Despite one of its best overall performances of the entire season Saturday in a 45-19 win over Tulsa, the Utah football team hardly moved in the national rankings released Sunday.
The Utes moved up just one spot in the A.P. poll to No. 20, while jumping three spots in the CNN/USA Today poll to No. 19. But that's what happens when most of the teams ahead of you win their games also.At least the Utes feel more confident about the rest of the season - beginning Saturday at Rice - after their convincing victory last Saturday.
The Ute offense was outstanding, producing 545 yards by the end of the third quarter and 601 for the game after just running it up the middle throughout the final quarter. With quarterback Mike Fouts leading the way, the Utes almost scored at will the first three quarters, with six touchdown drives taking less than three minutes each and none taking more than seven plays.
Juan Johnson emerged from the big shadow of Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, by rushing for 197 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Fuamatu-Ma'afala is sidelined for a few weeks with a cartilage tear in his right knee.
While a lot of folks might have been surprised by the performance of the former Hunter High standout, Tulsa coach Dave Rader wasn't one of them.
"We knew he was a good running back," he said. "It wasn't like they were going to a rinky-dink runner."
Defensively, the Utes also had an excellent game in allowing the Hurricane just one sustained drive all day and giving up only 302 yards of total offense.
Harold Lusk had one of his best games of the year, leading the team with 10 tackles, getting a record 18th career interception and playing like a man possessed most of the afternoon.
It turns out Lusk was just trying to impress his older brother, Henry, the New Orleans Saints tight
end, who had the week off.
"It was special for me because my brother was here," said Lusk about breaking the Ute career interception record.
The obvious question for Tulsa's Rader afterward was to compare the Utes with BYU, since he played those two teams on back-to-back weeks with similar results.
"Both are good football teams - I think BYU is bigger and Utah is faster," he said. "It should be a heckuva football game."
Before that game, the Utes must contend with a pair of tough road games, at Rice and New Mexico. In Rice the Utes will face an option team for the only time this year, one that ranks in the top five in the country in rushing offense.
"Rice is playing excellent right now," said McBride. "They've gone over 400 yards rushing the last three games."