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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

The Utes will be regaining the services of three regulars who missed the Air Force game when they host Wyoming on Halloween. Defensive tackle Lei Talamavaio will make his return to the field after recovering from a fractured fibula he suffered against Louisville a month ago. Right guard Walter Watts will be back in action after missing the past three games with a knee injury. Watts has been splitting time at right guard with redshirt freshman Tevita Stevens, but since Watts’ injury, Stevens has solidified himself as the starter and is listed as so on the Utes’ most recent depth chart.

Wideout Shaky Smithson will also make his return to the field Saturday after sitting out the past two games with an ankle injury. Smithson was not 100 percent but could have contributed against UNLV and Air Force. However, coaches chose to keep him on the sidelines until he was at full strength. Expect to see Smithson line up both as a wideout and in the back field in Utah’s “Asiata” package.

Defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo is listed as probable after being listed as out indefinitely late last week with an eye problem.

Safety Joe Dale is listed as out for this weekend’s matchup, but coaches are optimistic that Dale will be back from his knee injury either against New Mexico or the following week against TCU.

Finally, Utah running back Eddie Wide will be ready to go after leaving the Air Force game with an ankle sprain. Wide left the game in the second quarter but made a return to the field after halftime and eventually scored the winning touchdown in overtime.

“It hurt a lot during the second half,” Wide said. “But I just didn’t want to give up. I wanted to help the team as much as I could. It’s a little swollen and sore, but it’s OK.”

Family business

With injuries to defensive tackles Talamavaio and Eliapo, the Utes were thin at the defensive line Saturday night against Air Force. But in stepped redshirt freshman Dave Kruger, younger brother of former Ute and current Baltimore Raven Paul Kruger. With the Ravens on a bye week, Paul Kruger was in attendance Saturday to see Dave Kruger have the best game of his young career, recording 13 tackles, 1.5 of which were for a loss. On the season, Dave Kruger has a total of 20 tackles including 1.5 sacks.

“I was surprised,” Dave Kruger said. “I had no idea I had that many tackles. I just made as many plays as I could, and it worked out for the best. (The defense) takes pride in stopping the run. If we’re getting scored on, we’re hating life.”

Dave Kruger, who redshirted in 2008, missed playing alongside his brother last season, but said he knows that though it was difficult, the hard work is starting to pay off.

“Yeah, I wanted to play,” Kruger said. “I wanted to be on the field, and I wanted to play next to my brother, but at the same time I knew I had some work to do. I knew my technique and weight wasn’t where it needed to be, so I pushed through that, and here I am now.”

All Hallow’s Eve

Saturday’s game, which falls on Halloween, will also be Utah’s second Blackout game. Last year was the first season in the school’s history that the football team donned black uniforms when the then-No.9 Utes held off then-No.11 TCU, 13-10.

“(The Blackout game) is a really exciting game,” Wide said. “I’m excited to see how it turns out. Hopefully it’s like last year, but not as close a game. It’s a neat experience.”
To add to the festivities, the “Trick-or-Treat Zone” at the south end zone will be open two hours before kick-off for kids to partake in fun and games, including a black costume contest. Utah student-athletes will be in attendance handing out candy. Doors will open at 4 p.m. A game ticket is required to attend.

Fumbled opportunities

Through the first seven games of the 2009 season, the Utes have struggled to keep their hands on the ball, fumbling 22 times8212;nine of which Utah has lost. Against Air Force, Utah fumbled the ball six times, three of which came from quarterback Terrance Cain. Wideout and return specialist Luke Matthews also had two fumbles, which resulted in the Falcons’ only touchdown.

The Utes are fourth in the Mountain West Conference in turnover margin at plus one, thanks largely in part to Robert Johnson’s five interceptions this season. But Whittingham said he knows that Utah can’t put the ball on the ground the way it has and continue to be successful.

“We’ve just got to get better at (securing the ball),” Whittingham said. “We’ve got to lock it up, we’ve got to coach it better, and we’ve got to do it better. There’s not much more we can say about it.”

[email protected]

Lennie Mahler

David Kruger got more playing time against Air Force because of injuries to the defensive tackles. Kruger recorded 13 tackles Saturday, bringing his season total to 20.

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