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Utah football: Utes taking Wildcats seriously

Published: Friday, Sept. 6 2013 5:05 p.m. MDT

University of Utah football players celebrate with fans after defeating Utah State in NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) University of Utah football players celebrate with fans after defeating Utah State in NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — In Kyle Whittingham’s opinion, Saturday’s game between Utah and Weber State isn’t a David vs. Goliath situation.

Not by a longshot.

“There’s eight Division I teams from last weekend that will tell you that it’s not David vs. Goliath,” Whittingham said. “ (It’s) only if you approach it that way, and we don’t approach it that way. We approach it just like we approach every single game in the course of the season — as far as our preparation, our routine — nothing is altered and so we just treat it just like every other week.”

Whittingham showed the Utes last week’s scores that included FCS upsets of FBS teams, shocking outcomes that included Eastern Washington defeating Oregon State; North Dakota State topping Kansas State; and Northern Iowa surprising Iowa.

Tight end Jake Murphy (82) of the Utah Utes scores against Utah State University during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Tight end Jake Murphy (82) of the Utah Utes scores against Utah State University during NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

That got their attention pretty quick, Whittingham noted, and it showed in practices throughout the week.

“We’ve got Weber State on the brain,” he said.

Senior defensive end/linebacker Trevor Reilly added that the Utes are taking the Wildcats as if they were an FBS opponent.

“They have a good scheme. They’re fast,” Reilly said. “They have good skill players and a good quarterback. So we respect them and we’re going to prepare the best we can for them.”

Weber State is coming off a 50-40 win over Stephen F. Austin. The Wildcats rushed for 315 yards in the season-opening victory.

“I was really proud of how our team played Saturday and how they stuck to our game plan and executed. They bought into our plan and trusted each other and made the plays needed,” said Weber State coach Jody Sears. “They worked extremely hard in the offseason and it paid off. There are plenty of things to look at and improve on. We need to address some of our weaknesses and continue to work on improving.”

Weber State's Bo Bolen runs against Stephen Austin in Ogden Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Weber State's Bo Bolen runs against Stephen Austin in Ogden Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Now comes a tough scheduling stretch for the Big Sky Conference squad. Weber State visits Utah and Utah State over the next two weeks. The initial leg is the Wildcats’ first game in Salt Lake City since 2008.

“We are excited to go play a very talented and well coached team in Utah,” Sears said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge and opportunity of playing in a great college football environment.”

After opening the season with a 30-26 win over Utah State, the Utes are on the verge of their first 2-0 start since 2010.

“I know, trust me,” said Reilly, who emphasized the importance of last week’s victory. “… You lose your first game, that can really put a damper on your season, but for us to go 2-0, if that happens, would just be huge.”

The best part of that, he added, is the chance to go 3-0 — something that Whittingham is aiming for.

It would be especially meaningful this season with next week’s Pac-12 opener against Oregon State approaching. The Utes have opened conference play with four straight losses the past two years, so going in with some momentum would be welcome.

“It’s going to help throughout the rest of the season if we can just have that swag and hopefully come out and take care of business this week,” Reilly said.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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