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Pre-game smack motivated Utes

Anderson and his blockers wanted to prove something

Published: Monday, Sept. 27 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

Mike Anderson is a humble, soft-spoken kind of guy, but it's not a good idea to give him cause to step up his game if you're the opposition.

The same goes for Mike Anderson's offensive line.Anderson and the University of Utah offensive line were probably going to do well Saturday night at UNLV anyway, but both stepped it up after they took offense to some Rebel pre-game statements.

Anderson tied a Ute single-game record when he scored four rushing touchdowns at UNLV Saturday on 19 carries behind a line that had -- by far -- its best game of the season in leading a 52-14 Ute win in the Mountain West Conference debut by both teams.

Utah's 3-0, 1-0 in the league, the only team in the league without a loss, and UNLV is 2-2, 0-1.

"It motivated me. I cannot lie," said Anderson, who had 116 net yards while being involved in only 27 percent of Utah's total offensive plays for the night.

Utah rushed 53 times and passed 18 times.

"The whole time I was reading their articles (in Las Vegas newspapers) where the (defensive coordinator) coach was saying no offense to me, but I took it that way," Anderson said.

UNLV's defensive coach was quoted as saying he would rather face north-south runner Anderson than jitterbugging Iowa State back Darren Davis, who gained 208 yards on UNLV Sept. 18 in a 24-0 Cyclone win at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Ute right guard Sam White said the line felt much the same way. "The (UNLV) coach told us (in the papers) we weren't as physical as some of the other teams they played," White said.

And they probably weren't in their first two games, when they were surprisingly inconsistent for a line that's pretty experienced. But Saturday, they made only a few small mistakes.

Quarterbacks Darnell Arceneaux, T.D. Croshaw and Tony Alvarez were never sacked, and the Utes averaged 6.7 yards per play including the fourth quarter when the second and third teams were in.

The defense was a monster, too, holding UNLV to 153 total yards (63 rushing, 90 passing), minus 18 yards rushing through the first half and 85 total-offense yards coming in the fourth quarter when Utah had its reserves in.

Utah's coaches wouldn't say it, but they probably felt vindicated, too, for a 1993 Freedom Bowl loss to Southern Cal and John Robinson, who is now the UNLV coach.

USC displayed a rude, haughty attitude then against a Ute team that included Luther Elliss and Jamal Anderson.

The 52 points were the most Utah has scored since a 56-3 win over UTEP in 1997 and the most it's scored on the road since a 57-42 win at Wyoming in 1991.

Mike Anderson now has seven rushing touchdowns in three '99 games and 19 in 13 career games. That's fifth on Utah's career list; he needs three more to tie for seventh and 12 to tie for first. Utah's six rushing TDs tied for second on the team's all-time single-game list. It was Anderson's ninth 100-plus rushing game.

It was a costly game, with two season-ending injuries. Top receiver Chris Christensen, a junior, dragged down by a cornerback who was beaten but unpenalized, broke his left fibula.

And punt returner/backup slotback Courtney Richins, a sophomore, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he apparently stepped in a hole. He'll require surgery, probably Tuesday.

Utah should get receiver Cliff Russell (MCL strain) back this week.

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