Utes roll over Carolina

The U football team owns the Atlantic Coast Conference-well, sort of.

In its first game ever against an ACC opponent, the Utes blew away the North Carolina Tarheels 46-16. The game contained all the usual storylines for the 2004 Utes, such as a dominating offensive performance, a great goalline stand by the defense and, of course, a missed extra point.

“It was one of our better efforts and we did really well,” U football coach Urban Meyer said. “The negative tonight was that we had two turnovers. The positive was Alex Smith. He played really well.”

Smith furthered his Heisman status with a near flawless performance Saturday night. He completed 29-of-37 passes and threw for 341 yards including four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception. The great offensive performance by Smith led to one of the best offensive performances in school history.

The Utes amassed 669 yards of total offense against North Carolina, and broke the record for most yards against any Tarheel team. “We couldn’t stop these guys defensively,” Tarheel coach John Bunting said. “We were so doggone inconsistent tonight.”

“We spread the ball around and that’s when our offense is successful,” Smith said.

Coming off of a bye week, the Utes were vulnerable to starting off a little rusty and it certainly seemed like they did.

The Tarheels got the ball first and drove down the field for the first score of the game. Even though leading tailback Jacque Lewis was hurt on the drive and never returned, fullback Madison Hedgecock scored the first rushing touchdown of the game and the Tarheels took a 7-0 lead.

“I don’t think we were sluggish, it was just a stupid penalty that kept their drive going,” U safety Eric Weddle said. “If that didn’t happen, we would have stopped them.”

Nevertheless, the Tarheels scored and then stopped the Ute offense in three plays on their first offensive possession.

“We needed a big play on defense,” Weddle said. The Utes got it on the Tarheels’ second offensive possession, as defensive end Marques Ledbetter stripped Hedgecock of the ball and linebacker Spencer Toone quickly pounced on it.

“The play was just huge and turned the momentum,” Weddle said. “The offense took advantage.”

The Utes went 30 yards in four plays, scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard run off the option by running back Marty Johnson.

Utah seized the momentum and kept the ball rolling, as it drove down the field and scored on a short field goal by kicker Bryan Borreson.

The next Ute offensive possession was absolutely amazing. The Utes started on their own 13-yard line and Smith drove them down the field. The offense faced no third downs on the entire drive and only one second down.

A 40-yard pass to Travis LaTendresse followed by a 20-yard pass to Paris Warren quickly moved the Utes down the field. At the 5-yard line, Smith flipped a shovel pass to running back Quinton Ganther for the score.

Everyone got a piece of the action on offense for the Utes, but wide receiver Steve Savoy dominated.

Smith found Savoy on a 46-yard touchdown pass to give the Utes a 24-10 lead. Savoy caught the ball even though the corner-who was flagged for interference on the play-was grabbing one of Savoy’s hands.

Savoy finished the game with 10 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown.

The Utes broke the Tarheels’ backs in the final two minutes of the first half. North Carolina punter David Wooldridge got a lucky bounce and the Tarheels pinned the Utes at their own 1-yard line.

Smith used a quarterback sneak to gain some breathing room and then ran again for 19 yards out to the 23-yard line. That’s when the Utes used their no-huddle offense.

“We don’t get a chance to use the no-huddle offense that much, but we do it a lot in practice,” Smith said. “We practice so fast in the no-huddle that everything seemed to go slower when we used it in the game.”

Utah quickly drove down the field with passes to Savoy, Warren and John Madsen. After a questionable no-call in the end zone, Smith threw the ball to Warren, who eluded one defender and scored with 1.8 seconds remaining in the half. However, Borreson missed the extra point, but seemed to aggravate his groin injury in the process and sat out the rest of the game.

The second half was more of the same and the Utes quickly took a 37-10 lead on a Smith rush, but then the turnovers gave the ‘Heels a chance to get back in the game.

Johnson, who has had fumble issues throughout the season, dropped the ball again in Ute territory.

“I will have to look at the tape tomorrow, but it seemed like he was holding the ball tightly and the defender just got in there and took it away,” Meyer said. “It’s hard to bench a player when he is averaging 8.2 yards a carry. He was really running hard.”

The Utes’ rushing attack was effective all game. Utah totaled 288 yards on the ground. Johnson led the Utes with 82 yards rushing. Following Johnson were Ganther with 65, Smith with 55 and Savoy with 54.

After the fumble, the ‘Heels drove down the 2-yard line; however, the defense forced three straight incompletions and the offense got the ball back.

“There’s a lot of confidence in this team,” Meyer said. “They know they are resilient.

The Utes made a statement to the rest of the nation with the blowout win over the Tarheels, but now Utah will play conference opponents for the rest of the year.

The UNLV Rebels are next on the slate for Utah. The game will be much earlier this time, as the team will play at home with a 5 p.m. kick off.

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College football team rankings

ESPN/ USA Today Coaches poll

1. USC (50)2. Oklahoma (10)3. Miami (1)4. Auburn5. Florida State6. Georgia7. Wisconsin8. California9. Texas10. Utah11. Michigan12. Purdue13. Tennessee14. West Virginia15. Virginia16. Boise State17. LSU18. Louisville19. Florida20. Texas A&M21. Oklahoma state22. Virginia Tech23. Arizona State24. Texas Tech 25. Notre Dame

AP Poll

1. USC (50)2. Oklahoma (13)3. Auburn (2)4. Miami5. Florida State6. Wisconsin7. California8. Texas9. Utah 10. Georgia11. Tennessee12. Purdue13. Michigan14. Virginia15. West Virginia16. Louisville17. Texas A&M18. LSU19. Boise State20. Florida21. Arizona State22. Oklahoma State23. Virginia Tech24. Notre Dame25. Iowa