Dec. 1, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
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Some updated Utah football notes follow. Please download the PDF file for the complete Dec. 1 release.
> Utah will play Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi (9-3, 8-0 C-USA) in the AXA Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., on Dec. 31. It is Utah's second appearance in the Liberty Bowl and its first since the bowl moved to Tennessee. Utah beat West Virginia, 32-6, in the 1964 Liberty Bowl in Atlantic City.
> Utah (9-2, 6-1 Mountain West Conference) is the outright conference champion for the first time since 1957, when it competed in the Skyline Conference.
> Utah's 9-2 record is tied for the second-most wins in school history. The 1994 Utes went 10-2 and beat Arizona in the Freedom Bowl. Utah has won nine games four times: 1964 (9-2), 1994 (10-2), 1999 (9-3), 2003 (9-2).
> With the AXA Liberty Bowl still ahead, first-year Head Coach Urban Meyer already has achieved the best record for a first-year Ute coach. Meyer is also the only head coach to win a conference championship in his debut year at Utah.
> This is the 45th-annual Liberty Bowl. The first five games were held in Philadelphia, one game (1964) was held in Atlantic City and all games since 1965 have been played in Memphis.
> The AXA Liberty Bowl will be televised on ESPN. Utah is 1-0 on ESPN this year, beating California on Sept. 11.
SHORT PASSESUrban Meyer
has one previous experience as a head coach against a C-USA team: while the coach at Bowling Green, his team lost to South Florida ... Although home and visiting teams have not been designated, Utah will be on the west (home) sideline and wear red ... Utah and Southern Miss have played one common foe this year: USM lost to California (34-2) in Berkeley in its season-opener on Aug. 30; Utah beat Cal (31-24) in Salt Lake City on Sept. 11.
WHERE THEY RANK
Utah is ranked in the top 50 nationally in every major offensive and defensive category but two (passing offense No. 52 and total offense No. 53). The Utes lead the nation this week in kickoff return average. Southern Miss is ranked in the nation's top 50 in four defensive categories (no offensive categories) and is No. 12 in passing defense.
GOLDEN EAGLE NOTES
Complete information is available on the Internet at southernmiss.com ... Utah's upcoming opponent goes by the Golden Eagles, Southern Mississippi and Southern Miss. When abbreviations are a must, it's USM ... Southern Miss Sports information director Mike Montoro will arrive with the team in Memphis on Dec. 26. His cell number is 601-297-1435 ... The Golden Eagles will stay at the Peabody Hotel (901-529-4000) in Memphis ... USM won the Conference USA championship with an 8-0 record ... biggest win was a 40-28 upset of then-No. 9 TCU on Nov. 20 ... 9-3 overall ... ranked No. 12 in the nation in rushing defense (178.17 ypg) and No. 16 in scoring defense (17.4) ... Brett Favre was a Golden Eagle from 1987-90 ... Head Coach Jeff Bower is 89-61-1 in 13 years as head coach at his alma mater.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Just about everything is different from last season when Utah lost six straight games and finished 5-6 overall and fifth in the MWC. Ironically, fifth place is where the 2003 Utes were picked in the preseason media/coaches' poll. Instead, this year's Utes are the outright MWC champs and their 9-2 overall record is tied for the second-most wins in school history. Not since Utah's last Liberty Bowl season in 1964 have the Utes won nine games after finishing below .500 the previous year. The turnaround has come under first-year U. head coach Urban Meyer
, whose exciting, explosive offense also attracted school record crowds to Ute home games this year.
UTE BOWL TRIVIA
Utah is 5-4 all-time in bowl games ... Utah was invited to both the Sun Bowl and the Pineapple Bowl in 1951, but declined. In 1941, Utah was slated to play Hawaii in the Pineapple Bowl, but the game was canceled after the bombing of Pearl Harbor ... Utah has never played a game on Dec. 31 ... The 2003 AXA Liberty Bowl is the sixth Wednesday football game ever for Utah, but its first since 1947.
SCALLEY IS ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN
Morgan Scalley was named a CoSIDA first-team Academic All-American on Dec. 1, becoming the first Ute football player since 1976--and just the fourth ever--to make the first-team. Scalley, a junior communication major owns a 3.95 cumulative GPA and has started every game this season. He has 69 tackles (third on the team), four tackles for loss, two interceptions and two pass breakups. The Salt Lake City native (Highland HS) is also a critical part of Utah's special teams and has returned two kickoffs for a total of 109 yards (long return of 89 yards).