As any casual observer could tell you, the University of Utah has been vastly unproductive on offense this season.
"We're still searching for things we can do well offensively," says Head Coach Ron McBride.Such as scoring. In the last 14 quarters of play, the Utes have scored a total of four touchdowns.
McBride thinks the team's biggest weakness is the offensive line. "It all starts up front," he says. "We already know that next year we've got to recruit offensive linemen."
The Ute linemen haven't been helped by an ever-changing lineup. Nine different players have started at the five offensive line positions - some at more than one position - either because of injuries or erratic play. There could be a 10th starter this week. If tackle Mike Murry isn't sufficiently recovered from a sprained ankle, he'll be replaced by sophomore Anthony Hall, a converted defensive lineman who began playing the offensive line for the first time in August and for the first time in a game last week.
The line's biggest problem is probably inexperience. Four of the regulars are freshmen or sophomores, and three converted from the defensive line during the off-season.
In the meantime, McBride has decided to use the hands-on approach to try to improve the line. An offensive line coach for 30 years, he began last week to coach the line personally, in addition to performing his usual head coaching duties. His days begin at 5 a.m. and end at 10.
"The main problem is I'm running out of time," he says.THE NUMBERS: Among Western Athletic Conference rivals, the Utes rank fifth in total defense (60th nationally) and third in scoring defense (52nd nationally), but seventh in total offense and scoring offense (81st and 91st, respectively).
Halfback Steve Abrams leads the team in rushing (80 carries, 261 yards) and scoring (four touchdowns). Rotating slotbacks Greg Hoffman (16 catches, 149 yards) and Sean Hutson (15, 174) lead the team in receiving. Thirteen players have caught at least two passes this season. Mike Richmond has completed 73 of 129 passes for 910 yards, one touchdown and seven interceptions.
Linebacker Anthony Davis still leads the team in tackles, with 56 (37 unassisted). He also has one sack and eight tackles for loss. Linebacker Pita Tonga has 43 tackles (21 unassisted). Dave Chaytors has three sacks and nine hurries, and Jimmy Bellamy has six sacks.
The Utes already have intercepted eight passes this season, equalling their total for the entire 1989 season.INJURY REPORT: Greg Reynolds, a starting defensive tackle, will be sidelined for about two weeks with a knee injury. He hurt the knee in last week's Wyoming game. Ute officials think Davis (sprained ankle), safety Sharrieff Shah (thumb surgery on Monday) and halfback Steve Abrams (pulled thigh) will be ready to play against Colorado State Saturday. Defensive tackle Vince Lobendahn has been unable to practice again this week because of a pinched nerve in his neck.