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Being the coach of a young, inexperienced football team like the University of Utah can be a virtual roller coaster ride with ups and downs on a day-to-day basis.

After a poor performance by his team in Sunday's practice, Ute coach Ron McBride probably wished the season would never start. By Monday, however, McBride was feeling much better about his squad and looking forward to Saturday night's opener against Oregon."Today was much better than yesterday," he said. "Sunday I didn't like the way we practiced at all. But we were a lot cleaner today. Still, we've got a long ways to go before Saturday."

Injuries aren't as much of a concern as they were a week ago for the Utes. The only starter likely to miss the opener - and he could miss several games - is defensive end Jeff Kaufusi, who has a torn hamstring that is healing slowly. Junior Chad Kauhaahaa will take over Kaufusi's spot. Otherwise everyone else looks good.

"We're as healthy as we can be," said McBride, who is happy to have running back Juan Johnson and receivers Rocky Henry and Kevin Dyson back.

McBride's biggest concern is Saturday night's opponent, defending Pac-10 champ Oregon, which returns the majority of its starters.

Even though his team was able to defeat the Ducks in Oregon a year ago, McBride is wary this time. He doesn't have Utah State and Idaho State to warm up with, for starters.

"I have some idea of how good we'll be, but we're still an unknown quantity," said McBride. "Oregon is really good football team with a lot of weapons and quality football players. It's going to be a big test."

UTE NOTES: The Ute running game continues to impress. McBride is excited to finally have Teneil Ethridge in uniform, two years after he was signed. He'll play a lot, along with sophomore Juan Johnson and freshman Omar Bacon and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala . . . The Utes are scheduled to have their first practice on the new SportGras at Rice Stadium Tuesday afternoon . . . Punter Terance Keehan has shown well as a backup receiver and may see time there. The risk is that he may get injured, which would leave the punting to placekicker Daniel Pulsipher or walk-on Chris Hunter, brother of former BYU punter Brad Hunter . . . Next week the Utes take on another Pac-10 opponent, Stanford, also at home.