7:00 PM ET, October 11, 2003
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- What a difference a year makes. What a difference a half can make.
Utah sophomore quarterback Alex Smith sparked a sluggish Utah offense with three second-half touchdown passes as Utes defeated San Diego State 27-6 Saturday night.
A year ago in his native San Diego, Smith made a forgettable debut for the Utes, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown in a 36-17 Aztec win.
"That game feels like it is a million years ago. I understand what I'm doing so much more. It is a night and day difference," said Smith, who completed 17 of 22 passes and directed Utah (5-1,2-0) to score on each of the first five drives of the second half.
The Utes kept pace with Air Force (6-1, 3-0), which beat UNLV 24-7, as the only unbeaten teams in the conference. In the first half, Utah managed only 84 yards and never penetrated the SDSU 38 yard-line. Trailing 6-0 at halftime, the Utes didn't panic.
"I have matured but we have all matured as an offense. We have learned not to press. We know what we can do," Smith said.
"We just kicked ourselves in the foot that first half. They couldn't stop us. We just stopped ourselves," said Brandon Warfield, who rushed for 133 yards.
Ben Moa caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Smith to cap the opening drive of the second half -- and the Utes never looked back.
"We kept them guessing from that first series [of the third quarter]. They were on their heels the rest of the game," Smith said.
The Aztecs were able to move the ball early on but were soon stonewalled by Utah defense. Utah's defense held the Aztecs (3-4, 0-2) to 49 yards rushing.
"The first half we played very, very well, but Utah was opportunistic with big plays and we couldn't get any," SDSU coach Tom Craft said.
After a pair of third-quarter field goals by Bryan Borreson, Smith passed for two more TD strikes in the fourth quarter.
"We exposed them. It just was a matter of time before we got rolling," said Paris Warren caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Steve Savoy followed his 176-yard performance in the Utes' win against Oregon last week with back-to-back long receptions -- including a one-handed touchdown grab with 8:06 remaining that clinched the win at 27-6.
Adam Hall completed 19 of 36 passes for 203 yards for San Diego. But he was intercepted in the end zone on San Diego State's only drive deep into Utah territory during the second half. Hall had missed the first five games of the season, before returning with a 352-yard passing game in a 44-36 loss to Brigham Young last week.
San Diego State got two J.C. Mejia field goals in three trips inside Utah's 30 during the first half.
The Utes have now outscored their opponents 70-29 in the fourth quarter in coach Urban Meyer's first year on the job.
"The fourth quarter is our time," Warren said.
Utah has won four of its last five games against San Diego State. The teams are now 11-11-1 against one another, though Rice-Eccles Stadium is the only place the Aztecs haven't won since Mountain West Conference play began.