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Back to business for Utes

Since Thursday's 23-20 overtime loss at TCU, Utah has practiced twice. With a home date with Air Force fast approaching, the Utes don't have much time to look back.

"That feeling of disappear has got to be there," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "But they've got to stop replaying it in their minds."

Practicing and preparing for Air Force's option attack has been quite therapeutic for a team coming off its first loss in almost two years. The Utes had 14 missed tackles in the setback, twice as many as usual.

"It was great to get back on the field," Whittingham said. "It's the only thing that will get your mindset where it needs to be."

A win over Air Force, he added, is what will really get the bad taste out of his mouth.

"Kids are kids and they'll bounce back," said defensive coordinator Gary Andersen.

Team captain Steve Fifita is confident the Utes will resume their winning ways.

"I forgot how it felt to lose," he said. "It's unreal every time I think about it. It's unreal to me."

A lot of time has passed since Utah's 47-35 loss to New Mexico on Oct. 25, 2003. The Utes, however, returned the next week to begin their school record 18-game winning streak with a 45-43 triple overtime victory at Air Force.

Ironically, the Falcons are once again the first hurdle for the Utes to overcome in their bid to bounce back.

RING THEFT: While the Utes were in Texas, eight football rings belonging to Whittingham were stolen from a display case in the Smith Athletics Center.

As of Saturday evening, the rings were still missing.

"That's not the worst of my worries right now," said Whittingham, who explained that finding a way to beat Air Force is his most pressing concern.

The championship rings, which have obvious sentimental value, are rewards Whittingham has earned during his career at both Utah and BYU.

GANTHER OK: Running back Quinton Ganther, who was on the field for all 81 offensive plays against TCU, spent some time in "The Pit" Saturday. Whittingham said Ganther is just a little battered after getting cramped up in the muggy conditions in Fort Worth. He expects Utah's leading rusher to be in the backfield Thursday against Air Force.

"He's a tough son-of-a-gun," said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who is hopeful the Utes can develop a second tailback to help lighten the load on Ganther.

EXTRA POINTS: Safety Kawika Casco tweaked a hamstring in the TCU game and joined Ganther in "The Pit" Saturday . . . A Mountain West Conference official said Utah's Oct. 1 game at North Carolina could kick off as early as 10 a.m. (MT). An official decision on the start time may come as early as Monday . . . After Thursday's game, the rest of Utah's schedule features only Saturday dates — something the Utes have done just once, thus far.


MWC home opener

Air Force (2-1, 1-1) at Utah (2-1, 0-1)

Thursday, 5:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 700AM


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com