San Diego State visits Utah with unblemished conference record

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Here's a twist.

San Diego State takes an unbeaten conference record into Saturday's game at Utah, which is still looking for its first league win.

The Utes (3-3, 0-2 Mountain West) are on their first winning streak of the season, having beaten Louisville and Utah State in consecutive weeks. But the way this year's schedule worked out with conference games sprinkled within the non-conference season, Utah is already two games down in the MWC race.

"We're 3-3 and we don't have all the answers, and we have some deficiencies that we need to clear up," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "But lately, I've been encouraged by what I've seen from the team."

The Utes went 3-1 in their non-conference schedule, beating heavily favored Louisville and UCLA in two games that looked daunting at the beginning of the season.

But the Utes also lost their MWC opener to Air Force and were shut out at UNLV 27-0. It will still take quite a run and some help over the final six games to get Utah back in contention in the Mountain West. The last time the Utes started 0-2 in the conference was 2002, when they lost their first four league games.

That was also the last time San Diego State opened the conference season with a victory until this year. The Aztecs (2-3, 1-0) beat Colorado State 24-20 on Saturday.

They drove 80 yards for the winning score late in the fourth quarter last week to beat the Rams and snap a nine-game road losing streak that dated back to 2005.

"We know going into another road game that if you hang in there you can have a chance to win the game," coach Chuck Long said. "We are going to take some punches this week, but if we can stick together, you never know what will happen. Now we have the belief that we can hang in there during an entire game and come away with the win."

San Diego State started last season, Long's first with the team, 0-5 and ended up going 3-9. The Aztecs can match last year's total with one more victory and still have six more to go after Utah.

It took San Diego State until Nov. 11 to win its second game last season. So rallying to beat Colorado State has the Aztecs much more confident than they were after the first five games of 2006.

"Looking into the huddle on that last drive, the guys looked right back at me like it was just another drive, so it made my job a lot easier," quarterback Kevin O'Connell said. "I think the work that we put in really gave us the chance to be successful. It feels good to win a game like that on the road."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-10-12-07 1613MDT

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