Utes use bye week to maintain focus

By Christopher Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

At 8-0, it seems as if the Utes can do no wrong.

Well, perhaps because there is no game this weekend.

No. 12 Utah, the highest-ranked non-BCS conference team in the nation, is sitting pretty in the national spotlight and more importantly, with themselves.

This bye week, while stalling a lavishly impressive start to the season, gives the Utes the opportunity to gather up two important things8212;rest and psych.

“The coaches want to focus on that,” linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said regarding the team’s state of mind during the bye week. “This is more of a week that we’ve got to go focus.”

So far this season, the impromptu motto for the Utes has been taking it “week by week” and “game by game.” Although the season has been an undoubtable success thus far, the Utes are wary of a letdown heading into next week’s game against a 4-4 New Mexico team.

“We gotta reflect on what we’ve done, our mistakes, and try to clean them up this week,” Sylvester said. “This week, it’s mostly so we can get back to technique and stuff we learned in training camp.”

History has been a thorn in Utah’s side when it comes to the Lobos, especially during visits to Albuquerque, N.M. In 1994, a then No. 9 and 8-0 Ute team lost to New Mexico 23-21. In 2003, under former head coach Urban Meyer, the 6-1 Utes, No. 24 in the polls, were shellacked by the Lobos 47-35.

It’s certainly a dangerous time to be playing a dangerous team. Starting free safety Robert Johnson knows this bye week comes at a good time, but remains headstrong going into Nov. 1’s game.

“Right now, we got a lot of guys who are banged up,” Johnson said. “Some of the banged up players will be back for the (New Mexico) game. So we’re 8-0, and we’re taking this bye. It’s gonna help us out.”

While the Utes lead the all-time series against the Lobos 30-17-2, it’s all knotted up at 12-12-1 in Albuquerque.

Despite their struggles with the Lobos over the past few years, Kyle Whittingham is 3-0 coming off of bye weeks as the head coach of the Utes. In 2005, the Utes bounced Wyoming 43-13. In 2006, Colorado State was sent packing 35-22, and last year, the Utes won in a memorable 50-0 extermination of Joe Glenn and the Cowboys.

During the past four years, Utah’s byes have all come after its eighth game of the season.

“We’ve got a lot of football left. There’s four games left,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got a tough November. We’ve got some teams coming up that are very good.”

Despite facing the likes of New Mexico, TCU and BYU throughout the last four games of the season, last Saturday’s offensive showcase against Colorado State is the typical way a team wants to head into a bye week.

“You want to play your best football going in (to the bye),” Whittingham said. “I think (the bye) comes at a good time for us. There’s arguments that you have momentum and you’re playing well, but it’s there.”

The bye week is in fact here for the Utes and despite an unblemished record, the focus sticks solely on New Mexico and only New Mexico.

Regarding whether or not the bye week would be a disruption, Sylvester responded, “No, no, no.”

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Tyler Cobb

Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is using the bye week to focus on cleaning up mistakes. The Utes are the highest ranked non-BCS team going into the bye week.