As most Ute observers have noticed this season, Bryan Rowley, the sophomore wide receiver from Orem, has had a relatively quiet season so far this year. He has caught only 11 passes, and in two games didn't catch a single pass. He ranks no better than tied for fifth in receiving on his own team.
Coach Ron McBride says this must change, and for good reason. Rowley's 11 catches have covered the following distances: 42, 58, 51, 37, 11, 51, 5, 10, 37, 20 and 55 yards. That's 34.3 yards per catch, which is reason enough for McBride to want the ball in Rowley's hands. The NCAA single-season record is 27.9 by Houston's Elmo Wright, set in 1968. However, to break the record, Rowley must catch a minimum of 30 passes. With four games remaining, that isn't likely to happen.Rowley isn't Utah's only under-employed wide receiver. Darrel Hicks also has only 11 catches. A year ago, Rowley and Hicks caught 76 passes between them.
The problem, says McBride, is that opposing defenses have not been forced to respect the other phases of Utah's offense - namely a weak running attack and a harmless underneath passing game. They can get away with double-coverage on the wide receivers and use linebackers for the underneath coverage or to blitz.
"When we get the whole thing (offense) going, then you're going to see more of the 14-yard posts to Rowley or Hicks," says McBride. "Right now we're only getting the ball to our slotbacks and tight ends."
Indeed, of Utah's top four receivers, two are slotbacks, one is a tight end and one a halfback.
Says McBride, "We need to get the ball to Rowley. We can do some things to help that, like clearing out an area to free him, and things like that."
RISING ROOKIE: Defensive end Jimmy Bellamy, a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, is having an impressive first season with Utah. So far, he has eight sacks - which ranks third in the Western Athletic Conference - and five hurries. He also 16 solo tackles, 21 assists, two tackles for loss, three fumbles caused, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup.
"He's played better than I thought he would in his first year," says McBride. "Usually it's hard for JC kids in their first year. He's playing very well for us."
AND THE STARTER IS . . . : According to McBride, Mike Richmond is the Utes' starting quarterback. Again. Richmond has started three games, sat out virtually all of two other games and been called on for relief duty in two others, including last Saturday's UTEP game.
Richmond was benched two games ago, against Colorado State, because coaches thought his arm was fatigued. Richmond relieved Jason Woods in the second quarter last Saturday and threw for 252 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most notably, Richmond threw a deadly accurate 55-yard touchdown bomb to Rowley.
"I hope that showed them (the coaches)," said Rowley of the pass.
STATUS QUO: Senior Kava Afu has been moved from linebacker to defensive tackle to improve Utah's depth on the defensive line. . . .
. . . According to Utah officials, slotback Sean Hutson, one of the team's leading receivers, was suspended from last week's UTEP game for returning a day late from a bye-week vacation. He'll play this week. . . .
. . . Defensive tackle Vince Lobendahn, a much-heralded JC transfer, has been sidelined for several weeks because of a neck injury. Ute officials say he has played in too many games too qualify for redshirt status this season. He has made only five tackles this season.
NUMBERS: Anthony Davis, another JC transfer, continues to lead the team in tackles despite missing the Colorado State game and seeing limited duty in last week's UTEP game (four tackles). Davis has 60 tackles this season, five more than Pita Tonga . . . UTEP's Roy Ross was averaging more than 30 yards per kickoff return when he met the Utes last week. The Utes stopped him three times inside the 15-yard line and held him to an average of 12 yards per attempt. "It was the best job of covering kickoffs that I have seen in 19 years of coaching," said special teams coach Sean McNabb.