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Utes: At midseason, report cards for Utes, Aggies disappoint

Utah's mid-term grades would have been better without the last two games, losses to teams Utah should have beaten. The coaches are scratching their heads. Coach Ron McBride said after Saturday's 20-19 loss to SMU at home that the team "mystifies" him at times.

The defense has done well; linebacking has been strong despite eight preseason injuries. Phil Glover, a transfer from Washington State, has provided all-conference-caliber play, and the return of Taulia Lave from injury and Chris Godfrey's steady play have given the Utes' front four excellent support. That front four had to overcome the loss of starter John Frank and backup Rhett Tatton for five games each. Junior-college transfer Mike Thomas has been a force at tackle.Offensively, quarterbacking would have earned a B+/A- until Fresno/SMU. Jonathan Crosswhite, sacked 10 times at Fresno, was 0-for-6 with two interceptions in the first quarter last Saturday; freshman Darnell Arceneaux played the other three quarters and experienced high and low points. Arceneaux still makes the mistakes of a youngster, and Crosswhite needs to have a little success to get back on track.

Likewise, U. receivers have been up and down. Daniel Jones, out last week with an ankle sprain, is second in the WAC (98.6 ypg, 5 TDs) and 15th in the NCAA, but Biletnikoff Award candidate Kevin Dyson (78.7, 2 TDs) is seventh/WAC, 44th/NCAA and had three dropped passes in the last game.

The O-line, which should have been a showpiece, suffered four major injuries to left guards and has spent most of the season playing musical left-side with varying success. The low point was at Fresno two weeks ago, when the line allowed 12 sacks.

At running back, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala has missed most of the last two games with an ankle sprain and reached potential in maybe two games (26-for-143 at Louisville, 16-for-102 vs. TCU in half a game). Running mate Juan Johnson (64.2) gets 9 yards a game less than Fuamatu-Ma'afala (75.3) but showed great heart in gaining 112 yards on 24 tries Saturday, dragging piles of tacklers an extra 5 yards on many plays.

Special teams blew it last week, with two field-goal misses and a blocked PAT. Tommy Truhe had been much better than that in the first five games. Chris Hunter's (44.4) punting is third in the WAC, Dyson is third in WAC punt returns (10.5), sixth in kickoff returns (22.6).