Utah's Morgan Scalley takes off down the field on the opposite side of the UNLV players, rear, to score a touchdown on the opening kickoff return. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
Oct. 23, 2004
By DOUG ALDEN
AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY - Morgan Scalley returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and Alex Smith threw for three TDs and ran 70 yards for another, leading No. 9 Utah past UNLV 63-28 Saturday night.
The Utes didn't let steady rain and temperatures in the 40s get in the way as they reached their highest point total in 10 years and improved to 7-0 for the fourth time in school history.
Utah (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) put on a show with a representative from the Liberty Bowl looking on, but the Utes are aiming higher than a second straight trip to Memphis as conference champ. Utah wants a Bowl Championship Series berth and just may get it if it continues to win like this.
The Utes blocked two punts and scored their most points since running up 66 against Idaho State in 1994, which was the last time they were 7-0.
Dominique Dorsey ran 24 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels (2-6, 1-3), who have lost nine of the 10 meetings with Utah. Shane Steichen scored on a 25-yard run on a fourth-and-inches, but it was well after the game was decided.
As bad as it was Saturday, it wasn't the most points UNLV has allowed to Utah in the series. Utah, which took a knee on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 23 seconds left, beat the Rebels 69-28 in 1981.
Utah had five touchdowns before a minute was up in the second quarter, then kept on scoring even after letting up on offense in the miserable conditions. Defensive lineman Steve Fafita returned an interception 6 yards for a touchdown, Utah recovered a fumble at the UNLV 7 to set up another easy score and Shaun Harper recovered a blocked punt in the end zone with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Smith left the game in the third after completing 11 of 19 passes for 147 yards. He also ran nine times for 77 yards, including a 70-yarder that put the Utes up 28-7 late in the first quarter.
With the ball and artificial turf both slick with rain, the Utes avoided relying on the offense to push through the uncomfortable conditions. They surprised the Rebels with a reverse on the opening kick that established the tone for the night.
Bo Nagahi fielded the ball deep in the Utah end zone and pitched it to Scalley at the 10. As Nagahi was getting clothes-lined in front of the Utah bench, Scalley was turning the corner on the other side of the field and made it to the end zone untouched just 15 seconds into the game.
The Utes forced the Rebels to punt on the next series and Grady Marshall blocked the kick and Utah recovered at the 27. Smith hit Steve Savoy on first down for another touchdown with 11:40 still left in the opening quarter. Savoy added a 29-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
Smith also had an 18-yard touchdown pass to Travis LaTendresse in the first quarter to put Utah up 21-0.