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Ute seniors honored before game

Twenty-five Utah seniors were honored prior to Saturday's 31-27 loss to New Mexico, the final home outing of their collegiate careers.

It was the final home outing for most of them, anyway. Four of the players honored are expected to appeal to the NCAA to get an extra year of eligibility due to injuries during their respective careers — defensive lineman Kite Afeaki, running back Daryl Poston, receiver Justin Walker and defensive lineman Marquess Ledbetter.

Some of the key senior players making their final Rice-Eccles Stadium appearances included receivers John Madsen (who suffered a broken ankle early in the game) and Travis LaTendresse, running back Quinton Ganther, offensive linemen Jesse Boone and David Dirkmaat, defensive lineman Steve Fifita, linebacker Spencer Toone and kicker Dan Beardall.

CROWD, WHAT CROWD? A season-low 36,746 tickets were sold for the game.

Several thousand fewer than that actually showed up.

Still, the 249,215 fans for the six home games averaged to 41,536 for the season. That's the second best in Rice-Eccles Stadium history, behind only last season when an average of 44,112 fans showed up for the Utes' six home games.

The Utes finished the year 4-2 at home — with the previous blemish a 28-19 loss to San Diego State.

HOME COOKING? Utah's woes in the fourth quarter have been widely documented this season, and they continued Saturday. The team has been outscored 57-13 in the fourth during Mountain West Conference games, including 6-0 Saturday night.

With the Utes leading just 27-25 entering the final quarter, the clock operator made a mistake and put just 12 minutes — instead of the standard 15 — on the clock to start the fourth. "Would the clock operator please reset the clock to 15 minutes," the referee said over the loudspeaker.

Even three fewer minutes of game action wouldn't have saved the Utes, however. The Lobos' game-winning touchdown was scored with 7:07 remaining.

BOWL STUFF: No bowl representatives were in attendance at the game, but that doesn't mean the Utes didn't expect a bowl invitation had they won.

Utah would have been bowl eligible had they beaten the Lobos regardless of what happens next week in Provo. So Utah's Web site, UtahUtes.com, was prepared to let fans reserve bowl tickets almost immediately after the game had Utah won. New Mexico spoiled those plans, however.

Now 5-5, the Utes must beat BYU to become bowl eligible.

Becoming bowl eligible "is the only thing we have to shoot for now," said Ute defensive back Eric Weddle.

EXTRA POINTS: LaTendresse now has 113 career catches, which is eighth on the school's all-time reception list . . . Ute linebacker Spencer Toone now has 278 career tackles. He needs seven more to tie Harold Lusk for 10th on the all-time school list . . . Weddle's first-quarter interception gives him 11 for his career, tying him for sixth best in Ute history . . . New Mexico is now 9-0 u8nder head coach Rocky Long after bye weeks .


E-mail: lojo@desnews.com