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Rams look to sack Utes

U. has allowed no sacks; Rams lead league

Will something give Saturday?

Utah's Mountain West Conference opener at Colorado State pits two extremes. The Utes, who haven't allowed a single quarterback sack this season, and the Rams, who are league co-leaders with 13 takedowns.

Utah coach Urban Meyer is aware of the variable. The former minor-league baseball player joked that bringing up the topic of his team's perfection was akin to telling a pitcher he is working on a no-hitter.

"We throw the ball fast, and we spend a lot of time with protection," Meyer said. "There's a lot of pride in that."

In three games under Meyer's spread offense, the Utes have had two different starting quarterbacks and weathered injuries across the line. Throughout it all, no sacks.

"I see some teams give up like nine a game. I can't imagine that," Meyer said. "I think a sack is darn near as bad as a turnover."

In his first season at Bowling Green, Meyer and his staff did a little study that noted an increase in turnovers following a lost-yardage play. They determined that panic sets in.

"Offensive football is a 10-yard game," Meyer continued. "If you all of a sudden lose eight, then all of a sudden you're out of whack."

WHO'LL BE THE STARTER?: With Brett Elliott cleared to resume practice Monday, the Utes face another week of spirited quarterback competition. The junior, who fractured his wrist in Utah's 28-26 loss at Texas A&M on Sept. 6, won't get his starting job back unless he can take it away from Alex Smith.

"I've heard people have rules that you can't lose your job to injury. I'm not quite sure what that means if the other player is playing better than you are," Meyer said. "If Brett comes back and he practices better than Alex, then he's going to play. If he doesn't, he's not going to play."

Elliott, an Oregon native, is eager to play in next Friday's game against the nationally ranked Ducks. He won the starting job in training camp by outperforming Smith and Lance Rice. The trio, who are friends, shared the No. 1 spot at the beginning of drills. When Elliott was injured, Smith and Rice then competed for the job in practice before the California game.

NOT FOR THE NUMBERS: Tailback Brandon Warfield insists he doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about being the nation's third-leading rusher.

"I try not to get into that. Because when you get into that you get off track with what you want to do," said Warfield, who leads the Mountain West with 149.3 yards per game. He also tops the conference in scoring (14.0 ppg) and all-purpose yardage (150.3 ypg). "I have goals, but I don't want to get to looking up stats, because that brings out individual (success).

"I'm not trying to be that. I'm just trying to do what I have to do to contribute to the team," Warfield said. "Whatever I get at the end of the year, that's what I get. I'm grateful for what I have right now."


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com