Estimated read time: 10-11 minutes
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No. 7/8 Utah (10-0, 6-0 MWC) plays at San Diego State (1-9, 0-6 MWC) on Saturday, Nov. 15. Kickoff is 5:00 p.m. PT (6:00 p.m. MT) in Qualcomm Stadium. The game will be televised on The Mtn. Radio is KALL700 AM.
Utah is ranked No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and the BCS Standings (Utah received a No. 4 average computer ranking). The Utes are No. 8 in the Associated Press and Harris polls. It marks Utah's best BCS standing since the 2004 Utes climbed to No. 6.
Utah can clinch at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title with a win Saturday. Utah won back-to-back championships in 2003-04 and has three total MWC titles to date, including a tie for first in 1999--the first year of the league.
Utah is 10-0 for just the second time in school history. The 2004 Utes finished the season at 12-0.
Dating back to last year's Poinsettia Bowl victory, Utah has won 11 straight games, which is tied for the second-longest winning streak in the country with Alabama (behind Texas Tech with 12). Utah has won 18 of its last 19 games.
The win over then No. 11 TCU last week improved Utah's record to 5-0 all-time in games when both Utah and its opponent were nationally ranked.
Utah leads the series with San Diego State 14-12-1 and has won four of the last five. The Utes are 6-6-1 in San Diego.
Louie Sakoda, a leading candidate for first-team All-America honors as a kicker this year, was a first-team All-America punter in 2007 (FWAA, CBSSports.com). Sakoda was selected as the 2008 Midseason All-America placekicker by CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and Rivals.com. He is a top-20 semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award (nation's top placekicker) and top-10 semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award (nation's top punter). The most decorated weekly performer in Mountain West Conference history, Sakoda has won 11 career special teams player of the week awards, including four this season. He is also a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, a Draddy Trophy finalist (which comes with an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship) and a finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.
JOHNSON FINALIST FOR GOLDEN ARM AWARD
Brian Johnson has been named a finalist for the Golden Arm Award, presented annually to the nation's top senior college quarterback by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. and Transamerica. He joins an elite field that includes Chase Daniel (Missouri), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Parker Wilson (Alabama) and Pat White (West Virginia). The 2008 winner will be presented with the Golden Arm Award on Friday, December 5 at the Tremont Grand Meeting & Banquet Facility in downtown Baltimore.
Brian Johnson capped a last-minute, 80-yard drive by throwing a touchdown strike to Freddie Brown and Utah came from behind to beat No. 11 TCU 13-10. The Utes never led in the game until their final drive, which began with 2:48 remaining and Utah trailing 10-6. Johnson completed 7-of-9 passes in the last two minutes--including an 11-yard completion to Brown on fourth and five that got Utah to the TCU 15-yard line. Brown finished with a career-high 105 yards on nine catches. Others who made big plays on the game-winning drive were receivers Bradon Godfrey and Brent Casteel. But most of the game centered on two of the best defenses in the nation. After relinquishing 10 points in the first nine minutes of the game, Utah held the Horned Frogs scoreless the remainder of the way. TCU rushed for 99 yards and a 10-3 first quarter lead before the defense settled in--holding the Horned Frogs to minus-one yard in the second quarter and 15 rushing yards in the third quarter. Stevenson Sylvester led Utah with a season-high 10 tackles, and chipped in on one of the team's four sacks, which counted for a total 48 lost yards. Joe Dale had nine tackles and a 16-yard sack, and Sean Smith had an interception (which he returned 37 yards to set up a Louie Sakoda field goal) and two pass breakups.
Fourth-year Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is 34-14 overall and 3-0 in bowl games. He is a candidate for the George Munger, Bobby Dodd and Paul `Bear' Bryant national coach of the year awards. Since he joined the staff as a Ute assistant in 1994, Utah has won nearly 70-percent of its games (120-55). Utah has played in nine bowl games during Whittingham's tenure--winning eight. Prior to becoming Utah's head coach in 2005, he spent one season as the defensive line coach and 10 years as the defensive coordinator.
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Utah drew 45,666 mostly-black clad fans to its `Blackout Game' victory over TCU on Nov. 6. It was the second-largest home crowd in school history. The 2008 Utes will set a school season attendance record after concluding the regular season on Nov. 22 before a sellout crowd in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utah-BYU game--sold out for weeks--will give Utah five sellouts in six home games this season. Utah's 45,352 attendance average exceeds the capacity of 45,017-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium. The previous season attendance record was 44,112 set in 2004.
