It's no secret that Utah coach Ron McBride is superstitious. "I'm very superstitious," he corrects. Right down to the clothes he wears. If McBride's team loses one week, you won't see him wearing the same clothes on the sidelines the following week; and visa versa.
As you might guess, with his team struggling this season McBride has been making weekly wardrobe changes. "Ron is going to run out of things to wear," said one Utah staff member last week.It was fortunate then that the Utes finally won again on Saturday, 29-27 over New Mexico. As a result, McBride says he'll be wearing the same outfit he wore last week again this week when the Utes meet BYU.
"Yeah, I'll wear the same dark blue pants, a white shirt, a white hat and a red sweater," he says.
SLOW STARTERS: Don't be surprised if Utah falls behind BYU early and fast on Saturday. It has become a trend.
In their last three games, the Utes have been outscored 100-14 in the first half. Against Air Force, they fell behind 45-7 at halftime (and 52-7 in the third quarter); against San Diego State they trailed 42-7 at halftime (and 52-7 in the third quarter); against New Mexico they trailed 13-0 at halftime (and 27-0 in the third quarter).
"Last week everything they got we gave them (with turnovers)," says McBride. "It was nothing they did. We gave it to them."
Still, the offense continues to struggle, with or without turnovers. The Utes have been held to less than 300 yards in total offense four times this season - including each of their last two games.
ROWLEY ROLLING: Bryan Rowley, the 5-foot-10 sophomore wide receiver from Orem, is finishing another productive season despite having relatively few opportunities to catch the ball. With one game to go, he has caught 25 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns. Against New Mexico last week he caught only three passes (all of them during the big second-half rally) - one for 30 yards and a touchdown, one for 47 yards and another for nine yards.
So far, Rowley has averaged 26.8 yards per catch - 1.1-yard shy of the single-season NCAA record.
INJURIES: With injuries to tackle Mike Murry and center John Anderson, the Utes' offensive line could be in for still more changes this week. Because of injuries and poor performances, Utah has started 10 different players at the five offensive line positions - Murry, John Anderson, Brian Anderson, Ryan Bullett, Anthony Hall, Randy Aldridge, Mike DeHoog, Russ Daily, James McKenna and Jesse Moore.
Bullett, who had been sidelined with a knee injury since September, returned to action last week, but then Murry and Anderson left Saturday's game with injuries. McBride says they are doubtful for the BYU game.
STATUS QUO: For only the third time this year, the Utes will start the same quarterback on back-to-back weekends. Mike Richmond will start the season-finale against BYU - his sixth start of the year. So far this season he has completed 129 of 234 passes (55.1 percent) for 1,650 yards, 6 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. . . .
. . . Mike Anglesey, Utah's leading receiver, missed most of last week's game because of a shoulder injury, but is expected to return to fulltime duty this week . . .
. . . After several weeks of spotty reserve duty at halfback and fullback, Steve Abrams returned to the starting halfback spot last week and rushed for 84 yards on 18 carries. He has rushed for 475 yards this season, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. . . .
. . . Despite missing the better part of four games this season with injuries, linebacker Anthony Davis has produced impressive statistics this season: 50 unassisted tackles, 26 assists, 11 tackles for loss (worth minus-56 yards), 4 quarterback sacks.