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Suddenly, Utes are nearsighted

Utah enters its final nonconference game with a problem. The 10th-ranked Utes claim they can't see too far ahead.

"We don't have real good vision. Our vision only goes seven days. The only thing we're concentrating on is this week," said senior defensive tackle Sione Pouha. "I know that sounds kind of corny. But in order to get to next week you've got to take care of the present."

Before looking ahead to next week's Bowl Championship rankings and a season-ending stretch of five consecutive Mountain West Conference games, Pouha and his teammates close out their non-league slate. Utah (5-0) takes on North Carolina (3-3) tonight (8 p.m., KJZZ, Ch. 14) at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"I'm not very familiar with that part of the country and those schools, but I've made a lot of phone calls," said Utah coach Urban Meyer, whose program will be facing an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time. "I'm glad it's here and not there. There's some challenges. When you think Southern football, you think athleticism. You watch these guys play and you see it."

Meyer compares Carolina's athleticism to that of Texas A&M's.

"I've been working on them for a year — as soon as I saw them on the schedule," he said.

Film and conversations with a bunch of people who've played the Tar Heels and recruited against them have aided Utah's preparation. The Utes, he continued, quickly shook off rust from their only bye of the season. They had a good week of practice and are eager to get back on the field.

Utah has won nine straight games over two seasons.

"Good things come to those who do things that are right, that do things the right way," Pouha said of the team's focus and preparation.

The Utes have a distinct statistical advantage in tonight's game. North Carolina's defense ranks among the nation's worst, particularly against the run. Utah, meanwhile, is 12th in total offense and 14th rushing.

"They're a talented team. You've got to look at who they've played (William & Mary, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Florida State and North Carolina State)," said Utah running back Quinton Ganther. "They've played a lot of big teams, and we're a big team now as well. We've just got to come out with our game. We can't take anyone lightly."

It's part of Utah's nearsighted approach.

"We're not licking our chops. We've just got to execute. As long as we execute our game plan we should be fine," added Ganther. "We're not worried about the statistical numbers. Numbers don't mean anything. You've still got to play the ballgame."

EXTRA POINTS: This is the first meeting between Utah and North Carolina. The ACC is the only Division I-A league they've never squared off against . . . Starting cornerback Ryan Smith, who has been battling a groin injury, will be a game-time decision . . . The Rice-Eccles Stadium ticket office will open at 10 a.m. with a limited availability . . . North Carolina is shorthanded. Three players, including its leading tackler, have been suspended after a marijuana possession charge.


Utes on the air

North Carolina (3-3) at No. 11 Utah (5-0)

Today, 8 p.m.

TV: KJZZ, Ch. 14

Radio: KALL 700AM


Red, white and Carolina blue

A statistical look at tonight's game between Utah and North Carolina at Rice-Eccles Stadium. NCAA rankings appear in parentheses.

UTAH UNC

464.0 (12) Total offense ypg 396.0 (42)

241.6 (33) Passing ypg 212.5 (54)

222.4 (14) Rushing ypg 183.5 (33)

37.8 (11) Scoring offense ppg 25.5 (59)

334.4 (44) Total defense ypg 476.33 (112)

193.4 (41) Passing defense ypg 228.83 (82)

141.0 (60) Rushing defense ypg 246.5 (114)

15.0 (19) Scoring defense ppg 33.83 (97)


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com