SALT LAKE CITY – If last season was a signal of a shift of power
in the Mountain West Conference, this season was a show of how far
apart both teams have come.
The Utah Utes are good; the CSU Rams are yesteryear’s
Jumping out to a 42-10 lead by halftime, Utah ran, passed and
blew past the CSU Rams 63-31 Saturday night before a crowd of
44,222 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This was the most points CSU has
given up since it lost 69-9 to Nebraska in 1996.
Utah, in the middle of a bid effort for a BCS bowl berth,
ensured the Rams their first losing season since 1993 and
officially eliminated them from bowl contention.
Utah junior quarterback Alex Smith, amid a Heisman candidacy,
helped his cause by guiding the Utes (9-0, 5-0 MWC) to 534 yards of
total offense. Smith ended the night 21-of-26 for 291 yards and
four touchdowns. He also ran for 55 yards before being replaced in
the third quarter by backup Brian Johnson.
“Their quarterback can play against anybody and keep them in the
game,” said CSU head coach Sonny Lubick. “Compared to the rest of
the MWC, I think they are the best, but they have two games left
and in this business anything can happen.”
Smith went 16-21 for 213 yards and threw three touchdown passes.
Smith also ended the night with 56 yards rushing on eight
“He does have a good arm,” said CSU junior safety Ben Stratton.
“We had chances to make plays in the secondary, we just didn’t get
Utah jumped out to a quick 14-0 advantage, scoring on the first
drive of the game when Smith found Paris Warren for a 5-yard
touchdown. Reminiscent of last year, Utah took a 14-0 lead just one
minute and 47 seconds later on a Caleb Hanie fumble that Morgan
Scalley returned 88 yards for a Utah touchdown.
The Utes were off and running from there and the Rams seemed
more than happy to help.
After Jeff Babcock kicked a 39-yard field goal for CSU, Utah
scored 28 unanswered points using a Scalley interception and a
fumble by CSU running back Jimmy Green to score quickly and often.
In total, Utah scored a touchdown off all five turnovers. Utah
fumbled twice, but found ways to beat CSU defenders to the ball
“I feel like I was the guy who gave the game away,” said Hanie,
who had four turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble. “I just
wanted to come out and play hard for our seniors.”
Hanie struggled throughout the game, ending 11-25 for 190 yards.
Twice, Hanie turned the ball over when the Rams were inside the Ute
30-yard-line, stopping drives and giving Smith a chance to extend
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Rams drove down
to the Utah 30 before Scalley intercepted Hanie (again). Utah would
march down the field and extend their lead to 49-10 with a 1-yard
touchdown run by Marty Johnson, his third of the game.
After Hanie was intercepted (again), the Utes would score
(again) after Brian Johnson ran in a 4-yard touchdown, breaking the
50-point barrier with 5:43 left in the third quarter, 56-10.
The Rams found offense in the fourth quarter, as senior running
back Marcus Houston ran the ball in for a 1-yard touchdown. Hanie
would then find Morton for his second touchdown catch, 24 yards out
On the next drive, Hanie scored on a 48-yard touchdown run
against the second and third team Utah defense, cutting the lead to
Ute head coach Urban Meyer apparently saw the Rams as a threat,
sending Smith and the first team offense back on the field, up 25
points with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the
They moved down the field quickly, getting in one more touchdown
before the game ended. Smith went 5-5 for 78 yards on the drive,
and found Paris Warren for a 9-yard touchdown with a little over
five minutes remaining in the game.