clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ute football making rare trip back East

U. has 2 regular season wins in the Eastern time zone

In its long football history dating back to 1892, the University of Utah has only ventured into the Eastern time zone 13 times for regular-season football games.

The Utes are making another foray to the East with a game against the University of Louisville Friday (ESPN-TV) at 6 p.m. MDT.

Usually, the Utes have come home with a loss, often by a big margin such as the 64-6 thumping by Ohio State in 1986 or the 51-18 whipping by Tennessee in 1979.

Sometimes the Utes have come close, such as the memorable 2002 game at Michigan when the Wolverines hung on for a 10-7 victory or the 1957 near-win against Army, when the Cadets edged the Lee Grosscup-led Utes 39-33.

Just twice have the Utes come away with victories, in 2001 against a mediocre Indiana team and in 1997 against the same school the Utes are playing Friday — Louisville.

That should give the 2-3 Utes hope, except that the '97 Louisville team eventually finished 1-10, the worst record in school history.

In the 1997 game in Louisville's old stadium, the Utes hung on for a 27-21 victory as Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala ran for 143 yards and Jonathan Crosswhite completed 19 of 36 passes for 205 yards.

However, the Utes have never beaten a quality program in the East. This year would be an opportunity to do that, despite the fact that the Cardinals are 3-2 and have fallen out of the rankings.

Louisville started the season in the top 10 and was ranked as high as No. 8 before falling on consecutive weeks to Kentucky and Syracuse. Although the Cardinals have fallen out of the polls, they still rank second in the nation in total offense, third in the nation in passing offense, and seventh in scoring offense.

"Louisville is an outstanding football team with an explosive, talented offense," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham. "Playing a team from that part of the country is a good experience for our players."

Whittingham, who was a part of the victories over Indiana in '01 and Louisville in '97 as an assistant coach, doesn't know why the Utes haven't been able to win many games in the East, except that they're usually tough opponents.

"It's tough when you're going back across a couple of time zones," he said. "When we do go back there we play quality opponents, so it's a combination of the two. But I don't think that's unique to us."

Ute players don't believe there's much difference playing in the East than anywhere else on the road.

"There aren't any added challenges," said Ute quarterback Brian Johnson. "It's a longer flight, but it shouldn't have an effect on the way we play."

"It doesn't make any difference to me," said defensive end Gabe Long. "It's the same turf. It's just another day with different scenery."

"The only thing we prepare differently for is the crowd noise," said center Kyle Gunther. "We put up big speakers and blast some obnoxious noises and crank the volume up and try to get used to not hearing anything. But you can't let it affect you if you want to play on the road, and so far we haven't done that. I'm looking forward to changing that this week."

Two years ago when the Utes went to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina, the coaches and players left two days before the game in an effort to get better acclimated.

Not a good idea, according to Whittingham.

"I learned that we don't want to leave a day early," he said, when asked what he learned anything from the last trip to the East. "We went two days early, but we didn't feel that was an advantage. We'd rather be here preparing."

Whittingham says he tries to keep the Utes on the same schedule they have in Salt Lake. So instead of a 10 p.m. bed check the night before and getting the players up at 8 a.m., he'll let them stay up until midnight and sleep in until 10 a.m.

"You make a few adjustments when you get there as far as bed-check time and when you wake up," he said. "That's the only thing you do different outside of the normal routine."

The Utes are scheduled to leave late this morning on their chartered jet and arrive in Louisville in the late afternoon, after which they'll have a "walk-through" at the stadium in the evening.

Utes on the air

Utah (2-3, 0-2) at Louisville (3-2, 0-1)

Friday, 6 p.m.

Papa John's Stadium

Radio: 700AM TV: ESPN