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2ND-QUARTER DRIVE SHOWS UTES’ METTLE

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IN A GAME otherwise undistinguished by mistake-free drives, pinpoint offense and play unmarred by yellow flags, it was a two and a half minute interlude by the University of Utah offense that set the Utes apart yesterday and caused the bowl scouts in attendance to put "Occupied" cards on their seats as they left Rice stadium.

For the most part, Utah's 21-15 triumph over Colorado State was a study in overcoming adversity - on both sides of the ball. The best offense was letting the other guy shoot himself in the foot. The Rams were whistled for 11 penalties and 98 yards, the Utes for 13 penalties and 131 yards. In addition, the Rams lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions.Reverse was the gear of choice. Once, the Utes started on downs with first-and-goal at the six-yard-line and proceeded to back up all the way to the 19 before they missed a field goal and came up with zero points. In the final moments, the Rams chucked away two opportunities to regain the lead, first by fumbling, and then by throwing an interception.

But there was a sharp departure from all of this schizophrenic play; a series of football that was an island in the sea of frustration. A drive that, as Ute quarterback Frank Dolceput it, "is the reason we go to Price every August and sweat."It started with 2:55 remaining in the first half and CSU leading 9-7 on Mike Brown's just-kicked 37-yard field goal. Utah had first and 10 at its own 26-yard-line, still 74 yards from anywhere important and still looking for an offense that so far had scored only in the opening minutes of the game after CSU fumbled away the ball within 19 yards of the goal line.

Time being of the essence, the Utes were in their hurry-up, no-huddle offense, a game plan that calls for Dolce to call all the plays as he stands over the center at the line of scrimmage.

In the next 2:30, Dolce and the Utes moved down the field like a slingshot. The quarterback threw 10 passes and completed eight of them to four different receivers (and one of the two incompletions was an intentional grounding to stop the clock). Dolce also scrambled on one play for 14 yards on his own.

On the final two plays of the drive, Dolce hit Sean Williams with a seven-yard touchdown pass and Bryan Rowley with a pass good for a two-point conversion. Just like that, the Utes had eight points, the lead (15-9), and enough momentum to never trail again.

"When we're not making stupid mistakes," said a smiling Rowley after the game, "that's what our offense can do."

"That drive, that's what it's all about," said Dolce. "That's why you go out and practice - to have it all come together like that.

"I mean, everything just went right. Some people describe it as a zone, where everyone's in sync and it all comes together. When all you're doing is seeing and reacting, not even thinking. That's such a great feeling."

Dolce held that thought for a moment longer and then added, "I don't know, maybe we shouldn't ever huddle."

The Drive enabled the Utes to improve their overall record to 5-2 and their WAC mark to a still-in-the-race 2-1. The bowl scouts in the press box, from the Holiday, Copper and Freedom bowls, took due notice and will stay in touch at least through next Saturday's game, also in Rice Stadium, against San Diego State.

"We try not to pay attention to what the bowls are doing," said Utah Coach Ron McBride, waving away any premature notions that the Utes are on the verge of a big year. "They can leave as fast as they arrive."

He might have said the same about his offense. But he didn't. Maybe the Utes are leading the league in penalties and maybe their offense still has a tendency to sputter on occasion. But as yesterday's game showed - and as the 57-point outburst at Wyoming in the week's previous come-from-behind win also showed - it is an offense that is proving capable of coming through when necessary.

"We're just a bunch of hard-working, scrappy guys who are mostly perfectionists," was how Dolce summed up the Ute offense yesterday.

Just another offense that wants to complete every pass, gain on every run, and end every drive with a touchdown. For two and a half minutes yesterday, they showed that isn't necessarily impossible.