Though his squad is one of 10 undefeated teams remaining in the Football Championship Subdivision, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham still isn’t completely satisfied.
The 14th-ranked Utes look to remain perfect while trying for a ninth consecutive victory when they host Colorado State on Saturday in a Mountain West Conference contest.
After a narrow win over BCS-conference opponent Oregon State on Oct. 2, Utah (7-0, 3-0) returned to the MWC and rolled to a 40-7 victory at Wyoming last Saturday. The Utes have won 15 of their last 16 overall and eight of nine in the league, but their coach doesn’t want to live in the past.
“We think we’re heading in the right direction,” said Whittingham, whose team joins No. 9 Brigham Young in making the Mountain West the only non-BCS conference to have two ranked teams. “But you know we have not played our best football as a team to this point.”
It was hard to tell that from Utah’s performance against the Cowboys. Running back Matt Asiata scored two touchdowns, while Sean Smith intercepted two passes and returned one 25 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring.
Brian Johnson was 10-for-19 for 110 yards and a touchdown for the Utes, who rank 18th in the nation averaging 37.5 points per contest. Johnson, who has thrown 11 TDs with six interceptions, was 14-for-21 for 130 yards with two touchdowns in last season’s 27-3 win at Colorado State.
Though the Utes have won two in a row and four of five in the series with the Rams (3-3, 1-1), they don’t expect to get caught looking past Colorado State.
“The thing is we’ve lost to every conference opponent since I’ve been here,” said Johnson, a senior. “There’s not a team in this conference that hasn’t beat us before, so we have to know that if we don’t come out and play our game every week that everything that we’ve worked for kind of goes down the drain.”
While Utah appears focused on its next task, Colorado State is in for a second straight challenge after losing 13-7 to TCU last Saturday.
Though senior tight end Kory Sperry caught six passes for 104 yards, the Rams mustered only a Gartrell Johnson 4-yard touchdown run to open the scoring against the Horned Frogs, owners of the nation’s top-ranked defense allowing 207.4 yards per game.
Colorado State was held to 199 total yards - 11 on the ground last week - and now faces Utah, which is seventh in the country giving up 259.1 yards.
“I think talent-wise their ability, they’re every bit as talented as TCU,” Rams coach Steve Fairchild said of Utah’s defense.
Fourth in the conference with 521 rushing yards, Johnson, who was held to season-low 30 on 16 carries against TCU, has scored four of his six TDs in his last two contests. He has rushed for 102 yards in two career games versus Utah.
Colorado State has already matched its win total from 2007, and looks to snap a five-game losing streak against ranked opponents dating to a 19-14 victory over then-No. 7 Colorado on Aug. 31, 2002.
“We’re still not grooved in to consistently doing it with the accountability I’d like all the time, but we’re getting there and we’re making some strides,” Fairchild said. “We’ll just keep working and getting better.”
Utah leads 52-22-2 in the all-time series with Colorado State, and is 30-8-2 against the Rams in Salt Lake City.