Utah Halts USC's Four-Game Winning Streak
Dec 25, 2001
LAS VEGAS - With a methodical rushing attack and an overwhelmingdefensive effort, Utah won the Las Vegas Bowl exactly the way Ron McBridealways hoped his team would play this season.
Adam Tate rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown, and Utah's defense limitedUSC to 1 yard rushing as the Utes cleaned up in Las Vegas for the second timein three years, beating the Trojans 10-6 Tuesday.
McBride, soaked from a Gatorade dousing, led the cheers and the school fightsong after the Utes controlled the ball over the final 5:43 with a poise theydidn't show while blowing fourth-quarter leads over Brigham Young and Air Forcein their final two regular-season games.
'We were under a lot of criticism for the Air Force and BYU games, butadversity is what I like,' McBride said. 'I was determined that we were goingto come down here and win this game. We needed this. We played with theultimate determination today.'
The Utes (8-4) won with their defense, which embarrassed USC's strongoffense. The Trojans (6-6), who had their four-game winning streak snapped,finished with 151 total yards.
After scoring its only touchdown on the first possession of the second half,USC didn't get across the Utah 40 for the rest of the day as linebacker SheldonDeckart and the Utes' defense, missing two starters, still dominated.
'We let them come right at us, and we stopped them,' Deckart said. 'Itwas a big part of our game plan to make big plays, and then keep making bigplays.'
Southern California, which entered the game hoping to build for a run at thePacific-10 title next season, instead found nearly its every move thwarted by aUtah game plan that seemed to anticipate every trick in coach Pete Carroll'sstore.
The Trojans didn't manage to accumulate positive rushing yardage untilmidway through the fourth quarter. Carson Palmer, who was 15-of-26 for 150yards, missed open receivers and saw other passes dropped.
'I don't think they thought we were comparable to them,' McBride said.'They didn't think we were in the same league. They were destroying teams inthe last five weeks of the season ... but it's a funny game.'
Despite going scoreless in the second half, Utah converted two long thirddowns in the final 3:30 to run out the clock.
On third-and-14 from the Utes' 9 with 3:30 left, quarterback Lance Rice hitMichael Richardson for a 20-yard reception. Facing third-and-4 a minute later,Tate bounced off several defenders for a 16-yard run that essentially sealedit.
When Tate surged for yet another first down with 1:30 left, the Utes beganto celebrate Utah's third bowl victory in six trips during his 12 years incharge. The Utes beat Fresno State in Las Vegas in 1999.
Tate and Dameon Hunter, who rushed for 94 yards to win Utah's MVP award,were two of the first players to hug McBride after the final snap.
Moved to Christmas Day to capitalize on a captive TV audience, the game wasexpected to draw a tiny crowd to Sam Boyd Stadium. Instead, 30,984 locals andfans of both teams filled the stadium, improbably setting a new attendancerecord for the 10-year-old bowl.
The fans and the television audience didn't see a telegenic game, but theUtes didn't mind at all.
Utah scored its only touchdown on its second possession. Tate, the biggerback in the Utes' massive tailback tandem, bulled in on a 3-yard run.
The Trojans played dismally while going scoreless in the first half. Thanksto an amazing series of sacks and tackles behind the line by Deckart and theUtes' aggressive linebackers, USC had minus-53 yards rushing in the first half- and just 15 total yards.
'We didn't play the game we wanted to at all,' said Carroll, who got ajarring end to his first season at USC. 'We seemed to find some rhythmeventually, but we didn't get into the game. They really pressured us a lot onfirst down. We were trying to throw the ball, but they were better at it thanwe were.'
Even kicker David Davis had his string of 12 straight field goals snappedwhen he was left and short on a 47-yard attempt 3:28 before halftime. Utahpulled ahead 10-0 on Ryan Kaneshiro's 26-yard field goal three minutes later.
But USC woke up briefly, driving 80 yards to open the second half andscoring on Sunny Byrd's 1-yard run. Both defenses then began to dominate onceagain, with the Trojans led by 20 tackles from team MVP Troy Polamalu.
Even after a phenomenal game, Polamalu lamented the mistakes he made.
'If we don't let them score, then we win the game,' Polamalu said. 'Therewere plenty of opportunities for me to make the plays, and I didn't comethrough. They took it to us.'
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer