Life of Brian: Bye-ding time

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The last time the U football team took the field, the running backs stole the show to the tune of 322 rushing yards.

While the relentless ground attack basically rendered quarterback Brian Johnson obsolete, he still found his way into the action, completing 14 of his 21 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chronicle caught up with Johnson earlier this week to talk about the Utes’ momentum and how it might be affected by Utah’s bye week.

The Chronicle: The Utes carried a five-game winning streak into the bye week-is there any concern that the week off will leave you guys in a lull of sorts on Saturday?

Johnson: I don’t think we’re necessarily concerned about that. We just have to focus on ourselves and not let the week off affect how we’re playing right now. The way we do that is having a great week of practice and showing up ready to play on Saturday.

The Chronicle: Coach Whittingham talked earlier this week about how the bye was great because a lot of players were nursing injuries. Has the week off benefited you and that shoulder at all?

Johnson: Yeah, my shoulder feels a lot better than it has, probably the best it’s felt since before I got injured. This week has been great for us to get our legs under us and rejuvenate ourselves, so that we’re ready to go for the final stretch.

The Chronicle: Did the coaches allow you guys some time off during the bye week to just relax, or has it been all business?

Johnson: We practiced Monday through Thursday and then got the weekend off. It was nice to just relax and watch some college football and pro football.

The Chronicle: Earlier in the season, the Utes were sitting at 1-2 and had suffered a couple tough losses. What’s the biggest difference between that team and the one that’s sitting at 6-3 and on a five-game win streak?

Johnson: The biggest difference is consistent play in all three phases. We weren’t doing that in the beginning. We also didn’t do a good job of playing for a full 60 minutes. Now, we’re playing together and playing for each other.

The Chronicle: Going into the game against CSU, the focus was on not letting the game be a letdown. Now, you’re facing a Wyoming team that’s been down on its luck as of late. How do you guys keep the ball rolling this week?

Johnson: The biggest thing against Wyoming is that we can’t turn the ball over. We have to win the turnover battle-that’s going to be a key in this game. They have one of the top defenses in the country, so we have to do a nice job of executing offensively and not getting greedy.

The Chronicle: You weren’t involved in last year’s game, but do you think this team feels like they have something to prove after getting embarrassed in Laramie, Wyo., last year?

Johnson: Definitely. This team has a lot to prove, especially with what happened last year. That’s going to be on a lot of guys’ minds throughout the week. But you don’t want to focus too much on that kind of stuff.

The Chronicle: Are there any players specifically who stand out and impress you on that Wyoming defense?

Johnson: Their defense is really impressive when you watch them on film as a whole. Their front seven are really good and the two corners are good at breaking on balls and making plays. If I would have to point at one thing though, that front seven is really tough.

The Chronicle: I’m kind of going off on a tangent, but it seems as though the Mountain West Conference is tougher this year than in the past. All the teams are beating supposed “big-time” programs and then coming back to conference play and beating up on each other. Do you have an opinion on that?

Johnson: We have a good conference. The biggest difference between a team like us and some of the so-called major conferences is depth. When a guy gets hurt, they have another No. 1 recruit waiting to get some time. The thing about Utah is that we develop our players, and that’s what this program is built on.

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Johnson: Wyoming defense impressive

U’s QB talks about season