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Utes were prepared for weather — and all else

SHARE Utes were prepared for weather — and all else

Saturday's 63-28 victory over UNLV didn't help or hurt Utah in the rankings.

For the second consecutive week, the Utes are No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 and 10th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. This morning, they'll find out if their No. 7 status in the Bowl Championship Series standings has changed.

One thing that hasn't is Utah's approach. Preparation is of paramount importance to the Utes. They were even ready for the cool, damp weather at Rice-Eccles Stadium, having practiced in it much of the week. Quarterback Alex Smith was particularly pleased with Wednesday's workout.

"It was pouring, freezing cold the whole day, but it was a great practice for us," said Smith. "We were prepared to come in and still throw the ball, even with the weather."

The Utes scored three of their nine touchdowns through the air as Smith completed 11-of-19 passes for 147 yards. Paris Warren, Steve Savoy and Travis LaTendresse hauled in scores.

Utah's ground game also scored three times. Savoy and Marty Johnson crossed the goal line, as did Smith, who juked his way 70 yards for a touchdown. Teammate Bo Nagahi said the Heisman Trophy candidate looked like Michael Vick as he ran downfield.

UNLV coach John Robinson said Smith is as good as any quarterback in the nation.

"Their efficiency was tremendous," he continued. "That team is playing good football."

Emphasis on team. Utah's special teams and defense also put points on the board — and it didn't take long to get started.

The Utes scored a touchdown on the opening kickoff when Nagahi and Morgan Scalley teamed for a 100-yard return. Nagahi fielded the ball 7 yards deep in the end zone and ran to the Ute 10-yard line before handing off to Scalley on a reverse.

"That opening kickoff was a great play," said Robinson. "Their team just outplayed us."

By game's end, Shaun Harper had recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown and defensive tackle Steve Fifita had returned an interception 6 yards for another score.

The three scores outside of offense left Meyer feeling proud. He also liked the way his team kept its composure in what has become a heated rivalry over the years.

"I was pleased with our guys and the way they behaved in situations where someone takes a swat at you," said Meyer. "To walk away, you're pretty smart and pretty disciplined."

With 11 straight wins, dating back to last season, the Utes have adopted a consistent approach. They're determined to take things one game at a time.

In concluding his postgame remarks, Meyer's thoughts were already on preparing for Saturday's game at San Diego State (7 p.m., KJZZ, Ch. 14). Utah enters the contest 7-0 on the season.

"The best thing about that is the chance to go 8-0," said Meyer.

For Utah, everything else is secondary.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com