Aug. 25, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
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The Urban Meyer
era at Utah begins on Thursday, Aug. 28, when Utah hosts Utah State in the season-opener for both schools ... Game time is 7:00 p.m. MDT in Rice-Eccles Stadium ... It is the earliest season opener ever for the Utes ... Utah State is Utah's oldest rival. The series, which Utah leads 70-28-4, dates back to 1892 (See Series History for more information) ... Both reserved and general admission tickets are still available for Thursday's game and may be purchased by phone (801-581-UTIX) or over the Internet at www.UtahUtes.com ... The game will not be televised ... It will be broadcast on KALL 700 (AM) radio and over the Internet (www.KALL700.com).
Thursday's game marks the 14th time Utah has opened a season against Utah State and the Utes lead the Aggies 9-4 in those games. Overall, Utah is 61-47-1 in season openers and 44-19-1 when opening its season at home.
New Utah Head Coach Urban Meyer
is widely considered one of the up-and-comers in the college coaching ranks. Meyer, 39, was hired by Utah on Dec. 12, 2002 after leading Bowling Green to a two-year record of 17-6. At BGSU, Meyer went 5-0 against BCS teams, including two wins over ranked opponents, and his team cracked the AP Top 20 after starting the 2002 season with eight straight wins. Named the 2001 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year as a first-year head coach in 2001, Meyer went 8-3 and 9-3 in his two years at BG. His previous coaching stops included assistantships at Ohio State (graduate assistant), Illinois State, Colorado State and Notre Dame. Meyer is 0-0 against Utah State.
Utah's first football game ever was against USU on Nov. 25, 1892, and at 102 games, it is the longest series in Utah history. These teams have met every year but four (1908, 1911, 1918 and 1943) since 1900. Utah has won 13 of the last 15 against its upstate neighbor and five straight. Utah leads 70-28-4 all-time and is 49-17-4 in Salt Lake City.
THIS GAME LAST YEAR
An incredible defensive effort and a flurry of late scoring translated into a 23-3 season-opening win for Utah in Logan on Aug. 31. Utah's defense allowed less than nothing on the ground, where the Aggies finished with minus nine yards, and relinquished just 162 total yards. USU's 22-yard field goal in the second quarter marked its only trip inside the 'red zone.' Offensively, Marty Johnson
rushed for 176 yards, then a career high, and scored two touchdowns (1 rushing, 1 receiving). Utah led just 10-3 until a 16-point fourth quarter buried the Ags.
Utah is scheduled to play the Aggies two weeks in a row. The Utes play the Utah State Aggies on Thursday, Aug. 28 and the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday, Sept. 6 ... Utah's non-conference schedule in 2003 includes three BCS teams (Texas A&M, California and Oregon) ... Utah first-year defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo
coached the defensive line at Utah State from 1996-99 ... Utah was picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference in the preseason media poll ... Utah's all-time record is 536-401-31. The Utes are 335-167-16 at home, 17-10 in Rice-Eccles Stadium (1998-on), 190-220-13 in road games and 11-14-2 in games played at neutral sites.
With the season-ending knee injury to backup strong safety Kawika Casco
, senior Anthony White
has moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart ... Senior tight end/receiver Ben Moa
has switched uniform numbers. He will now wear No. 8 ... If Josh Savage
starts at open end, Lewis Powell
will start at end. If Marquess Ledbetter
gets the nod at open end, Savage will move back to end ... A great week of practices has propelled redshirt freshman Shaun Harper
into the No. 2 role at right corner, where he is pushing starter Bo Nagahi
RUNNING BACK NOTEBOOK
> In his previous two games against Utah State, Marty Johnson (5-11, 240, Sr.) averaged 135.5 yards rushing. Johnson rushed for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns (1 receiving) against USU last year.
> Before a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of Utah's second game of 2002, Johnson led the NCAA in rushing, averaging 202.5 yards per game.
> Senior running back Brandon Warfield (5-10, 214, Sr.) made second-team all-MWC in 2002 despite playing in just nine games. Warfield was the MWC's second-leading overall rusher, averaging 102.1 ypg, and led the league in conference games only (127.0 ypg). He was Utah's lone preseason offensive all-conference selection for this coming season.
