July 28, 2007

September 11, 2003 - Utah vs. California

HOW IS IT GREAT? Largest crowd in RES history. Pac-10 opponent. Primetime national TV audience. Promising new QB leading the Utes to victory in the final moments of the game.

This game will be remembered by many as the de facto start of the Alex Smith-Urban Meyer era of Utah football. Alex Smith made his first start, replacing Brett Elliott who was injured in College Station, TX, the week before. Smith spent most of the previous season on the sideline and Ron McBride burned his redshirt during the San Diego State game in an ill-fated attempt to turn RM's final season around. But even at that time, Ute fans knew the coaches were real excited about Smith's incredible passing ability.

Still, Ute fans were generally disappointed Elliott would not be playing against Cal, seeing as his heroic performance nearly pulled off a major upset against A&M a week earlier.

Well--Smith made the start. The entire city showed up. The nation tuned in. Aaron Rodgers, Geoff McArthur and JJ Arrington kept the game close until Brandon Warfield dove into the endzone with 1:06 left to clinch the win.

And the rest is history.

2007 RANKING: #33. The only reason this game isn't ranked higher: Cal was pretty mediocre that year. They only went 7-5 during the prior season, and by the time they played the Utes they were 1-2 with a loss to Colorado State. In fact, Utah was the slight favorite going into the game (-1). Cal got much better during the course of the season and even upset #3 USC in 3OT. However, they would finish 2003 with a modest 8-6 record.




By Dirk Facer
Deseret Morning News
September 12, 2003

Urban Meyer said two factors guided Utah to a 31-24 victory over California — the crowd and the investment his team has made.

"I was really proud of the effort," Meyer said after a thrilling finish before a record crowd of 46,768 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "That last drive, the kids just had to bow up and get it done."

Brandon Warfield's 14-yard touchdown run with 1:06 remaining broke a tie and lifted the Utes to victory. Warfield took a pitch from Alex Smith, who was making his first collegiate start, and worked his way down the right sideline into the end zone.

"I just saw end zone. That's the first thing I saw," Warfield said. "Then I saw a guy coming down. I just wanted to score and I did whatever it took."

The final plunge assured Utah (2-1) of its first regular season win over a Pac-10 team since 1999. A fumble recovery by Sione Pouha put an end to Cal's comeback hopes in the closing seconds. The Bears (1-3) had a chance to take a late lead but Tyler Fredickson's 54-yard field goal with 6:01 remaining was wide left. Utah then began its decisive drive.

"It's tough to stop their offense," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It's laid out nicely. They have good schemes and they execute it well."

Warfield paced the Utes with a game-high 94-yards rushing and three touchdowns. Smith completed 18-of-27 passes for 136 yards. Paris Warren topped the receivers with nine catches for 66 yards.

"The offense played awesome. Brandon ran his butt off, the o-line blocked great and the receivers made plays when they had to," said Smith, a sophomore who stepped in for the injured Brett Elliott. "It was easy on me."

The game as a whole was quite difficult, however.

Utah trailed until evening the score on a 37-yard field goal by Bryan Borreson with 9:01 to play.

"We knew we could play with them," free safety Morgan Scalley said. "It was just a matter of rallying back and getting the job done."

A pair of poor punts proved costly as Utah's 21-7 halftime lead dissolved in the third quarter. Matt Kovacevich's kicks of 19 and 24 yards gave Cal a short field to work from and the Bears capitalized. After closing the gap to 21-10 on a 21-yard by Fredrickson, they scored two touchdowns in less than three minutes to take their first lead.

The go-ahead score came on a 21-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Geoff McArthur. Rogers then connected with Aaron Strang on a two-point conversion to give Cal a 24-21 advantage with less than one minute to play in the quarter.

The 34-yard drive was preceded by a 28-yard series that also took exactly 1:28 to complete. A one-yard touchdown run by Adimchinobe Echemandu made it 21-16 and put the Bears back into contention.

In contrast to last week's 28-26 loss at Texas A&M, the Utes reversed roles. Instead of giving up two scores in the first 11 minutes, they did just the opposite against the Bears.

Two short touchdown runs by Warfield gave Utah an early 14-0 advantage. The first score capped a three-play, 19-yard drive made possible when linebacker Corey Dodds stripped the ball from Cal quarterback Reggie Robertson and then pounced on the loose ball.

Less than 4 1/2 minutes later, the Utes extended their lead to 14-0. A 5-yard run by Warfield closed another short series. This one created by Utah's punt-blocking team. Before Fredrickson could punt the ball away for Cal on a fourth-and-8 situation, Utah defender Bo Nagahi stood in his path. The punter then opted to run and was quickly tackled by Morgan Scalley and Anthony White. The loss-on-downs gave the Utes possession on the Cal 27.

Fredickson had an additional woe before quarter's end. After Cal's first sustained drive moved the Bears into field-goal range, a 32-yard attempt by the kicker bounced off the left goal post and bounced back onto the field.

The Utes weren't as fortunate the next time Cal got the ball. Led by Rodgers, who replaced Robertson at quarterback prior to the missed kick, the Bears marched downfield — covering 55 yards on five plats. They cut Utah's lead to 14-7 on a 21-yard scoring strike from Rodgers to McArthur and a PAT by Fredickson.

An exchange of fumbles followed with Utah losing the ball on a pass reception to Warren and regaining it on a recovery by Scalley just over two minutes later. The latter ushered in the final scoring drive of the half. A one-yard keeper by Smith allowed Utah to regain its two touchdown lead at 21-7. He led all rushers with 61 yards at the break.

"It doesn't matter who gets the yards as long as we get the win," said Warfield. "We didn't want to be losers for 16 days."

The Utes have a bye next week and are off until Sept. 27 when they open Mountain West Conference play at Colorado State.

1 comment:

GarthUte said...

Keep 'em comin' Cincy. You da man!