TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Utah looked like a powerhouse that deserved
a better final test to its BCS-busting season.
Behind the cool efficiency of Alex Smith, the Utes (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 AP) used their baffling spread offense and an underrated defense to
dominate Pittsburgh (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday
Utah was a 16-point favorite, the biggest margin of any of the
bowls, and it was a safe bet.
Smith completed 29 of 37 passes, four of them for touchdowns,
for 328 yards and the Utes sacked Pitt's Tyler Palko nine times, a
Fiesta Bowl record.
Smith, a Heisman Trophy finalist who is considering going to the
NFL after this, his junior, season, also rushed 15 times for 68
Paris Warren caught 15 passes, breaking the Fiesta record of 11
set by Kellen Winslow of Miami in the 2003 national championship
loss to Ohio State.
Warren, who transferred from Oregon in 2002, had 198 yards
receiving, third-most in Fiesta Bowl history. Smith's 78 percent
completion rate was also a Fiesta Bowl mark.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Warren told the
boisterous Utah supporters at the postgame awards ceremony.
Smith and Warren shared the offensive MVP award, and Utah nose
guard Steve Fifita was named the defensive MVP.
Meyer punctuated two memorable years in Salt Lake City with the
Utes' first unbeaten, untied season since 1930. He leaves for
Florida after making Utah the first team from outside the six BCS
conferences to force its way into a Bowl Championship Series game.
"This is the best group of young men I've ever been around,"
Meyer said. "It's going to be hard to say goodbye, but we're
saying goodbye 12-0."
Tens of thousands of Utah fans who made up at least
three-fourths of the sellout crowd of 73,519 were not disappointed.
Utah scored touchdowns on five of its first seven possessions,
including all three in the third quarter.
Out of a dizzying array of formations, the Mountain West
Conference champs kept the Panthers off balance all night with
everything from option plays to a handful of shovel passes. The
Utes set up one touchdown with a reverse and scored another on the
old "hook-and-ladder" play.
On that play, Smith threw to Steve Savoy, who flipped the ball
to Warren. Warren dashed 18 yards for the score, capping a 10-play,
94-yard drive, to put the Utes up 35-7 with 25 seconds left in the
Pitt (8-4) was overmatched in its final game under coach Walt
Harris, who is leaving for Stanford after eight seasons with the
Panthers. Pittsburgh was the unwanted team among the eight BCS
squads. The Panthers automatically qualified for one of the four
elite games as Big East champions, even though they were only 21st
in the BCS rankings.
"They are a very good, very explosive team, and it was a tough
game for us," Harris said. "We did not match up physically as
well as we needed to in order to stay in it, especially
Dave Wannstedt, who resigned this season as coach of the Miami
Dolphins, has been hired to replace Harris.
As the BCS buster with a huge following, Utah was welcomed by
the Fiesta Bowl organizers, but they had no choice but to invite
Pitt as the opponent.
In the first half, the Panthers accomplished their goal of
controlling the ball and keeping Utah's offense off the field as
much as possible. Pitt had a seven-minute advantage in time of
possession, but the Utes still led 14-0, even though they had the
ball only four times, the last with just 49 seconds to go in the
The Panthers were in Utah territory three times in the first
half, but four sacks -- and a blocked field goal try -- kept them