> In the five games that Warfield carried the ball at least 20 times in 2002, he averaged 150.0 ypg.
> Johnson and Warfield combined for 1,434 of Utah's 1,803 net rushing yards (80%). Johnson averaged 7.0 yards per carry and Warfield averaged 4.6.
> The coaches do not plan to name a starter at quarterback until game day. Taking turns at the helm in the preseason were Brett Elliott (6-3, 211, Jr.), Lance Rice (6-2, 208, Sr.) and Alex Smith (6-4, 202, So.).
> Elliott, the returning starter, played in eight games as a sophomore in 2002, starting the last six. He completed 120-221 passes for 1,529 yards and 10 touchdowns (8 interceptions).
> Rice has played in the most games of any Ute QB (22). He is 12-8 as the starter, having held the No. 1 spot for three games as a freshman, all of 2001 and the first five games of 2002. Elliott is 3-3 as the starter.
> Last year, Rice was 83-153 for 758 yards and 6 touchdowns (4 interceptions).
> Smith played in one game as a freshman (vs. San Diego State) and was 2-4 with 1 interception.
> Winning starting receiver jobs in the preseason camp were Steve Savoy (5-11, 183, Fr.) at "X", Travis LaTendresse (6-1, 204, Jr.) at "Z" and Paris Warren (6-1, 213, Jr.) at "H".
> Ben Moa (6-2, 260, Sr.) splits his time between "E" receiver and tight end. He is the likely starter at both positions since co-starting tight end Matt Hansen (6-5, 248, Sr.) is recovering from an ankle injury and is questionable to play vs. USU.
> Utah lost its top three receivers from 2002 and more than 60% of its receiving yardage. Returning this fall are the No. 4 (LaTendresse) and No. 5 (Moa) receivers from 2002. LaTendresse had 21 catches for 195 yards and Moa had 14 for 126 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE NOTEBOOK
> All-conference candidate Max Petersen (6-2, 295, Jr.) has recovered from a knee injury and will start at center vs. USU.
> While Chris Kemoeatu (6-4, 325, Jr.) is probable to play against Utah State, having returned to practice on Aug. 21 from a knee injury, he is not likely to start the first game. In his place will be Sean Souza (6-5, 305, Sr.), originally ticketed to start at right tackle. Starting at right tackle this week will be Makai Aalona (6-5, 300, Jr.).
DEFENSIVE LINE NOTEBOOK
> All-conference senior defensive end Jason Kaufusi (6-3, 250) is questionable for the USU game due to a shoulder injury. Kaufusi has not practiced since undergoing arthroscopic surgery in July.
> Kaufusi, a two-time first-team all-league defender, was a unanimous preseason all-conference pick for 2003.
> If Kaufusi isn't ready, either Josh Savage (6-5, 273, Sr.) or Marquess Ledbetter (6-2, 232, So.) will start in his place at open end. If Savage does not start there, he will start at end.
> Ray Holdcraft
(5-11, 248, Sr.) is Utah's top returning linebacker. Holdcraft, the starting middle linebacker, played in seven games last year after originally planning to redshirt. Despite sitting out four games, he had 31 total tackles, an interception and a tackle for loss.
> Senior strong safety Dave Revill, a second-team all-MWC pick a year ago, was named to the preseason all-conference team for his senior year. Revill was Utah's top tackler in 2002 with 89 total tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTEBOOK
> Bryan Borreson retained his job as Utah's No. 1 field goal/PAT kicker. Junior college transfer Dennis Pawelek had the edge on the kick-off job.
> Junior college transfer Matt Kovacevich will make his starting debut as an NCAA punter vs. Utah State.
"I think the best conditioned team will win this game. We have a lot of respect for Utah State and, believe me, we have been preparing hard for this game. I am concerned about their passing game in particular. They have three tall receivers and that quarterback threw for over 300 yards and completed 14 of 17 passes in their recent scrimmage. We have been working hard on our pass defense. We aren't sure what to expect since they have a new defensive coordinator and a new philosophy."