LAS VEGAS — Before being shocked to learn Friday morning that honorable-mention All-Conference U. noseguard Ma'ake Kemoeatu had been suspended from Tuesday's Las Vegas Bowl against Southern California by the NCAA for a minor rule violation, Utah coach Ron McBride had a different kind of noseguard problem Thursday.

Lauvale Sape, who rotates with both Kemoeatu and defensive tackle Garrett Smith, passed out and was bleeding heavily from the nose following Thursday's practice in St. George.

"It was just gushing like a fountain," McBride said following Saturday's bowl practice in Las Vegas at the Sam Boyd Stadium practice fields. "It frightens you so much. He was bleeding and numb. And unconscious for a bit.

Sape is fine now and participated in workouts, but he had to be given intravenous fluids to combat dehydration Thursday. Apparently, he'd stayed up quite late Wednesday night doing laundry to get ready for Thursday's bus ride to St. George and had no fluids that day, and he paid for it after practice.

Meanwhile, left offensive tackle Doug Kaufusi is still practicing with the team, but there's no word yet on whether he'll be allowed to play in the bowl game as he awaits legal proceedings on a misdemeanor assault charge against him. McBride said he hopes to hear Monday about Kaufusi's eligibility.

Kemoeatu's loss hurts Utah's depth in the interior line.

And for such a silly thing.

As the eldest of three Ute brothers, Ma'ake Kemoeatu was trying to help tutor walk-on sophomore brother Tevita Kemoeatu in a math class. To learn about the class, Ma'ake Kemoeatu bought two math books using scholarship money. When he returned the books following the end of the semester, the compliance office realized he'd bought books for a class he wasn't taking and reported the violation about 10 days ago. The NCAA suspended Ma'ake Kemoeatu for what would have been his last college game, and Tevita Kemoeatu is suspended for the first game next season.

"He wasn't trying to defraud or steal," McBride said. In fact, he paid more than $100 for the two books immediately upon learning it was a violation, but it didn't ease the infraction with the NCAA. "I can't condemn him for that," McBride said.

CITIZENS THREE: With the bad comes the good. At the end of the semester, during the football team's week off, the three Kemoeatu brothers — Ma'ake, Tevita and Chris — natives of Tonga, returned to Hawaii and became United States citizens.

Chris, a true freshman who backs up left guard Ed Ta'amu, is still on the team and practicing for the game, but Ma'ake and Tevita are prohibited by the NCAA from participating. They are staying in the team hotel, the Golden Nugget, because their father sent them the money to pay for it, but they don't get any of the goodies their teammates receive.

THE SPOILS: Las Vegas Bowl participants are getting a bit of an early Christmas, seeing as how they have to work that day — game time is 1:30 p.m. MST Tuesday on ABC-TV. The loot they're getting this year is "five times" as much, said defensive ends/special teams coach Gary Andersen, as they got in the same bowl two years ago.

Freshman scout teamer Jaun McNutt, a redshirting wide receiver, said all the goodies help make up for not being home with family at Christmas.

From the bowl and its sponsors, players, managers, coaches and support people each receive a watch, sunglasses, a fold-up chair, hat, backpack, warmup suit with bowl logo, shirt, shoes and a Dreamcast videogame system with games. From the school, each gets a sweatshirt, mock-turtleneck shirt, long- and short-sleeved T-shirts, shorts, warmup suit, winter jacket, polo shirt, visor and vest.

WELCOME: With running back Dameon Hunter starting the cheering as the contest neared its end, junior backup offensive lineman Tevita Vakalahi, from Taylorsville, led the Utes to victory over the Trojans in the pie-eating contest at Saturday afternoon's welcome reception for the teams at the ESPNZone at the New York, New York casino. Members of the winning club included backup defensive end Stan Moleni and offensive linemen Jordan Gross and Sean Souza.

The Utes needed to win that one because they were thoroughly embarrassed in the Elvis-impersonation singing contest. USC backup quarterback Matt Cassell did a rousing version of "Blue Suede Shoes," though he was supposed to sing a Christmas song. A Ute quartet of quarterbacks Lance Rice, Ryan Breska and Brett Elliott, along with kick returner Morgan Scalley, did an awful version of "Blue Christmas" that had some teammates booing them.

Apparently, the U. foursome had been studying its playbooks rather than practicing harmonies or studying lyrics.

HURTIN' UTES: Receiver/special teamer Quincy Watkins turned an ankle practicing in St. George and did not work out with the team in its first Las Vegas run-through at the Sam Boyd Stadium practice fields Saturday. Cornerback Cody Weight turned an ankle on the last special-teams play.

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