Marty Johnson runs away from Arizona's Wilrey Fontenot, left for a touchdown during the first quarter. (AP Photo/John Miller)
Sept. 11, 2004
By MEL REISNER
AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Everyone knew about Utah's offense after a 41-point performance against Texas A&M in the season opener. Now it's clear the 17th-ranked Utes are solid on every unit.
Alex Smith passed for two scores, and the Utes held Arizona without a touchdown in a 23-6 victory Saturday night.
"I'm very pleased that we kept them out of the end zone," coach Urban Meyer said. "If you evaluate our defense over the last four games, we don't give up many points."
The Utes (2-0), seeking to defend their highest poll position since they finished the 1993 season ranked eighth, flashed their offensive strength early, then held on with a defensive effort that included three fumble recoveries, a goal-line stand and an interception that set up a TD.
"We bend, but we don't break," said safety Morgan Scalley, who had a fumble recovery and a sack. "We gave up too many yards, but four takeaways makes up for that."
Meyer improved to 3-0 against Pac-10 teams, a string that includes wins over California and Oregon last year in his first season with the Utes.
Smith, who had a career-high 359 yards passing in last week's 41-21 win over Texas A&M in Salt Lake City, had only 170 this time but connected with Steve Savoy on TD passes of 5 and 9 yards.
Marty Johnson ran for 105 yards on 18 attempts and scored from 20 yards out on one to help the Utes snap a seven-game losing streak in Tucson that dated to the 1969 season.
"We were a little more balanced tonight, but we wanted to get more offense going in the second half," Smith said.
Nick Folk had 33- and 35-yard field goals for the Wildcats - their first 3-pointers since Sept. 27, 2003, in a 13-10 loss to TCU. But that was it before a crowd of 52,790, the largest to see a game in Arizona Stadium since the 2000 season finale.
New coach Mike Stoops' squad, which took a 7-3 lead into the fourth quarter against I-AA Northern Arizona last week before adding two late TDs, fell to 1-17 against ranked teams in the last four years.
Folk, whose third field-goal attempt went awry in the fourth because of a bad snap, cut Arizona's deficit to 17-6 with 10:23 left in the second quarter, and Utah made that stand up at halftime by stopping the Wildcats four times near the end of the half.
The last three Arizona plays began at the 1-yard line.
On fourth down, safety Casey Evans hit Gilbert Harris in the backfield and he fumbled. Linebacker Tommy Hackenbruck recovered for a 1-yard loss with 49 seconds left in the second quarter, killing a 14-play, 80-yard drive the Wildcats couldn't quite finish.
"It was a big turning point," Harris said. "It would have gotten us real close going into the second half."
Hackenbruck forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the game - a carry by Mike Bell - and Scalley recovered. Following a short drive, Bryan Borreson kicked a 21-yard field goal only 2:53 in.
The next time the Utes got the ball, they made it 10-0 on Savoy's 5-yard scoring grab - set up by his 30-yard reception over the middle - with 6:21 left in the first quarter.
After Folk's first field goal, Smith, who was 6-for-8 in the first quarter, moved the team to its second TD with a 38-yard pass to Paris Warren.
The Utes scored from the Arizona 38 on two running plays - a 14-yard carry by Quinton Ganther and Johnson's 20-yard burst off tackle, with a juke left to freeze the last defender before he ran in untouched.
Utah only had to move 11 yards for its clinching TD in the third after another big defensive play.
Ryan Smith broke through a pass by Arizona's Kris Heavner to Ricky Williams, and the ball ricocheted to lineman Sione Pouha, who cradled it while lying on the ground for an interception.
Three plays later, Savoy made it 23-6 with 1:07 left in the quarter.
"The takeaways were huge," Hackenbruck said. "If those go the other way for touchdowns, we're looking at a whole different ballgame."