With three games left in the season, can the University of Utah football team - a 52-21 loser to a mediocre Air Force team Saturday - win another game this year? Maybe not.

The Utes play San Diego State Saturday night in Jack Murphy Stadium. The Aztecs have had two consecutive bye weeks to rest and prepare for Utah. The Utes' record against teams coming off bye weeks is not encouraging. Remember Hawaii? Air Force?After facing the Aztecs, the Utes go on the road again to play New Mexico the following week, then return home to play their season-finale against nationally ranked BYU.

The Utes, 3-5 overall and 1-4 in league play, are only a half-game out of last place in the Western Athletic Conference.

Against Air Force on Saturday, the Utes looked like the Utes of old. The defense was unable to stop its old nemesis - the wishbone - and the offense and special teams committed costly turnovers and missed blocking assignments.

Five of the Utes' first six possessions ended in disaster - a fumble, two interceptions, a blocked punt and a muffed punt, all of which led directly to four touchdowns and one field goal. The offense repeatedly put the defense in bad field position, but, on the other hand, the defense couldn't contain the Air Force option (403 yards rushing), which is big reason the Falcons have beaten the Utes six consecutive times.

"If you had told me before the game that this would happen to our defense, I'd have said no way," said Utah coach Ron McBride.

The Ute defense has been hurt the last three games by injuries to linebacker Anthony Davis, the early-season sensation. Davis missed all of the Colorado State game and part of the UTEP game with an ankle sprain. He left the Air Force game in the first quarter with a hand injury and spent the second half in street clothes.

But what really hurt the Utes on Saturday were their first-quarter follies. Mike Richmond threw two interceptions and fumbled when he was hit by Air Force's unblocked Clifton Lovelace. The Utes blew another blocking assignment on a punt attempt, and Wayne Lammle's punt was "blocked" before he ever kicked the ball. Lammle's next punt attempt - under pressure - went five yards.

The lone brights spots for the Utes were Bryan Rowley, who caught 10 passes for 169 yards, and Sean Knox, who made his fourth interception of the season and the 14th interception of his career. That broke the school career record of 13 held jointly by Reggie Richardson, Jeff Griffin and Edwards.