For Steve Savoy, Utah's first meeting with North Carolina is more than just another game. He's extremely motivated for Saturday's clash (8 p.m., KJZZ, Ch. 14) at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"North Carolina had a chance to recruit me coming out of high school but it fell off, a wishy-washy kind of thing," said Savoy. "They didn't take me, so I'm taking this as a personal game to show them that they missed out on something special. This is a big game for myself as well as the team."
Savoy, who attended Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., enters his first college game against an East Coast opponent on the heels of a career-best performance. In Utah's 28-7 win over New Mexico on Oct. 1, the speedy wide receiver caught 11 passes.
Savoy, a sophomore, leads the Utes with 25 catches this season for 377 yards and four touchdowns.
"One thing about the spread offense is we don't say get it to so-and-so. It's who they're taking away," said Utah coach Urban Meyer. "We have four receivers (Savoy, Paris Warren, John Madsen and Travis LaTendresse) right now that can play. I do think Steve is playing very well."
As for Savoy's motivation against the Tar Heels, the coach understands.
"Bless him. If that's what motivates guys like Steve Savoy that's fine," said Meyer. "I think the No. 1 motivation is a chance to go 6-0 and that's all that matters. We've just got to beat it into their brains."
Next season, Utah is scheduled to visit North Carolina—bringing Savoy as close as he'll likely get to his home in Washington as one of the Utes.
"I think my whole family is coming down to that one," he said.
LOOKING AHEAD: California high school quarterback Josh Portis, an All-American who gave Utah a verbal commitment on Monday, isn't lacking in confidence. After leading Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) to a 35-13 win over previous unbeaten Narbonne last weekend, Portis had plenty to say. In addition to completing 10-of-17 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder rushed for 114 yards and two scores.
"I did what I had to do. I beat them with my legs and my arm," Portis told the Daily Breeze. "They hadn't played a tough quarterback yet and I had to break them down."
Portis joins Juan Diego receiver Marquis Wilson and Skyline offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom in giving Utah early commitments.
ANOTHER BIG CROWD: Ticket sales for Saturday are ahead of pace for the Sept. 25 game against Air Force, when a near sellout crowd of 44,043 filed into Rice-Eccles Stadium. Dave Copier, director of ticket sales, said general admission and chair seats are still available.
INDOOR UPDATE: Construction on the Spence Eccles Field House is on schedule. Windows are currently being installed on the new indoor practice facility and the turf is expected to be delivered in the next couple of weeks. Events coordinator Steve Pyne said the Utes will likely be able to move football practice indoors by Nov. 15.
TOUGH DISH: Defensive tackle Sione Pouha said Utah's recent bye week was tough to endure. He watched UNLV's win over BYU while dining with his wife at a Chili's restaurant.
"I was like a kid locked up for the weekend," said Pouha. "I almost broke the plate I was eating on because I wanted to be out there playing."
Utes on the air
North Carolina (3-3) at No. 11 Utah (5-0)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: KJZZ, Ch. 14
Radio: KALL 700AM