INSIDE THE HUDDLE
Senior quarterback Brian Johnson was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 10 for his role in Utah's win over No. 11 TCU. It is the second MWC weekly honor for Johnson this year and the third of his career ... Kicker Louie Sakoda leads the Utes in scoring with 94 points, followed by running back Matt Asiata (60), receiver Freddie Brown (30), and a combination of defense and special teams (26) ... Starters Johnson, Sakoda, Zane Beadles and Colt Sampson have all been named to the CoSIDA ESPN The Magazine Academic all-District first team. As first-team selections, they are automatically placed on the Academic All-American ballot ... Utah has 32 California natives on its roster ... 15 different players have scored a touchdown for the Utes. Here's a breakdown of how Utah has scored its touchdowns: rushing (20), receiving (16), punt return (1), interception return (1) and fumble return (2) ... Six Utes have completed a pass: quarterbacks Brian Johnson (184-279), Corbin Louks (3-5) and Chad Manis (3-4); receiver Jereme Brooks (1-1); punter/kicker Louie Sakoda (1-2) and running back Matt Asiata (1-2) ... Two true freshmen have played in games: OL Tony Bergstrom and DT Sealver Siliga. Six redshirt freshmen have played, including starting nose tackle Derrick Shelby.
Quotes from Kyle Whittingham's Weekly Press Conference
The storyline of Thursday's game was two top 10 defenses. It was great pitching vs. great hitting and usually great pitching wins. TCU is an excellent football team. They are fast, physical and they have excellent defensive schemes, so we knew it'd be tough and indeed that's what it was. The best thing our offense did was not turn the ball over. If we had been minus 2 in turnovers we would not have won the football game. That was the most important stat in the ball game. Also, we did good things offensively, especially in the two minute situation. Brian [Johnson] led us right down the field for the win. He showed poise and confidence and so did our entire offense. It's become our trademark and we've done a nice job of that. We did a good job with penalties. We had very few and didn't shoot ourselves in the foot. Defensively, we settled down after giving up a couple of drives early. It was 10-0 before we knew what had happened, but we played three quarters of shutout ball and made some nice plays down the stretch. On special teams, our ability to convert field goals against TCU missing a few helped us. Those were the biggest factors.
San Diego State is another conference game and our last road game. They are decimated by injuries and have lost a lot of good players. Nonetheless, we have to play our game and stay focused. Nothing is on our mind except them. We can guarantee ourselves at least a share of the conference title with a win and our focal point is getting that done on Saturday.
On the 2-minute drill:
We have dabbled in some hurry-up offense early in the season. The defenses are a little different during the course of the game. We are taking a look at speeding things up at different portions of the game, but we are still just looking at it. It's not as easy as running the 2-minute drill all the time. Some teams will become a little less tight in coverage, some teams will up the dose of pressure and will give up big plays sometimes.
For us, part of our success is Brian Johnson's poise and confidence. Everyone believes in him getting it done. The o-line has done a nice job and our receivers have very few drops. We spend a lot of time in practice working on the 2-minute drill. Most of our success comes from the guys we have running it and the time we invest in it.
Mike Wright got beat up a little bit and Bradon Godfrey took some shots over the middle. We are pretty good injury wise. Nobody will be missing from this game that we didn't have last week. Kenape Eliapo went from 12 snaps against New Mexico to 31 snaps this week. He will continue to get more snaps.
On the defense against TCU:
The first snap of the game we were in man coverage and they ran out across the middle. They do a nice job making it difficult to cover and they went out for a big gain. Coach Anderson did a good job blending in zone defense and eliminating a problematic situation. TCU does a good job attacking man coverage. They got us in 2005 on the same type of route for the game-winner. The players and coaches responded well to the change in philosophy. We mixed in more zone than we typically do.
On national attention:
We tell them to do the same thing they have been doing week-in and week-out the last 10 weeks. We can't fall in love with ourselves and thinking that we've arrived. There is plenty that we need to fix from the TCU game. There is never a point where we've got it all figured out and there is nothing to fix.
We have been able to take a week-to-week approach through 10 games and fully anticipate being able to do the same thing this week and not catch ourselves looking beyond.
Look at Iowa/Penn State. If you're not ready to play each and every week someone's going to get you. That was a wakeup call for our guys.
On the identity of the team:
They are emerging as a hard-nosed blue-collar team that responds well to adversity. That's been their M.O. ever since fall camp. They work hard in practice and gotten it done when they have their backs against the wall. They have handled that very well.
Some people believe that is a reflection of the staff, but I think it is one of primary leadership. Greg Newman, Brian Johnson, Brice McCain and Robert Conley all have a hard-nosed mentality. They work hard in practice and expect everyone else to live up to that.
On the offense:
We would like to score a few more points. The TCU defense is a huge reason for our lack of production and New Mexico played well against us defensively. Looking at the big picture, our offense as a whole is looking good. They are doing good thing but we are never where we want to be and are always trying to get better. We want to score more than 13 points a game.