Football team learns to cope with the national pressure

By and

U football quarterback Alex Smith Is on many college football analysts’ short lists for the Heisman Trophy finalists.

The entire team has the chance to break into a BCS bowl if it finishes the season undefeated.

Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure on the Utes and a letdown would dash any hopes of a Smith invite to the Downtown Athletic Club and any chance of a BCS bowl berth.

“The coaches are really getting into us about focusing on the matter at hand,” Smith said.

U football coach Urban Meyer tore into the team after Wednesday’s practice about attending classes and playing hard.

“It’s such a pivotal point in the season and he just wants to make sure that everyone knows what they have to do,” Smith said. “That means going to class and practicing really hard. He is trying to keep us focused.”

However, even with all the attempts of the coaches to retain the focus of the players, the outside pressure affects many members of the team, even Smith.

“I try not to watch TV and it helps that I am always busy,” Smith said. “But sometimes I hear all the talk about the Heisman and it sometimes makes me want to do more on the field than I should. Against New Mexico, I was pressing and forced some balls that I shouldn’t have. We were on national TV and we were playing a team that we lost to last year and I just wanted to do too much.”

Smith is the leader of the team and has learned what to do in order to play within himself.

“I can’t worry about statistics and all that stuff,” Smith said. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I have to take what the opponents give me. Then we will be successful on offense.”

Even though Smith is beginning to learn how to deal with the pressure of being talked about for the Heisman Trophy, the entire team has to cope with the BCS talk.

“You know all this talk of the pressure of going into the BCS is good as long as we don’t get carried away,” Smith said. “It puts us on the map and we have to learn to deal with the pressure.”

Blocking out the outside attention given to the Utes is tough, if not impossible.

“It creeps into your mind and you have to acknowledge your rankings,” Smith said.

But with all the talk and acknowledgments of the Utes success comes the impact of losing and how big of a hit the Ute prestige would take.

“All this attention is a double-edged sword,” Smith said. “We all love to hear about the potential, but we can’t afford the let down or else we will hear about how we couldn’t meet the expectations.”

The maturity of the team is what Smith thinks can carry them through. “This is the most mature team I have a been around and the upperclassmen are leading with their experience.”

Going undefeated may not be enough to bust into the BCS. Louisville, which is the other leading candidate for a surprise BCS slot, has a shot to shoot up the rankings tonight against Miami.

The game is in Coral Gables and if the Cardinals lose, the Utes will be the clear favorite to be the first mid-major team to earn a BCS bowl berth. [email protected]