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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Coach Kyle Whittingham talks with the press following University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY — As far as Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is concerned, this is not the final weekend before the football season kicks off. The Utes' season-opener is Thursday against Montana State.

"We're in game-week mode," Whittingham said. "It's not a weekend as far as our game clock."

As such, Saturday morning's practice was treated like a Tuesday during a traditional game week.

"It was a physical day, maybe the last time we put the pads on," Whittingham said. "We'll take a look at the film. If we got what we wanted, then we'll take the pads off Monday and Tuesday."

The Utes will take today off after what Whittingham called a good, very productive practice on Saturday.

"We've still got a few things to clean up, but I would say it's by far — since fall camp broke — our best day of practice. It's got to continue on that upward trend," Whittingham said. "We've got to have a very good Monday. The guys have got to take care of themselves this weekend and get their legs back underneath them, use this time off the right way and take advantage of it."

Quarterback Jordan Wynn plans to do so.

"I'm going to sleep and watch film," he said. "It's Tuesday for us in game week, so I'm not going to do anything different — ice bath, get my legs back from camp and go."

FAN FEST: After practice, the Utes made their way over to the Rice-Eccles Stadium for "Fan Fest." They joined athletes from the school's other programs in mingling with fans and signing autographs.

"It's good. These fans are great. We've had three or four years of sold-out stadiums now. They come out and support us," Whittingham said. "We love giving back. Any chance we have to give back to the fans and get to know them a little better is a positive and our players understand that. It's no fun playing in front of a half-full stadium and so the support we've gotten has been tremendous. We want to do our best to show them that we care and we appreciate it."

INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver Anthony Denham (hamstring) practiced again. However, Whittingham said the junior college transfer is doubtful for the Montana State game unless he improves dramatically over the next five days.

Whittingham said "The Pit," where injured Utes toil during practice, is clearing out. Offensive linemen John Cullen and Percy Taumoelau, defensive lineman Lei Talamaivao and safety Michael Walker are among those expected to be back on the practice field next week.

"Come Monday we should be just about at full strength," Whittingham said..

"ROCKY" HEIMULI: Offensive lineman Latu Heimuli is wearing a boxing glove on his left hand to protect his surgically repaired thumb.

"It's still a little bit painful when he gets it jammed around, and so just for a little more cushion and stability they put that on him," Whittingham said. "Hopefully, Monday we'll be able to take that off."

Heimuli, who had his broken thumb operated on nearly three weeks ago, will wear a protective cast on it next week and nothing after that if all goes well.

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Whittingham said the 6-foot-3, 310-pound sophomore has covered a lot of ground and is making a push since switching from defense to offense over the past couple of weeks.

EXTRA POINTS: Whittingham said the kicking competition between Nick Marsh and Coleman Petersen will continue Monday and a decision will be made on Tuesday. ... Standing-room only tickets are all that remain for the Montana State game. ... Whittingham said that there will be no offensive line rotation in the opener and the best five will play.

Utes' season-opener

Montana State at Utah

Thursday, 6 p.m.


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