With the season half finished, the University of Utah football team will get a needed two-week rest. The Utes have a bye this weekend, then play lowly UTEP the following week in Rice Stadium.
A bye and UTEP, at home. That might be the perfect combination for a team that has lost four consecutive games and has an injury list that grows weekly."This bye comes at a good time," says Utah coach Ron McBride.
The Utes, 2-4 overall and 0-3 in league play, picked up their latest loss on Saturday, falling 22-13 to Colorado State. That means the Utes have lost seven of their last eight league games, dating back to last year.
The upcoming two-week break should be enough time for several Ute starters to recover from injuries - namely, linebacker Anthony Davis, defensive tackle Greg Reynolds, safety Sharrieff Shah and halfback Steve Abrams. A number of other regulars also have various injuries, among them linebacker Pita Tonga and defensive backs Mark Swanson, Derrick Odum and LaVon Edwards.
UTEP's poor defense might be just the thing for Utah's most glaring weakness - offense. The Utes have struggled on offense in all but the Minnesota game.
"We're improving," says tight end Mike Anglesey. "I know we say that every week, but we are really close."
On the bright side, freshman halfback Brad Foster, starting in place of the injured Abrams, rushed for 67 yards on 17 carries. He seems to improve weekly.
Anglesey caught five passes for 162 yards and one touchdown - the best performance by a Ute receiver this season.
Jason Woods, who replaced Mike Richmond as the starting quarterback Saturday, was having a fine day until he played the second half. In the first half, he completed eight of 13 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. In the second half he completed five of 17 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He was sacked seven times during the game.
"Anytime you throw three interceptions, you're not going to win," said Woods. "I made correct reads; I just didn't make good throws."
Still, in some ways it was a promising showing for Woods in what was only the third collegiate start of his quarterbacking career. Asked if Woods would start against UTEP, McBride said, "I don't know. We'll grade the films first."
Meanwhile, defensive back Bob Bonifacio, who has been relegated to reserve duty this season after starting all last season, took advantage of an opportunity Saturday when injuries pressed him into duty. He had seven tackles, including five solos and two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup.
Another defensive back, Sean Knox, had 14 tackles, seven solos, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup.
Defensive end Keith Embray also had a big day. He had 10 tackles, seven solos, and two tackles for loss.
The Rams' ball-control offense kept the Ute defense on the field for 101 plays. Twenty-four Utes had at least one tackle.