9:00 PM ET, August 28, 2003
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah head coach Urban Meyer is known for his intensity, constantly yelling and encouraging his players.
But after his first game at Utah, he couldn't say a thing.
"The players were thoughtful and gave me the game ball. It choked me up," Meyer said after Brandon Warfield ran for 173 yards and a touchdown and Utah beat Utah State 40-20 Thursday night.
Meyer has the spent past six months preparing his players and preparing Utah fans for his spread offense that ranked third in the nation last year at Bowling Green.
Utah's eighth largest crowd in history, 39,697, may have expected a speedy, downfield attack but instead saw the Utes at their most effective staying in a running game.
"I wasn't pleased with our offense at all. I expected this in a first game. But once we get it going well, we'll be fun to watch," Meyer said as Utah gained 202 of its 382 yards on the ground and still matched Utah's high point total of last season (40).
Warfield carried the ball 33 times, sometimes lining up as quarterback in shotgun formation or taking pitches off the option.
"I saw a lot of green tonight. We actually ran the same play over and over but Coach told me we're going to keep running the same stuff until they stop it," Warfield said.
"Brandon is a great player and a warrior. I don't throw that term around lightly," Meyer said.
Quarterback Brett Elliott added a touchdown on the ground and threw for another as Utah won its sixth straight game over the Aggies in the series' 103th contest.
After falling behind 21-3 on Elliott's 1-yard touchdown run, Utah State got a safety off a bad punt snap and a touchdown run by Travis Cox, who threw for 280 yards in his first start, to draw within 21-12 at the end of the third quarter.
Bryan Borreson kicked field goals from 24 and 36 yards. Then Paris Warren, who caught seven passes for 103 yards, caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from backup QB Alex Smith with 4:57 left to put the game out of reach, 34-12.
Utah State gained 357 yards but Cox threw an interception to Morgan Scalley and then was sacked on a fourth-down attempt on successive drives in the fourth quarter.
"We made some big plays when we needed them," Scalley said.
Utah "has always had the best damn defense. They take a lot of pride on that side of the ball," Utah State coach Mick Dennehy said.
Elliott threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Larry Miles on the Utes' second possession. But after a Mark Estelle intercepted Elliott's pass in the end zone on the next Utah drive, the Utes went back to their familiar power running game former coach Ron McBride espoused in his 13-year tenure.
"We scored 40 points on a bad day. The offensive plan was to run the ball if we could and pass it if we had to," Elliott said.
Utah State's Justin Hamblin kicked a 21-yard field goal. Utah then ran 11 consecutive rushing plays, capped by Warfield's flip over a defender into the end zone for a 14-3 halftime lead.
Instead of rushing off the field after the win, Meyer directed the team to the front of the student section where they lifted their helmets in unison to the crowd and sang the school fight song.
"This was a must-win for us. It was a rivalry win so I'm happy. But we have a lot of work to do and you can bet we'll really get after it next week," Meyer said, his intensity again fully intact.