12:00 PM ET, November 1, 2003
Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, CO
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Until Saturday, Utah tight end Ben Moa had never run the ball and never thrown a pass.
He figures to be doing a lot more of that from now on.
Moa, taking a direct snap in the shotgun formation, ran for a 1-yard touchdown and then completed a 2-point conversion pass to Matt Hansen, leading Utah to a 45-43 win over Air Force in triple overtime.
The win gave Utah (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) sole possession of first place in the conference.
Air Force (6-3, 3-2) rallied from a 23-7 third-quarter deficit, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
The 250-pound Moa proved to be a triple threat. He carried nine times for 26 yards and three touchdowns. Besides his clinching 2-point conversion pass, he caught five passes for 68 yards.
Utah coach Urban Meyer said the Utes installed the running plays for Moa because of a shortage of running backs. Utah lost its leading rusher, Brandon Warfield, to a knee injury last week.
"We are down to three freshmen," Meyer said. "That's why we went with Moa."
Moa embraced the additional duties.
"I love it," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes for our team to win."
Air Force, taking possession first in the initial overtime, got a 1-yard scoring run from quarterback Chance Harridge. Moa responded with a 1-yard run, taking another direct snap, on Utah's first series.
Utah's Alex Smith threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Paris Warren in the second overtime, but Air Force countered on Harridge's 9-yard pass to Alex Messerall.
The Falcons went up 43-37 on Anthony Butler's 4-yard touchdown run in the third overtime, but Harridge slipped and fell short of the goal line on the required 2-point conversion.
The Utes won it after Smith passed 22 yards to Steve Savoy and Moa ran the final yard for the touchdown on fourth down. Expecting another run from Moa on the 2-point conversion, the Falcons left tight end Hansen uncovered in the rear of the end zone.
Meyer said the Utes were planning to have Moa throw the pass on the fourth-down play, but Moa promised he would run it in so they saved the pass for the 2-point conversion.
"We tricked them a little," Moa said. "I knew they were going to bite. We had run the ball every time I was the quarterback -- six times, maybe more.
"They didn't cover any receivers. They blitzed everybody in, and I knew Matt would be wide open. So I threw it over the top, soft."
Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry credited Utah for its deception.
"I was looking for (Moa) to run the ball just like he did, and he started towards the line of scrimmage, stopped and just popped it over our heads," DeBerry said. "Obviously we weren't thinking pass in that type of situation. We played what they had success doing, and they made a great call. They utilized (Moa) very, very well."
Harridge also ran for three scores.
Fog shrouded Falcon Stadium early in the game, finally lifting early in the second quarter.
Freshman Mike Liti's 10-yard touchdown run capped a 70-yard scoring drive that gave Utah a 23-7 lead midway through in the third quarter. The Utes failed on the extra point when the snap was low.
Air Force then rallied for three scores in the fourth quarter, producing a 23-23 tie.
The Falcons marched 80 yards in 16 plays, helped by a pass interference penalty against Utah, and Darnell Stephens ran the final 3 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. Harridge's 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Three plays later, Liti fumbled and Air Force's Marchello Graddy recovered near midfield. Joey Ashcroft kicked a 45-yard field goal with 11:10 remaining.
Following a Utah punt, Air Force went 92 yards in 13 plays on a drive that included pass-interference and face-mask penalties against the Utes. Harridge hit J.P. Waller on 14- and 16-yard passes, and Harridge ran 2 yards off the left side for the tying touchdown with 3:09 left.
The Falcons had another scoring chance as time was running out in regulation, but Ashcroft's 50-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Spencer Toone.
Utah scored on three long scoring drives to take a 17-7 halftime lead. Utah outgained Air Force 265-118 in the half and held a huge edge in time of possession -- 21:28 to 8:32.