FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Urban Meyer insists Utah's thrilling 28-21 victory over Colorado State was no accident.
"Two good players — two senior players — Dave Revill and Arnold Parker flat won the game for us," Meyer said of the defenders who teamed for the game-winning score with less than two minutes to play. "Dave Revill is a great player. That's why he's all-conference. He knocked the ball out. Arnold Parker is our fastest player and he showed it."
Parker, who has 4.36 speed in 40, receovered a fumble and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown with 1:33 remaining as the Utes snapped a five-game losing skid to CSU with their first victory at Hughes Field in nine years. The score capped a roller coaster Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Parker said of the decisive play.
The ball landed in his hands and he sprinted down the right sideline untouched after a hard hit by Revill knocked the ball out of CSU running back Marcus Houston's hands. The Rams were in field-goal position on the Utah 22 before the third-down play.
"It was like a bad dream," CSU linebacker Drew Wood said. "I couldn't believe it happened."
To the delight of the Utes it did. They improved to 3-1 overall after enduring yet another frantic finish — this one after a 16-day layoff. Conference favorite CSU, meanwhile, fell to 2-3.
"It's unbelievable coming down to the end like that the last three games," said quarterback Alex Smith, who completed 17-of-21 passes for 158 yards. He also rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown. "I don't know if I can take any more of these."
After a decisive season-opening win over Utah State, the Utes dropped a 28-26 decision to Texas A&M when a late two-point conversion attempt failed and then had to rally for a 31-24 victory over California.
"Next time we need to just beat a team down and make them quit," Revill said. "I'm sick of these close games."
Much like the triumph over the Bears, the Utes seemingly had the game in control before allowing things to unravel. This time, a 21-7 lead after three quarters failed to hold up. Bad punts (of 26 and 27 yards by Matt Kovacevich), an effective CSU pass rush that eventually registered the first quarterback sack Utah has allowed this season, and veteran Rams quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt nearly altered the outcome in the final 15 minutes.
The momentum shifted back in Utah's favor, though, over a 14-second span down the stretch. Revill's hit and Parker's touchdown were galvanized when Corey Dodds intercepted Van Pelt on first down to ensure the outcome.
"It ain't over until it's over … ," Parker said. "All of the hard work we did just happened to pay off right there."
The Utes led 14-7 at halftime after capitalizing on a pair of turnovers by the Rams, who wound up losing the ball six times — the most since a loss to Nebraska more than 12 years ago. Utah's first score came with 13:10 to go in the second quarter when Dodds recovered a fumble in the end zone. He emerged from a group of Utes and landed on the ball after a pitch from Van Pelt to Houston missed the mark and fell to the ground.
Less than three minutes later, Utah began its second scoring drive when nose guard Steve Fifita jarred the ball away from Van Pelt and defensive end Lewis Powell recovered the fumble on the Utah 48.
A 10-yard touchdown run by Warfield, who finished with a season-low 78 yards rushing while being the focal point of CSU's defense, eventually capped a eight-play series that—following Bryan Borreson's second PAT — increased Utah's lead to 14-0 with 6:05 remaining.
The advantage was cut in half, however, before the intermission.
CSU marched 80 yards downfield on a sustained drive of 14 plays that took 5:31 off the clock after sophomore Justin Holland replaced Van Pelt at quarterback. A 4-yard scoring strike from Holland to David Anderson came with only 34 seconds left in the half.
Utah avenged the score late in the third quarter with a time-consuming 12-play drive. A 1-yard touchdown run by Smith concluded the march, nearly seven minutes after it began.
Trailing 21-7, the Rams rallied and managed to pull even in the fourth q quarter. Van Pelt returned from his earlier benching to quarterback the Rams across the goal line twice in less than 4 1/2 minutes. He ran eight yards for the first score and handed off to Houston, who scurried three yards for the other touchdown. The latter came with 10:27 remaining and set the scene for a dramatic finish.
"We came back and played pretty well on defense. I was proud of the way our team played, how they came back," CSU coach Sonny Lubick said. "We had a legitimate chance to win the football game."
Meyer, a former Rams assistant, acknowledged his team was outplayed in the second half. Even so, the outcome left him smiling.
"I thought they did a great job tonight," Meyer said. "I'm very porud of my guys."
Utah faces another tough test Friday when Oregon visits Rice-Eccles Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN 2). The Utes resume conference play Oct. 11 at home against San Diego State. CSU, meanwhile, faces Fresno State before its next league game — Oct. 9 at BYU.