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Mullen will call plays from Utah’s sideline

SHARE Mullen will call plays from Utah’s sideline

PHOENIX — The Utah offense will have a new look for tonight's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

No, it will still feature Alex Smith, Marty Johnson, Paris Warren and Steve Savoy.

But with offensive coordinator Mike Sanford getting settled into his new job at UNLV, the Utah football team will have no one in the press box calling the plays for tonight's game.

Offensive coordinator-for-a-game Dan Mullen will be calling the plays from the sidelines, where he has roamed for the previous 11 Ute games this year as the quarterback coach.

Mullen, who will follow Urban Meyer to Florida as quarterback coach, says it's more important to be on the field like he has been for Smith all season than up in the press box.

"I just have to be organized," he said. "It would be nice to have everything all spread out, but it's really a case of organization and staying focused about what my responsibilities are."

Meyer weighed in on the setup, saying, "When Alex looks to the sideline he wants to see someone other than me, so he looks for Dan Mullen. To have Dan Mullen not there in the biggest game of his career, is not fair."

The other two offensive coaches who have been on the field all year (receivers coach Billy Gonzales and offensive line coach John Hevesy) will be there again tonight. So who will be in the press box?

"We'll have a spotter up there to tell us what they're doing," said Mullen.

TRICKERY: The Utes closed practice to the media Thursday, presumably because they didn't want anyone to see their latest trick plays, among other reasons.

Savoy said the Utes have been working on trick plays for the game.

"We have some new trick plays we've put in to give us extra deception," he said. "Hopefully they work."

Mullen said the Utes always have some trick plays in the hopper and they add new ones for each game.

"Shoot, some people think our whole offense is a trick play, but we'll always have one or two special deceptive plays for each game," he said. "We'll keep the same deceptive play until we use it. It just gets passed over until the next week. But there's a couple of new wrinkles for this game."

CONTROLLING THE LINE: Meyer said it's all about the line of scrimmage, not trick plays or the Utes' imaginative offense.

"When we play well, it looks like we're spreading the field, but what we're really doing is controlling the line of scrimmage," said Meyer.

"Look at the North Carolina game, look at the games where we wore teams out. We won because we wore teams out. We won because we controlled the line of scrimmage. If we can do that we'll win soundly."

WEATHER REPORT: After a heavy rain on Wednesday and showers on Tuesday and Thursday, the weather was dry, but cloudy all day Friday. The forecast for game day calls for showers in the morning, but clearing later in the day with temperatures in the mid- to high-50s by kickoff. Ironically, the weather for the Liberty Bowl, where the Utes could have played again, was probably better Friday than it will be tonight in Tempe. It was close to 70 degrees in Memphis for Friday's game.

INFLUENCES: Meyer and new Utah coach Kyle Whittingham were interviewed together for Friday morning's final press conferences. Both praised each other and said there were no problems from the two being "co-head coaches" this week.

"I've learned a ton of football from Urban over the last two years," said Whittingham. "It's been a great experience for me. The three head coach influences in my life have been Urban, Ron McBride and LaVell Edwards. These three guys that I've drawn from and formulated my own schematic about being a head coach. I've been trying to utilize the last three weeks we've had together."

EARLY TO BED: While some 25,000 Ute fans were out celebrating the arrival of the New Year at the huge block party in downtown Phoenix, the Utah players were snuggled safely in their beds at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort on Friday night.

Or at least they should have been.

When asked earlier this week what he would be doing when the clock struck 12 to ring in 2005, Smith said, "I'll probably be asleep." Smith said he wouldn't even be up to watch the big ball drop on Times Square at midnight.

Smith said the team has had a routine for its previous 11 games for the 48 hours prior to each game and it wouldn't change this week, even for New Year's Eve.

FIESTA BOWL PARADE: Thousands of people lined the three-mile Fiesta Bowl Parade route Friday morning in Phoenix.

No Utah players or coaches were involved in the parade of more than 100 entries, but University of Utah president Michael Young and his wife, athletic director Chris Hill and his wife, the Crimson Line, cheerleaders and band participated.

Former University of Arizona softball player and Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch was the parade's Grand Marshal.

IMPRESSIVE: Unsolicited comment from a Fiesta Bowl security guard about the Utah football team:

"I went to one of their team meetings and I've never seen a more professional group in all my years. And not just the coaches, but the players too. I was very impressed."

UTE GEAR: Ute mania means University of Utah students who use their "U" card will get 5 percent off on the purchase of their textbooks next semester.

The Ute football team's undefeated season and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl has translated into huge sales of "redwear" and Ute memorabilia sold at the campus bookstore.

"It's a way to give back to the students," said Shane Hinckley, bookstore associate director.

Spring semester at the U. begins Jan. 10. The bookstore will reopen Jan. 3 at 8 a.m.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com