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Meyer still mulls QBs as Elliott has surgery

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Sophomore Alex saw a few snaps against Utah State in the season opener and hopes to be named Utah's starter for Thursday's game.

Sophomore Alex saw a few snaps against Utah State in the season opener and hopes to be named Utah’s starter for Thursday’s game.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

Utah quarterback Brett Elliott suffered a "significant fracture" in his left wrist while attempting to score on a two-point conversion with eight seconds remaining in Saturday's 28-26 loss at Texas A&M.

"He got hit real hard," Utah coach Urban Meyer said. "It was a great effort trying to get in the end zone."

The game wasn't the only thing Utes lost when the junior was knocked off his feet near the 2-yard line. They also lost Elliott. The starter of Utah's last eight games had a plate placed in his wrist Monday afternoon and will be sidelined 4-6 weeks.

Naming a new starter, however, isn't going to be easy. Meyer will likely wait until Wednesday before announcing if sophomore Alex Smith or senior Lance Rice will get the call.

"Alex hasn't stepped ahead yet, and Lance hasn't stepped ahead yet," Meyer said. "So, it's going to be determined Monday and Tuesday in practice."

Welcome the the second round of a quarterback competition that was a three-way race in training camp. Elliott prevailed as the starter, while Smith saw reserve duty in the opener against Utah State. Rice, the veteran of the group, has yet to take a snap this season.

"I like competition. I think it sets up the best of both of us," Smith said. "We're both going to have to show what we can do this week. I think the best person will be playing Thursday."

Both quarterbacks need to be ready, Meyer explained, because in his spread offense they'll get hit. And as Elliott can attest, injuries can occur.

"It really doesn't change anything for me. I've just got to be ready when called upon to perform," Rice said. "It's going to be a little different. I haven't played in quite a while, but I have played a lot. I feel confident in a game situation that I can step in and perform."

John Madsen, whose 45-yard touchdown reception preceded Elliott's conversion attempt, is certain both Rice and Smith can get the job done.

"As far as receivers and quarterbacks, I don't think we're going to have a problem camaraderie-wise," Madsen said. "We'll be pretty good. We'll be on the same page."

Confidence defines Smith as well. The sophomore, who is nursing a some minor back problems, is eager to make his first collegiate start.

"The passing game has struggled a little bit these first couple of games. We're trying to get that done. It's getting better. We're getting there," Smith said. "I'm just going to do my part. Hopefully I'll step in and make the plays that need to be made."

ON ALERT: Meyer isn't happy with Utah's kicking game. Bryan Borreson missed a 39-yard field goal attempt against A&M and is 6-of-8 in PATs this season. Bad snaps caused the latter.

"I was kind of warned about (Utah's kicking woes) when I got here. And that's got to change," Meyer said after Saturday's outcome was affected by shortcomings. "I'm responsible for the kicking game so we're going to take very direct action to make sure that doesn't occur again."

Besides kicker, Meyer is also scrutinizing the long-snapper position (currently occupied by Brady Parkhurst). The coach is placing more emphasis on getting the ball back and down where it should be. If necessary, he continued, changes will be made.

"I'm going to to be all over that one like you can't imagine the next couple of days," Meyer said.

INJURIES: Elliott, defensive end Jason Kaufusi (shoulder) and tailback Marty Johnson (foot) are expected to miss the Cal game with injuries. Offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee) will likely be sidelined as well. On the positive side, wide receiver Steve Savoy's rib injury isn't as serious as initially thought. There's a fairly good chance he'll play against the Bears.

RUNNING AWAY: Folks at the Mountain West Conference haven't had to later its Offensive Player of the Week award very much. The past four, a pair this season and the final two in 2002, have gone to Utah tailback Brandon Warfield. He leads the MWC in rushing with 177 yards per game and ranks fourth nationally.

E-MAIL: dirk@desnews.com