike Sorensen

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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