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Despite all his struggles, Rice among MWC leaders

SHARE Despite all his struggles, Rice among MWC leaders

As bad as his overthrows and underthrows looked Saturday against Utah State, sophomore quarterback Lance Rice actually ranks third in the Mountain West Conference in passing average per game at 147 yards.

Wyoming's Casey Bramlet at 331 and BYU's Brandon Doman at 254 are ahead of Rice, but he had 9 yards more than San Diego State's fourth-place Lon Sheriff.

Rice also ranks sixth in the MWC in total offense with 134 yards — that's his pass yardage minus 13 yards in rushing.

SANDERS 1ST NATIONALLY: Sophomore safety Antwoine Sanders burst into NCAA football in a big way last Saturday. The JC transfer leads the nation in interceptions with two, tied for first with three other players, including New Mexico's Scott Gerhardt, with whom he's tied for the MWC lead.

Sanders is also tied for first nationally and tied for first in the league in passes defended with three, including an official pass breakup.

As a team, Utah ranks tied for third in the NCAA with three interceptions.

Rover linebacker Sheldon Deckart's 15 tackles against USU have him leading the conference by two over Colorado State defensive back Aaron Sprague.

ASAP: Sanders and his near-twin running-mate at safety, Arnold Parker, are nicknamed "ASAP" — for their initials and the quick way they get to the ball. Sanders is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, and Parker, an impressive starter last year as a freshman, is 6-2, 210.

As fast as Sanders showed he was last week, receiver Cliff Russell insists he can beat him in a footrace. Russell, the fastest Ute ever, has a 4.27 electrically timed 40-yard speed.

Saturday's opponent, Oregon, also has its fastest player ever in Allan Amundson, electronically timed at 4.34 on artificial turf. Amundson is a junior tailback who injured an ankle last week and is still a bit sore, said reporter Ryan White of the Oregonian.

AL'S BACK: Junior backup defensive end Al Johnson was to resume practicing with his teammates as soon as he passes a team physical, reinstated Wednesday after the Salt Lake District Attorney's office said that he is no longer under investigation for a crime.

Johnson was essentially an innocent bystander in a June 1 incident in which a friend asked him to hold a package for him. When police asked about it, Johnson handed over the package, which contained the drug Ecstacy.

Because Johnson was originally charged with possession of drugs, coach Ron McBride immediately suspended the 20-year-old from San Diego.

"Johnson is no longer the subject of any investigation by our office. We have no objection that he be reinstated to the football team," said Kelly R. Sheffield, the deputy district attorney.

IMPROVED: Some of Utah's most-maligned areas of the past have so far been nothing but positive. Ryan Kaneshiro is tied for third in the NCAA and is second in the MWC in field goals with the three he kicked last week. Kaneshiro is second in the league in kick-scoring with 11 points, and, at 2-for-2 on PATs, he's part of a long list ranking No. 1 in the NCAA.

Also, the Ute team is tied for third in the NCAA and ranks first in the MWC in turnover margin at +4, and it's tied for third in the NCAA in turnovers gained with five.

And Utah stands second-best in the Mountain West in penalties with just five for 30 yards, behind Wyoming's four for 25 yards.

IN THE CARDS: Those "limited-edition" MWC trading cards featuring former Ute Mike Anderson, now of the Denver Broncos and the 2000 NFL offensive rookie of the year, and with a picture on the wrapper of Stevonne Smith, now of the Charlotte Panthers, are now available for $14.99 at the MWC on-line store at www.TheMWC.com.

E-MAIL: lham@desnews.com