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UTAH: UTES, ON SAME ROUTE AS ’88, ARE HOPING TO END WITH A STRONG FINISH

SHARE UTAH: UTES, ON SAME ROUTE AS ’88, ARE HOPING TO END WITH A STRONG FINISH

The Utes are now down to the part where their best plan is to hope for a strong finish. But even that is in serious doubt. Scott Mitchell is getting only occasional protection. The defense is being devastated by big plays. Utah is coming off a convincing loss to Wyoming and is 2-5 . . . and counting.

Isn't this where we came in last year? Almost a year ago, Utah was headed in the same direction. Following a 61-18 loss to Wyoming, the Utes were also 2-5, but they reversed field and ended up winning their final four games. However, this year's season-ending schedule is considerably more difficult. In 1988 Utah finished with San Diego State, Colorado State, Utah State and BYU. This year their final five games (they play 12 games this year) are against Stanford, Colorado State, New Mexico, BYU and Air Force.Asked what he can do to stop Utah's penchant for playing well at times and handing over big plays the next instant, Coach Jim Fassel was vague. "I could speculate and guess all you want, but no coach in the country is going to put his finger on it. It's just a case of breaking down at the wrong time."

For the Utes, the wrong time appears to be game time. Utah was behind 14-0 only a minute into last Saturday's game. And though they closed the lead to within a touchdown three times, they were never able to go ahead.

The latest loss, which puts Utah Coach Jim Fassel's career record at 23-30, has left many Ute fans wondering about the coach's future. However, with a reported one year left on his contract, chances of him departing after this season appear unlikely unless there is a total collapse. "What's on my mind now is concentrating on us playing well the rest of the year," said Athletic Director Chris Hill. He also made reference to last year's strong finish by saying, "My response (to questions about Fassel) is, `Didn't we learn anything from last year?' "

Then there is the case of Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell. The 6-foot-6 all-America candidate continues to run up big numbers and lose anyway. Two touchdown passes against Wyoming put his consecutive game streak at 18. He has 25 touchdown passes - more than anyone in the country.