Start making those reservations for San Diego, Ute fans. Get those tickets for Jack Murphy Stadium.
No, we're not talking Holiday Bowl. The Utes' next game happens to be against San Diego State intwo weeks.However, the way they played Saturday night in a 41-7 victory over Wyoming, the Utes showed they are definite contenders for December's Holiday Bowl by bowling over the Pokes.
The Rice Stadium crowd of 34,607, the fourth largest in history and largest since 1986, was on hand to see the Utes open Western Athletic play with a convincing victory over their longtime rivals.
The Ute defense was outstanding again, holding the Cowboys' vaunted rushing game to just 51 yards. And Ryan Christopherson, the nation's No. 2 rusher who was averaging 182 yards this year, was held to just 61 yards on 21 carries (the rest of the Wyoming backs were held to negative 10 yards).
"I feel that was the best defense I have ever played against," said Christopherson. "They are aggressive and quick, much better than any team I have seen."
"Our defense really played awesome tonight," said Ute coach Ron McBride. "Our special teams played great and even though our offense sputtered a bit, when they challenged us, our offense got back in gear."
While the Utes sputtered again offensively, they were good enough in spurts as Mike McCoy threw five touchdown passes and finished with 16 of 29 completions for 279 yards. Curtis Marsh and Rick Tucker each caught two TD passes and Charlie Brown got the other. As Oregon did a week earlier, the Cowboys pretty much kept the Ute running game in check and the Utes gained just 157 yards.
After taking a 20-0 halftime lead, the Utes saw momentum swing to Wyoming's side in the third quarter when the Cowboys made their only sustained drive of the night, moving 78 yards in 11 plays to cut the lead to 20-7.
But the Ute offense, dreadful through most of the second quarter, suddenly came alive as the Utes went on an 87-yard drive with McCoy hitting tight end Rick Tucker with a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Wyoming challenged again when reserve quarterback Jeremy Dombeck, subbing for injured John Gustin, hit Marcus Harris with a 68-yard pass to the Utah 14-yard line. But then the Ute defense showed its stuff, shoving the Cowboys back 10 yards and forcing them to go for it on 4th and 20 from the 24.
Utah increased its lead to 34-7 early in the fourth quarter when McCoy hit Curtis Marsh with a 42-yard scoring pass, a lob down the right sideline that Marsh grabbed and eluded a tackler.
It was similar to the Utes' first score of the night when, McCoy lobbed a pass down the right sideline, which Marsh ran under and kept on until he hit the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown.
The Utes used the same route for their second score, a 56-yard touchdown pass from McCoy to Charlie Brown.
Brown had just entered the game when Wyoming lined up with eight men on the line expecting a run. Brown circled out of the backfield, and caught it on the right sideline. Brown dipped under a tackle by Lee Vaughn at the 30 and scampered in for the score to make it 14-0.
Late in the quarter, Ute cornerback Kareem Leary made a nice interception, tipping the ball up in the air and grabbing the ball as he fell out of bounds at the Cowboy 45. The Utes moved to the 7-yard line before stalling and Dan Pulsipher booted a 23-yard field goal.
On the Cowboys next possession, Utah defensive end Bronzell Miller knocked the ball out of Gustin's hand at the Poke 42. "I was getting beat on they play and he held the ball out and I got it," said Miller. But the Utes couldn't move again and settled for a 43-yarder by Pulsipher.
The Utes ended up with just 21 total yards in the second quarter as their next two possessions went for negative 2 and negative 5 yards, respectively.
The final Ute score came with 6:58 left in the game when McCoy hit Tucker on a 22-yard scoring pass.
For the night Utah finished with 436 total yards to just 217 for Wyoming. Robert Hamilton finished with 91 yards rushing. Utah had 21 first downs to 14 for Wyoming.
"No. 1, Utah is a very, very good football team," said Wyoming coach Joe Tiller. "No. 2, when you make mistakes against a very good football team, they're magnified. And that's what happened tonight. We made mistakes and a very good football team took advantage of them."
UTE NOTES: The Utes take this week off with a bye week and return to action Oct. 8 at San Diego State . . . The last time the Utes played Wyoming in Rice Stadium, they won by a similar score of 38-7 . . . It was the Utes biggest win over Wyoming since a 69-14 whipping in 1983 . . . The Cowboys play No. 2 Nebraska next week in Lincoln.