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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Football Notebook

By Bryan Chouinard

Injury report

Utah’s secondary took a big blow Saturday night when senior strong safety Joe Dale left the game in the first quarter with what coaches said was a knee injury. Dale did not return against UNLV and is expected to miss three to four weeks because of the injury. Dale missed time earlier in the year, and it was junior Justin Taplin-Ross who stepped in during Dale’s absence.

Starting quarterback Terrance Cain also suffered an injury early against UNLV, tweaking his ankle in the first quarter against the Rebels. Cain remained in the game and the ankle should be a “non-issue” this weekend against Air Force, said head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Junior Walter Watts and sophomore Lei Talamaivao are both listed as doubtful against Air Force this weekend. Watts has a knee injury, and Talamaivao is still recovering from a fractured fibula he suffered in the game against Louisville. Tevita Stevens, who is listed as a co-starter with Watts, will continue to fill in as right guard, and Sealver Siliga will likely get the start for Talamaivao.

Running back-wideout Shaky Smithson is expected to make his return to action this weekend after sitting out against the Rebels last Saturday.

With Smithson back and redshirt freshman Sausan Shakerin also back from injury, the Utes will finally have two healthy backs to complement starter Eddie Wide.

Wide running wild

When running back Matt Asiata went down for the season with a torn ACL, it was Wide, a junior, who filled in for the injured senior. Despite missing Asiata, Utah continues to lead the Mountain West Conference in rushing yards per carry. In front of friends and family in his hometown of Las Vegas, Wide ran for his third straight 100-yard performance. He rushed for 111 on 17 carries, including a season-long 37-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“(Wide) is doing exactly what we need him to do in Asiata’s absence,” Whittingham said. “He has stepped in and done a great job.”

In his past three games, Wide averaged 6.43 yards per carry and has rushed for two touchdowns as well. Wide has also gotten involved in the passing game, hauling in seven receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown on the season. Wide is averaging 106 yards per game, behind only BYU’s Harvey Unga, who is averaging more than 114 yards per game.

Halfway home

The Utes have hit the halfway point of their 2009 campaign. Four of the Utes’ first six games were on the road, including Utah’s only loss, against Oregon. The Utes will now start a three-game home streak during which they will face Air Force, Wyoming and New Mexico. With four of Utah’s remaining six games coming at home and the season finale coming in Provo against BYU, the Utes will only be forced to leave the state once for the remainder of the regular season and that will be Nov. 14, when the Utes go to Fort Worth to play TCU.

After being knocked out of the Top 25, the Utes are back in the polls at the midway point of the season. With the first BCS poll of the season coming out Sunday, the Utes find themselves ranked 18th in the nation behind conference opponents TCU (No. 7) and BYU (No. 16).

Offense on defense

One of the Utes’ biggest offensive weapons in recent weeks hasn’t stepped on the field for an offensive possession all season long. After Saturday’s game against UNLV, Johnson moved into a tie with five others in the country to lead the nation in interceptions, with five.

“(Johnson) has been playing his best football as a Ute,” Whittingham said. “He’s always been a solid player and always been a big play guy, but now he’s playing a more complete game.”

Johnson has recorded 26 tackles on the year to go along with two fumbles he has not only recovered, but also brought back for touchdowns. If you combine return yards on fumbles and interceptions, Johnson has a total of 162 return yards all season.

Project One Hope

The U football team will team up with the U’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee, the Alumni Association and the Polynesian Culture Association on Saturday to help raise funds for those affected by the tsunami that hit Samoa late in September. Representatives from each group will be located at the gates of Rice-Eccles Stadium before Saturday’s game against Air Force and will be accepting donations to help those in need.

“It obviously hit close to home on our football team with so many Polynesian athletes,” Whittingham said.

Sophomore defensive tackle Sealver Silinga and junior offensive lineman Neli A’asa lost family members in last month’s tragedy.

[email protected]

Mike Mangum

Eddie Wide carried the ball for more than 100 yards in the last three games, including 111 in Las Vegas with friends and family in attendance. Wide is second in the conference with 106 average yards per game.

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