Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham considers last year's 27-0 loss to UNLV as the "low point" of his coaching career.
The surprising setback snapped an 11-game winning streak the Utes had over the Rebels. It also marked the first time in 14 years they failed to score in a game.
Whittingham acknowledged it was a "bleak weekend to say the least."
Saturday's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium marks the fourth meeting as head coaches between Urban Meyer's former Utah coordinators.
Mike Sanford's lone win came last season. Whittingham prevailed in the first two contests 42-32 in Las Vegas in 2005 and 45-23 a year later in Salt Lake City.
After working together for two seasons under Meyer, Whittingham doesn't think either coach has an upper hand in knowledge against the other.
"I think that's pretty much a wash. He's very well-versed in what we do defensively, and we're very well-versed in what they do offensively," Whittingham said. "So I would say that's a situation where there's no advantage either way."
VIVA, LAS VEGAS: Utah's recruiting efforts in Las Vegas have paid off handsomely. The Utes have raided UNLV's backyard for linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (Valley H.S.), running back Eddie Wide (Cimarron Memorial H.S.) and quarterback DeVonte Christopher (Canyon Springs H.S.). They also picked up another former Vegas high school star via the junior-college ranks in safety Deshawn Richard (Rancho H.S.).
"It's a good area for us a fertile area," Whittingham said while praising assistant coach Jay Hill's recruiting efforts in Nevada.
On the other side, UNLV's roster includes one Utahn Timpanogos alum Thor Pili.
NO BIG DEAL: Kicker Louie Sakoda admits his heart was racing when he lined up for the first of four field goals he made before more than 108,000 people last Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
Things changed, however, after he stepped back and looked up at the crowd.
"I'm like, 'These guys are nothing. They aren't even yelling very loud,'" Sakoda said. "My heart rate just settled down, and I'm like, 'I've got this.'"
Sakoda's kicks included a career-long 53-yard field goal.
"Just another day at the office for Louie Sakoda," Whittingham said.
10TH ANNIVERSARY: Rice-Eccles Stadium is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season. Both the Rice and Eccles families will be honored for their contributions during a halftime ceremony, which will include a video presentation. A postgame fireworks show also is planned.
CONSISTENT STOPS: After missing more than 20 tackles in last year's loss to UNLV, Utah's defense is determined not to let it happen again. It's all about consistency. On average, the Utes have fewer than five tackling miscues per game.
"We want to go into every game with the same determination and fight," said defensive end Paul Kruger, who led Utah with nine tackles last weekend at Michigan.BEFORE THE GAME: Fans are encouraged to greet the team at the "Ute Walk," which begins 2 1/2 hours before the game. The route begins at the Smith Center on Guardsman Way and concludes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The "Utah Village" is an interactive pregame hospitality area for fans and corporate sponsors on the grass north of the Eccles Tennis Center.
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