SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -The last time Ron McBride coached a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, his players carried him off the field.
Utah had just beaten rival BYU 13-6 and the Utes hoped the victory could salvage McBride's job. But the ride on his players' shoulders turned out to be a farewell when McBride was fired two days later, ending a 13-year run that built the foundation for what Utah is today.
``He's responsible the resurgence of this program,'' said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who spent nine years as an assistant under McBride before the coach was fired at the end of the 2002 season.
McBride returns on Saturday coaching Weber State against No. 17 Utah (4-0). Barring a huge upset by the lower-division Wildcats (3-1), McBride won't get another victory ride off the field. But he can expect a warm welcome.
004. Before McBride took over in 1990, Utah hadn't been to a bowl game since 1964. The Utes played in six bowls under McBride and returned to the AP poll for the first time in almost 50 years.
``When we came there, it was a very soft program. What we did is we took it step-by-step and built the foundation of toughness,'' said McBride, who was 88-63 at Utah. ``I don't say 'me' I say 'we' - assistant coaches and the players established an identity for the University of Utah.''
As proud as he is of rebuilding Utah, McBride couldn't help but think this week that maybe the foundation he left was a little too strong.
``You've got one big problem,'' McBride said. ``The team you're playing is a very good football team.''
The Utes are off to their best start since going 12-0 under former coach Urban Meyer, who replaced McBride, and are pushing for a return to the BCS. Nothing could take them out of the running quicker than a loss to Weber State of the Championship Subdivision - formerly Div. I-AA.
Utah remained unbeaten with a 30-23 win at Air Force last week, scoring with 58 seconds remaining on a 9-yard run by Darrell Mack. Both Mack and Matt Asiata topped 100 yards rushing as the Utes gained 440 yards, enough to make up for the three turnovers and a 16-9 halftime deficit.
orce had been averaging.
Now the Utes face the Wildcats, who are 0-2 in the only meetings between the two state schools. Next week's home game against Oregon State is sure to get much more attention.
``You could say it's a lose-lose situation, but it's a game we need to come out ready to play - just like any other game,'' linebacker Mike Wright said.
The game at Utah was scheduled before he was hired at Weber State, so his return on Utah's homecoming weekend is purely coincidental.
McBride is hoping to revive Weber State, much like he did at Utah. He took over the Wildcats in 2005 after spending two years as an assistant at Kentucky. He wanted another head coaching job and it was a chance to rebuild another down-and-out program in a state he considered home.
``Mac,'' as McBride is known locally, just had to accept.
Weber State was 1-10 in 2004 and turned around quickly in McBride's first season, going 6-5.
McBride is 18-19 coaching the Wildcats, who are off to their best start since McBride's arrival. Weber State's only loss this season was at Hawaii. The Wildcats are averaging almost 433 yards of offense and 39 points. Cameron Higgins has thrown 12 touchdown passes and Trevyn Smith has six touchdowns rushing.
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