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When he heard the bad news, Ute football coach Ron McBride leaned over, put his hands on his knees and just stared at the ground.

McBride had just been informed by trainer Bill Bean that one of his top players, perhaps his most valuable player, Henry Lusk, had broken a shoulder and would be lost for the season.Lusk sustained the injury on just the sixth play of Wednesday's scrimmage, the Utes' last before their opener with Utah State Sept. 3.

Except for perhaps quarterback Mike McCoy or defensive tackle Luther Elliss, the injury to Lusk was the worst possible one for the Utes, who have just been ranked No. 20 in the nation by Sports Illustrated.

McBride has said of Lusk, "he may never leave the field." Indeed, Lusk, the Utes' MVP of last year's Freedom Bowl, was set to play fullback, slotback and tight end on offense and be the main return man on punts.

"He's a real key for us," said McBride. "This will be a big loss."

According to Bean, Lusk broke his left scapula (shoulder blade). "He must have gotten hit in just the right spot. There was a deep dent in his shoulder pads. It was a bad injury," said Bean.

Bean said there are two options for Lusk. He can either have surgery to repair it or have it immobilized to heal on its own. Either way, the injury shouldn't be healed before the end of the season, said Bean.

Since Lusk already had a redshirt season, he is out of options for eligibility. However, Bean believes the injury wouldn't keep Lusk from eventually pursuing a pro football career.

Lusk's injury put a damper on the entire scrimmage, which featured some fine performances by the Utes.

McCoy looked sharp at quarterback, completing 7 of 10 passes for 69 yards, while Sylvester Cooperwood ran six times for 46 yards. Freshman Juan Johnson showed some nice moves on an 11-yard run against the first team and Charlie Brown turned a short pass into a nifty 23-yard gain.

"Both first groups looked good and played well," said McBride. "I was impressed with Cooperwood, (Robert) Hamilton, Johnson and Brown. All four running backs looked good."

With starting wide receiver Deron Claiborne sitting out with a minor injury, Kevin Dyson (Clearfield High), moved up to first team and made a couple of nice catches. The best catch of the day, however, belonged to David Kozlowski, who reached to snag a pass from backup QB Ryan Shea and turned it into an 18-yard gain.

McBride said he and his staff will make some decisions after watching the tapes of the scrimmage and start getting ready Friday for Utah State.

"We'll evaluate the whole football team and decide who's going to play where," said McBride.

Unfortunately he's going to have to look hard for someone to fill Lusk's big shoes.

UTE NOTES: Besides Lusk, a few other Ute players sustained minor injuries Wednesday. Backup defensive lineman Sione Mahe suffered a left knee sprain and will be out a couple of weeks, while reserve running back Ryan Jensen and reserve offensive lineman Todd Jackson, both received stingers . . . The Utes will conclude two-a-days Friday. They'll practice Saturday morning, then be off until Monday afternoon when they start daily 3:30 p.m. practices. No scrimmages are scheduled for next week.