U Football Team Made Good Use of Bye Week

Though many a sports coach will lament the rustiness and lack of perfect execution that accompany any extended layoff, Utah football coach Ron McBride is happy enough to have had a break.

The last time the Utes played a game was an Oct. 6 home contest against South Florida, and while the final score of 52 21 would indicate that the U didn’t get too strenuous a workout to recover from, the coach said the break was welcome anyway, given all the little nicks and nagging injuries the team had accumulated throughout the season.

“The bye week was very beneficial both in preparation for Wyoming and in getting some guys healed,” McBride said. “[Offensive linemen] Eddie [Ta’amu] and Doug [Kaufusi] could rest their sore ankles. Doug would have been really limited if he’d had to play last week, and it could have been a season-long problem. Hopefully, they’ll both be as close to 100 percent as possible.”

When the team’s schedule was originally released, this break was the team’s only one. But when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 led to the postponement of all Sept. 15 games, the U’s contest vs. Air Force was moved to December, and two additional bye weeks found their way onto the Utes’ schedule.

McBride’s optimism seems to be well-deserved, given Utah’s reaction to its first layoff of the season.

Two weeks after dropping a 24-10 decision to top-10 Oregon in Eugene, the Utes made their way to Bloomington, Ind., took on the Big Ten’s Hoosiers?including Heisman candidate Antwaan Randle El?and wound up with a character-building 28-26 victory.

That marked the beginning of the team’s current three-game win streak, and it has been a significant impetus for the Utes’ 4-1 record.

The Utes are hoping that what the last bye week did for starting the streak, this weekend’s break will do for extending it.

That becomes all the more important, as this coming weekend’s opponent is MWC foe Wyoming, rather than some random non-conference opponent.

Though the Cowboys come in at just 2-4 overall and are winless in league games (0-3 thus far), McBride knows that the Utes can afford to take nothing for granted.

Consequently, while his team members have devoted some time to rest and recuperation, the majority of their days have been spent preparing for Wyoming.

“We worked a lot on defending the pass in the bye week because Wyoming is a very good, very efficient passing team,” McBride said. “Our offense worked hard in the [pass under pressure] drills with the spread offense to allow the defense a chance to defend the passing game. The offense also worked to add some things to the package that we haven’t used yet. The defense worked on a few new wrinkles as well.”

Utah’s last bye week of the year comes between its battle with BYU on Nov. 17 and the re-scheduled Air Force contest on Dec. 1.

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