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Savoy played big role in Utah victory

Receiver said Utes wanted to make statement

At least the Utes won this time.

The only time the Utes have put up more yardage than Saturday night's 669-yard total in a 46-16 win over North Carolina, was 16 years earlier when Air Force came to town for a mid-October game.

Scott Mitchell passed for a then-NCAA record 631 yards as the Utes piled up 702 yards of total offense.

It all went for naught, however, as the Falcons went home with a 56-49 victory.

There was little doubt about the outcome of Saturday night's game, at least after the Utes spotted the Tar Heels a quick 7-0 lead. After that opening touchdown drive, the Utes totally dominated the game, amassing 381 passing yards and 288 rushing.

Meanwhile, North Carolina managed just 162 yards the rest of the game, finishing with 221 total yards on the night. While the Utes had 35 first downs, the third most in school history, UNC had just 14.

One of the big factors in the offensive output, outside of the obvious outstanding performance by quarterback Alex Smith, was the play of wide receiver Steve Savoy.

The sophomore from Washington, D.C., was extra motivated for the game, since he felt North Carolina didn't show enough interest in him out of high school.

So all Savoy did was collect 208 yards of total offense, with 10 pass catches for 154 yards and four rushes for 54 yards, mostly on reverses.

"I think this was a statement game for us because we wanted to got out and prove we can play with anybody," Savoy said. "It was a statement game for myself as well, because I was getting recruited by North Carolina in high school."

Among Savoy's 10 catches was a one-handed snag of a streak down the east sideline on a play where pass interference was called on the Tar Heel defender. Despite the interference, Savoy managed to hang on to the ball for the touchdown, which put the Utes up 24-10 midway through the second quarter.

Right from the start, the Utes showed that Savoy was going to be a key part of their game plan. On Utah's first offensive play, he took a handoff from Smith on a reverse around the left end and picked up 11 yards.

He also caught passes on each of Utah's first four possessions, including gains of 23 and 26 yards.

Late in the first quarter, Savoy rushed for a 9-yard gain and also added runs of 13 yards late in the third quarter and a 21-yard pickup on another reverse early in the fourth quarter.

"They gave me a lot of touches today and got me in the flow," Savoy said. "When (the coaches) first told me that, I was a little scared. But it worked out for the best. We really got it rolling tonight."

Smith put up the best numbers of his career with 29 completions in 37 attempts for 341 yards and four touchdowns. The only blemish was a second-half interception of a shovel pass that went too high. That turned out to be the only non-completion in the second half, when he went 13 for 14.

"Alex really played well," said Utah coach Urban Meyer. "I was very impressed with our offense. Everybody just moved up and down the field, and that was really the first time we did that."

Next up for Utah is UNLV, which stands 1-2 in Mountain West Conference play and 2-5 overall. The last, and only time, UNLV beat Utah was in 1979.


E-mail: sor@desnews.com