McCain expects a ‘good one’

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Faster and with more intensity. That’s how the Utah football team prepared for tonight’s game against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, cornerback Brice McCain said.

For the second time this season, Utah worked on a short week to assemble its attack for game time. Two weeks ago, the Utes prepped for a Friday night game with Louisville and peppered the Cardinals with a 44-35 victory.

The Utes know how to get ready with time restraints. Nothing gets skipped. It just gets taken care of with urgency and focus.

McCain has always had a handle on speed and, after this week in practice, he’s more familiar with intensity.

As the fastest player on the team, McCain is looked to by his teammates to be the stud who eliminates one side of the field for the opposing offense.

“He’s becoming a shutdown corner like we need him to,” said safety and team captain Steve Tate.

McCain has made some huge strides this season compared to his first year as a starter in 2006. Last season, McCain had one interception and five pass break-ups. The junior has matched those statistics through seven games in 2007.

McCain doesn’t restrict his skills to the defense. The Formula One-like speedster serves as Utah’s primary kick returner. His 419 return yards rank second in the Mountain West Conference.

There’s a good chance McCain will build on those totals tonight.

A native of the Dallas area, McCain is yearning to showcase his abilities in his home state.

“When I play against any Texas team, I’m hyped,” McCain said.

The road trip serves as the first time since May that McCain will reunite with his family and friends. The game serves as a chance to compete against some friends as well.

McCain remembers playing alongside and against several Horned Frogs in high school basketball competitions, as well as in football.

Now, living more than 1,200 miles apart, the opportunities to get the best of his past acquaintances are limited. Tonight’s game offers a particularly pressing chance to gain bragging rights, with both Utah and TCU in need of a win.

“We’re both trying to win, because if we don’t win, it’s wraps for the conference,” McCain said.

Both squads, expected to be near the top of the final conference standings at season’s beginning, are stuck in the bottom half of the MWC standings. A win would propel Utah back into serious contention.

“We ain’t proving anything to (TCU), we’re proving something to ourselves,” McCain said.

McCain expects to do his part to help Utah rise up — and others expect him to as well.

“He’s kind of a veteran on the team now,” Tate said.

McCain sees himself as a leader and Tate relies on him to help lead a particularly young defensive secondary.

“Corners are corners and he handles them,” Tate said. “Safeties are a different group.”

McCain’s leadership as a playmaker has helped affect the Utes’ improvement on the defensive side of the ball. After struggling earlier this season, Utah has emerged as a defensive authority after forcing a potent Louisville offense to play from behind and dominating both Utah State and San Diego State.

“We know we are capable of keeping it consistent,” McCain said.

With the U’s offense facing a stingy TCU defense that ranks highly in the MWC in all team defense categories, Utah’s ability to limit the Horned Frog attack is crucial.

To best aid his team, McCain must harness his emotions, Tate said.

Tate faced a similar experience earlier this year when the Utes beat Utah State, where Tate played before transferring.

“Anytime you have (a game) that hits close to home, it helps you mentally in the game,” Tate said. “You are just driven a little more.”

McCain is driven. He didn’t give TCU any bulletin board material. When asked how he expected to perform tonight, McCain simply smiled and said, “I’m gonna have a good one.”

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