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Utes try to ignore frenzy around them

'One game at a time' is team's familiar script

It's a script that keeps on growing.

With 10 consecutive wins over two seasons and top 10 status in both major polls as well as the Bowl Championship Series standings, Utah's progression is well-documented.

Chapters are added each time the Utes (6-0) take the field. When they face UNLV (2-5) this afternoon (5 p.m., KJZZ, Ch. 14) at Rice-Eccles Stadium, more questions will be answered.

A sampling of inquiries include: How will Utah fare in its first game as a BCS contender? Can the Utes prevent the Rebels from sending head coach John Robinson, who is retiring at season's end, out with a winning record? Will quarterback Alex Smith continue to play like a Heisman Trophy candidate?

"All those are great story lines," said Utah coach Urban Meyer. "But the bottom line is we have to prepare like we've done. We've prepared very well 16 out of 18 times. The other two games we didn't."

Proper preparation, he added, is the Utes' focus. So, too, is taking things one game at a time.

"It's not a cliche for us," said Meyer, who vows to squelch any talk of national accolades within the program. The Utes are concentrating their efforts on a more localized objective. Today's game opens a season-ending stretch of five consecutive league contests.

"UNLV is a conference game, and our ultimate goal is to win the (Mountain West Conference) championship," he added. "Everyone in the profession admires John Robinson, and UNLV will be playing for their coach."

Motivation isn't the only weapon the Rebels have. Running back Dominique Dorsey, who leads the MWC in rushing and all-purpose yardage, and wide receiver Earvin Johnson, who ranks among the league's best in catches and reception yardage, are offensive stars of note.

All-American safety Jamaal Brimmer and linebacker Adam Seward, the MWC's all-time leading tackler, headline the defense.

As a whole, however, UNLV suffers from inconsistency. The Rebels managed to beat BYU in Provo, but were unable to defeat Utah State at home.

Meyer, though, is adamant that his team must play well in order to prevail. A carryover from last week's 46-16 win over North Carolina would be appreciated.

"We never stopped," said Meyer. "We were even blocking punts at the end of the game. That's the style of play our guys love."

EXTRA POINTS: A near sellout crowd is expected. The Rice-Eccles Stadium ticket office opens at 10 a.m. . . . Utah leads the all-time series with UNLV, 8-1. The Rebels haven't defeated the Utes since 1979 when they met for the first time . . . With Makai Aalona sidelined with a knee injury, the Utes will shuffle their offensive line a bit. David Dirkmaat will move to right tackle, while Eric Pettit will start at left guard . . . Utah is 29-of-32 (91 percent) inside the red zone this season. The Utes have scored 27 touchdowns. Opponents have scored on just 12-of-20 (60 percent) opportunities . . . Sports Illustrated is working on a story about Utah's offense.


Utes on the air Utes

UNLV (2-5, 1-2) at No. 9 Utah (6-0, 2-0)

Today, 5 p.m.

TV: KJZZ, Ch. 14

Radio: KALL, 700AM


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com