August 24, 2007

#13: September 2, 2004 - Utah vs. Texas A&M

HOW IS IT GREAT? The opening kickoff went into the endzone for a touchback. Utah's first play from the 20 was called back for a tripping penalty. First-and-20 from the 10: Alex Smith ran the ball for no gain. Second-and-20 from the 10: Smith passed to Travis LaTendresse for a gain of 12. Third-and-eight from the 22: Smith completes a ten-yard pass to Steve Savoy, who heads to the right sideline and goes all the way to the house for a 78-yard TD reception. The 2004 season had begun . . .

The buildup to this game was huge. All summer long, we'd been hearing about how good the 2004 team was going to be. The Utes were chosen by the national media as the best candidate to bust the BCS. Utah players were given pre-season accolades and numerous games were selected to be shown on national television. But all this excitement was tempered by the fact the Utes had to open up against traditional power Texas A&M.

But Texas A&M couldn't beat the Utes that day. They couldn't even keep it close. Utah scored early and often. By halftime, the game was over; and the worry and anxiety Ute fans felt all summer had suddenly vanished. But the momentum that began with this game continued all season long --picking up speed each week--until the Utes had thoroughly beat up the Big East Champion in front of 73,519 spectators on New Years Day.

Smith Leads Utes To Huge Victory Over Texas A&M
By Dirk Facer
Deseret Morning News
September 3, 2004

So far, so good for the 19th-ranked Utes.

Alex Smith threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more scores as Utah opened the season with a 41-21 victory over Texas A&M at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The game was played before a capacity crowd of 45,419 and a national television audience on ESPN.

"We just beat Texas A&M and that doesn't happen often at a school like Utah. A Mountain West team isn't supposed to beat a top-shelf Big 12 team," said Utah coach Urban Meyer. "So I'm very proud of our effort."

Running back Marty Johnson ran for a team-high 77 yards in his first game in nearly two years. He was pleased with how the Utes performed on both sides of the ball.

"On defense, if we can keep doing this we'll be tough to beat," he said. "And it's great to play with a quarterback like Alex. They can't really key on the run. They have to respect both games."

Smith set the pace offensively by completing 21-of-29 passes. Paris Warren led the Utes with seven catches.

"We played a good team on the road tonight," said Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione. "Alex Smith had a great game, and if he continues to play as well as he did tonight, Utah will be tough to beat."

Meyer's concern about weathering a first-half storm proved to be unfounded. Unlike last season's 28-26 loss in College Station, when Texas A&M jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead, the Utes came out strong both offensively and defensively.

They held a 27-7 advantage at the break despite losing four contributors to injury — two, however, returned in the second half.

"I thought this would be the hardest 10 minutes we had ever gone through together," said Meyer.

Utah scored on its third play from scrimmage when quarterback Alex Smith teamed with wide receiver Steve Savoy on a 78-yard touchdown pass. The longest scoring play in the Meyer era capped a game-opening drive that took just 1:13 off the clock.

Early in the second quarter, after Utah's defense extended its streak to 11 shutout quarters over four games dating back to last November, the Utes doubled their lead.

One play after a 24-yard run by Smith, Savoy ran nine yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0.

It stayed that way for more than 7 1/2 minutes. That's when Utah reached the end zone for the third time. A sustained drive that covered 65 yards on seven plays, including a 45-yard pass to Travis LaTendresse, was concluded by a 7-yard TD run by Smith.

After forcing Texas A&M to punt for the sixth consecutive series, the Utes marched downfield again. A 38-yard touchdown pass from Smith to John Madsen increased the lead to 27-0 (kicker Bryan Borreson's PAT attempt hit the left goal post and missed) with 3:52 to play in the half.

The Aggies responded this time around and became the first team since Wyoming last November to score on Utah's defense. The shutout streak lasted 292 days and spanned games against the Cowboys, BYU and Southern Mississippi. It came to an end with 3:02 remaining in the second quarter when Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal scrambled 59 yards for a touchdown on a third-and 4 situation.

The play increased the Aggies' total offense to 140 yards. They managed just 81 over their first 28 plays — much of which came against a depleted Utah defense. Safeties Eric Weddle and Kawika Casco, as well as nose guard Steve Fifita, left the game with knee injuries early in the game.

Weddle (MCL tear in his left leg) and Casco (blown right knee) wound up watching the rest of the game in crutches. Fifita, however, returned to play in the third quarter—as did Savoy, who had an X-ray taken of his ribs just before halftime.

Despite the lopsided score, Meyer said the Utes had some major issues to overcome.

Utah regained its momentum following the intermission when Smith finished a six-play drive with a 37-yard touchdown run.

The defense also got rejuvenated.

Linebackers Corey Dodds and Tommy Hackenbruck stopped Texas A&M running back Courtney Lewis at the goal line on fourth down just before the third quarter came to a close.

And though Utah's new shutout streak proved to be shortlived — the Aggies scored on short runs by McNeal and Jason Carter down the stretch — it failed to tarnish a stellar effort.

"We deserved this one. We worked so hard," said Scalley. "People go down and people step up. This game says a lot about our character."

Between the A&M scores, Smith teamed with Jerome Wright on a 13-yard touchdown pass to keep the game well out of reach.

"I'm glad we're done with them," Meyer said of the two-year series with the Aggies. "I don't want to see A&M again for a long time because I know what they're going to look like in the next year or two."

The Utes will take today off before begin preparations for next week's game at Arizona.

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