SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Marty Johnson was more excited about
winning four games than he was about scoring four times in one of
Johnson tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns and
No. 14 Utah held off Air Force 49-35 Saturday, giving the Utes
their best start in 10 years.
"I think three of them were from the 1-yard line. If I get the
ball on the 1-yard line, the way my line blocks, I'm supposed to
score. That's my job," Johnson said.
Actually, only one of his touchdowns came from that close, but
he went in from the 2 twice and his longest TD of the day was from
the 8. It's been five years since a Utah player ran for four TDs in
a game and 10 years since the Utes opened a season 4-0.
Five different Utes scored Saturday as they began defense of
last season's Mountain West Conference championship with a victory.
"It's hard to stop us when they don't know who to key on,"
said Johnson, who had 21 carries for 72 yards.
Alex Smith ran for a touchdown and passed for two more. Smith
completed 13 of 23 passes for 260 yards and had 13 carries for 84
The Utes are off to their first 4-0 start since 1994, when they
went 10-2 and finished the season ranked 10th. But Utah needed to
rally from an early deficit after the Falcons (2-2, 1-1) scored the
first two touchdowns of the game.
"I was in panic mode. You can't get behind Air Force," Utah
coach Urban Meyer said.
Utah's answer to the two scores was five touchdowns in a row,
but that wasn't enough to put away anything in this rivalry. The
Falcons (2-2, 1-1) got back within a touchdown but no closer as
they turned the ball over three times.
"We are not discouraged by this loss -- disappointed, but not
discouraged," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. "We thought we
could win this game."
DeBerry was frustrated by the end and got a penalty for
unsportsmanlike conduct. Utah's Ryan Smith intercepted a pass while
going out of bounds late in the fourth quarter. DeBerry was still
upset about a fumble at the end of the third quarter that led to
one of Johnson's touchdowns and was restrained by his assistants as
he yelled at the officials.
He had cooled off a little by the postgame interviews.
"The officials didn't beat us. We had good opportunities to win
the game," DeBerry said.
Six of the last seven games in the series were decided by a
touchdown or less, including last year's 45-43 victory for the Utes
in triple overtime. And this one also wasn't a runaway, although it
could have been a few times.
Shaun Carney ran 21 times for 95 yards and three touchdowns and
completed nine of 13 passes for 158 yards and a score to lead Air
Force. He led an 80-yard scoring drive on the opening possession as
the Falcons took advantage of a listless start by Utah.
"It's hard to get that speed of the option in practice. I think
we were a little caught off guard on that first series,"
linebacker Spencer Toone said. "It was really scary going down
14-0, but we kept our composure, and we were able to come back."
Utah scored touchdowns on four straight possessions before Air
Force finally ended the Utes' onslaught on Carney's 6-yard
touchdown pass to Carsten Stahr with 5:28 left in the third. That
cut the lead to 35-21, then the Falcons forced Alex Smith to fumble
and recovered at the Utah 19.
Carney punched it in from the 2 to cut Utah's lead to a
touchdown with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter.
"Air Force is tough," Toone said. "Whenever we play Air
Force, it just comes down to the wire."
But that was as close as the Falcons got. Carney fumbled and
Utah recovered at the Air Force 42 late in the third, and the Utes
drove for another touchdown by Johnson. He is the first Utah player
to run for four touchdowns in a game since Mike Anderson did it
against UNLV in 1999.
Johnson got Utah to 14-7 on a 2-yard run, then the Utes struck
twice in the final three minutes of the half with a pair of scores
on just four plays.
Smith hit Paris Warren in stride along the Utah sideline and
Warren took it for a 65-yard touchdown to tie it at 14 with 2:37
left in the first half. The Utes got the ball right back when Ryan
Smith stripped the ball from Anthony Butler and Toone recovered at
the Air Force 21.
Alex Smith ran 11 yards on a keeper, then kept it again on
second down and trotted across the goal line after slowing down to
follow a smothering block by Steve Savoy.