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U. expects Rams to be ready

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Thanks to Miami of Ohio, preparation for Utah's Mountain West Conference opener became a little more focused.

The Utes visit league favorite Colorado State Saturday (4:30 p.m., KJZZ-TV, Ch. 14) — a week after the Rams were surprised at home by the RedHawks.

"We're not preparing for the CSU team that played Miami," Utah coach Urban Meyer said. "We're preparing for the one that played against Colorado and California."

The unexpected setback — among a handful of upset wins by Mid-American Conference teams last weekend — bore little resemblance to previous CSU efforts. After a hard-fought 42-35 season-opening loss to Colorado, the Rams posted victories over California (23-21) and Weber State (31-7).

"Sonny (Lubick) has had nine consecutive winning seasons because he's a great coach and he can rally a team back," said Meyer, who was on Lubick's staff at CSU from 1993-95. "Very rarely have they lost two in a row."

That, in itself makes the Rams dangerous. The added pain of a lopsided loss in Fort Collins only adds fuel to the fire.

"They kind of got their butts kicked a little bit," Utah quarterback Alex Smith said. "They're going to be coming back ready to go."

The Utes, however, have had plenty of time to get prepared. With 16 days between games, they've managed to heal some aches and pains and work on things like achieving balance on offense.

"I don't think we can win the game if we're one-dimensional," Meyer said. "We're not Miami of Ohio and we're not Colorado."

The RedHawks and Buffaloes each used extremely strong passing games to top the Rams. Miami threw for 330 yards and ran for 206, while 402 of Colorado's 504 yards against CSU came via the air.

"We're going to have to throw the ball to be successful," Smith said. "I think we have to be more balanced. I think it's going to be the key for us the second half of the season."

Utah (2-1) currently ranks second in rushing (202.3 ypg) and seventh in passing (175.3 ypg) among Mountain West Conference teams. Tailback Brandon Warfield, who ranks third in the nation with 149.3 ypg, has been a real workhorse. He's carried the ball 99 times this season — five more plays than Utah has opted to throw passes on.

When told CSU was 7-14 under Lubick in games where opponents throw 35 or more passes — Meyer joked that perhaps the Utes would get those passes out of the way first.

SIDELINED STAR: Defensive end Jason Kaufusi, who hasn't played a single down this season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, will likely redshirt.

"He's probably not going to play this year. It's almost certain now," Meyer said. "I don't want to say it's 100 percent, but it's getting closer to 100 percent."

Kaufusi, a senior defensive end who was considered an All-America candidate, met with Meyer on Monday to discuss his future. The two-time first-team all-conference honoree told the coach he was leaning toward using his redshirt year instead of turning pro or quitting the game. Meyer is pleased at the prospect of having Kaufusi back next season.

"This is all about Jason Kaufusi being healthy," Meyer said of the importance of giving him time to heal. "He has some serious shoulder issues."

Kaufusi has hoped to play this week, but his shoulder has simply not cooperated sufficiently.

EXTRA POINTS: The Utes practiced in full pads Monday but will pull back the rest of the week in order to stay fresh for Saturday. They'll leave for Fort Collins Friday afternoon . . . Despite not playing in the Texas A&M game, wide receiver Paris Warren leads the Utes with 16 catches . . . Utah has yet to allow a quarterback sack this season . . . Strong safety Dave Revill has a team-high 26 tackles . . . Chris Kemoeatu's knee injury has healed, and he's expected to make his season debut as Utah's starting right guard on Saturday . . . Linebacker Spencer Toone is still 50-50 with a sore shoulder.

E-MAIL: dirk@desnews.com