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UTES BATTLE ISU TONIGHT

Three times since 1978, Utah has played Idaho State at Rice Stadium. And every time the Utes have had no trouble posting an easy victory, winning 56-0, 51-16 and 41-16.

Tonight (7 p.m.) at Rice Stadium, they play Idaho State again with a similar mismatch in the making. The Utes are projected to have one of their best seasons ever, while the Bengals aren't even supposed to be a good Division I-AA team.That doesn't mean the Utes are already chalking up a victory and looking ahead to next week's Pac-10 opponent, Oregon. Coach Ron McBride is treating this game like any other and doing his best to keep his squad from being overconfident.

"If you look at the film, it scares the heck out of you," he said. "They look good on film - they're not imposters. They're tough. If you score 54 points against the air you're doing well."

McBride called Idaho State's 54-0 victory over Adams State, "men playing against boys," which is just what many folks are saying about his team playing the Bengals.

Last week against a good Utah State team, the Utes dominated, more than doubling the Aggies in total offense and holding them to just six first downs.

"I was extremely pleased with the defense, especially the front four," he said.

Even though they dominated the Aggies, the Utes have several areas in which they can improve.

One is penalties. The Utes had 15 of them for 133 yards last week. "That's like giving the other team 133 yards," said McBride.

Another is special teams, where the Utes had problems all night with blocked kicks, missed extra points and penalties. "I don't want to see them happening again," said McBride.

Nothing much has changed for Utah since the Utah State game. Except for the usual nicks and bruises, the Utes came out of that game without any injuries.

Placekicker Brian Alba has experienced a sore leg this week and will be replaced by Dan Pulsipher, but McBride says it has nothing to do with Alba's performance at Logan. In that game, Alba missed two extra point tries, although he did boot two field goals.

At running back, the Utes will go with Sylvester Cooperwood and Robert Hamilton with freshman Juan Johnson as the first backup. Charlie Brown, who started last week, will be the No. 4 back this week.

The game should offer a good chance for some of the young Ute reserves to see some action, especially at quarterback where Mike McCoy has no experienced backups. Of course, McBride isn't even thinking about that.

"We need to pay attention to business," said McBride. "We're only thinking about winning the football game."