7:00 PM ET, October 23, 2004
Rice-Eccles Stadium, SALT LAKE CITY, UT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- It took about 15 seconds for Utah (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) to show UNLV there would be no upset Saturday night.
That's how long it took Morgan Scalley to run 90 yards off a reverse on the opening kickoff in the Utes' 63-28 victory over the Rebels on Saturday night in a steady rain and temperatures in the 40s.
"I think it was very important because a team like that, they can be scary if you them hope," said Alex Smith, who threw three touchdown passes and ran 70 yards for another score. "Mentally, it just took them out of it right away. It's tough to come back from that."
There was no danger of Utah (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) letting the Rebels get overly optimistic. From the time Scalley took a pitch from Bo Nagahi that went unnoticed and sprinted down the right sideline, Utah dominated.
The Utes reached their highest point total in 10 years and improved to 7-0 for the fourth time in school history.
Utah put on a show with a representative from the Liberty Bowl looking on, but the Utes are aiming higher than a second straight trip to Memphis as conference champ. Utah wants a Bowl Championship Series berth and just might get it if it continues to win like this.
"If we're 2-5, there's probably maybe a little reason to lose focus. But not at 7-0. Not with this football team. Not with the leaders and coaching staff," said Scalley, who also had one of two interceptions for Utah.
The Utes forced four turnovers, blocked two punts -- including one for a touchdown -- and scored their most points since running up 66 while shutting out Division I-AA Idaho State in 1994, which was the last time they were 7-0.
"Their opening kickoff was a great play and their team just outplayed us," UNLV coach John Robinson said.
Dominique Dorsey ran 24 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels (2-6, 1-3), who have lost nine of the 10 meetings with Utah. Shane Steichen scored on a 25-yard run on a fourth-and-inches, but it was well after the game was decided.
As bad as it was Saturday, it wasn't the most points UNLV has allowed to Utah in the series. Utah, which took a knee on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 23 seconds left, beat the Rebels 69-28 in 1981.
"They are a national championship-caliber team -- and some people will question that," said Robinson, who won a national title while coaching Southern California in 1978. "They are playing good football and are as good as any team in the nation."
Utah had five touchdowns before a minute was up in the second quarter, then kept on scoring even after letting up on offense in the miserable conditions. Defensive lineman Steve Fafita returned an interception 6 yards for a touchdown, Utah recovered a fumble at the UNLV 7 to set up another easy score and Shaun Harper recovered a blocked punt in the end zone with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Smith left the game in the third after completing 11 of 19 passes for 147 yards. He also ran nine times for 77 yards, including a 70-yarder that put the Utes up 28-7 late in the first quarter.
Smith faked a handoff, then took off down the left sideline for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season. He cut inside and spun around defensive end Mario Hill, then made another move that stopped cornerback Charles Ealy cold and continued with his long stride the rest of the way for the score.
"It seemed like no one knew I had the ball," Smith said.
With the artificial turf and ball both slick with rain, the Utes avoided relying on the offense to push through the uncomfortable conditions. They surprised the Rebels with a reverse on the opening kick that established the tone for the night.
Nagahi fielded the ball deep in the Utah end zone and pitched it to Scalley at the 10. As Nagahi was getting clothes-lined in front of the Utah bench, Scalley was turning the corner on the other side of the field and made it to the end zone untouched just 15 seconds into the game.
UNLV cornerback Ruschard Dodd-Masters was so sure Nagahi still had the ball that he started to come onto the field, thinking the play was dead before Scalley sprinted past.
"It was great. They still thought I had the ball but Morgan had it," Nagahi said. "When I got up after they tackled me, I saw Morgan going for the end zone. It was the greatest feeling -- the best thing ever."
The Utes forced the Rebels to punt on the next series and Grady Marshall blocked the kick and Utah recovered at the 27. Smith hit Steve Savoy on first down for another touchdown with 11:40 still left in the opening quarter. Savoy added a 29-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
Smith also had an 18-yard touchdown pass to Travis LaTendresse in the first quarter to put Utah up 21-0.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-12||6-14|
|4th Down Conversions||2-2||0-2|
|TD||14:45||MORGAN SCALLEY 90 YD KICK RETURN (DAVID CARROLL KICK)||0||7|
|TD||11:40||STEVE SAVOY 27 YD PASS FROM ALEX SMITH (DAVID CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 27 yards.
|TD||4:25||TRAVIS LATENDRESSE 18 YD PASS FROM ALEX SMITH (DAVID CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 76 yards.
|TD||1:49||DYANTE PERKINS 4 YD RUN (SERGIO AGUAYO KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 60 yards.
|TD||0:24||ALEX SMITH 70 YD RUN (DAVID CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||14:07||STEVE SAVOY 29 YD RUN (DAVID CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 34 yards.
|TD||6:44||DOMINIQUE DORSEY 38 YD RUN (SERGIO AGUAYO KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 64 yards.
|TD||0:21||PARIS WARREN 9 YD PASS FROM ALEX SMITH (DAVID CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 89 yards.
|TD||10:49||STEVE FIFITA 6 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (DAVID CARROLL KICK)||14||49|
|TD||8:05||DOMINIQUE DORSEY 28 YD RUN (SERGIO AGUAYO KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 78 yards.
|TD||2:23||MARTY JOHNSON 2 YD RUN (DAVID CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 7 yards.
|TD||0:15||SHAUN HARPER 0 YD BLOCKED PUNT RETURN (DAVID CARROLL KICK)||21||63|
|TD||6:00||SHANE STEICHEN 25 YD RUN (SERGIO AGUAYO KICK)|
Drive info: 16 plays, 92 yards.