SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's mantra that "third-down is the only down" proved to be prophetic in Saturday's 47-7 loss to TCU.
The Horned Frogs dominated third-downs on both sides of the ball. They converted on 10-of-15 situations on offense and limited the Utes to just 3-of-13 success when on defense.
"Third-downs was much like the rest of the game," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We got whipped in that situation."
The differential on third-downs, he explained, added to a "recipe for disaster" against a talented team like TCU. Two fumbles, a pair of interceptions and a minus-3 turnover margin were also part of the mix.
"We had to have played the near-perfect game to be in this ballgame," Whittingham said. "We did not do that. Far from it. A lot of the reason for that is the play of the Horned Frogs."
FACES IN THE CROWD: In addition to a large media contingent, including reporters from Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Sporting News, the New York Times, the New York Daily News and ESPN The Magazine, the big game also drew representatives from five bowl games (Sugar, Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Las Vegas). Scouts from the NFL's Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders were credentialed as well.
EXPOSURE: After opening with an 84-74 exhibition victory over Adams State Friday night at the Huntsman Center, the Ute basketball team practiced from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday and then came to the game together and sat in the students' section along with two recruits.
"I'm a huge football fan and love what Kyle (Whittingham) does," coach Jim Boylen said. "It's great for us because the exposure is huge. Anywhere you see Utah (nationally), it's great for us."
BACK AT THE SCENE: Two years ago, TCU freshman field-goal kicker Ross Evans missed two short fourth-quarter field goals against Utah in the Horned Frogs' 13-10 loss. Either attempt would have given the Frogs a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter and perhaps led to a Horned Frog victory.
Evans missed another short kick Saturday, the PAT after the third touchdown, but it didn't make a difference in the 40-point blowout. Evans did make five PAT kicks on the day and made both field goal attempts, putting him at 8-for-8 on the season.
RETURNING UTES: Tennessee Titans defensive back Robert Johnson, whose team had a bye this weekend, was among several former Utah players on the sidelines supporting their alma mater.
"I wish I could play because I owe TCU something from last year's win that they got," Johnson said before the game. "I wish I could play so I could destroy them, but I can't do that."
Too bad. The Utes could have used the help Saturday.
"It's a different experience," Johnson said of being a bystander and not a player. "But I'm happy to be here."
EXTRA POINTS: Shaky Smithson's 10-yard punt return in the third quarter gives him 570 yards for the season, which breaks the Mountain West Conference record of 563 by TCU's Jeremy Kerley ... The crowd of 46,522 was the second largest in Ute history, behind only to the 2003 game against California (46,768) ... Saturday's loss snapped a 21-game home winning streak that dates back to a 2007 loss to Air Force ... Utah had allowed an average of 267 yards per game, coming into the game, but TCU surpassed that number midway through the third quarter and more than doubled that with 558 yards for the game ... Saturday's game was likely the last in the short series between Utah and TCU. The Utes won five of eight meetings and were 2-2 in for Fort Worth and are now 3-1 in Salt Lake City.