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Doug Robinson: Super-hyped showdown becomes epic dud as TCU trounces Utah 47-7

Published: Saturday, Nov. 6 2010 11:59 p.m. MDT

Stone-faced Utah fans sit and watch as Utah loses to TCU, 47-7, at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Stone-faced Utah fans sit and watch as Utah loses to TCU, 47-7, at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Ooookay, any questions? Let's get one ugly, necessary detail out of the way. The score was TCU 47, Utah 7.

It was get-the-children-out-of-the-room ugly. This is how bad it was: One minute into the second half, after watching the other guys score yet another touchdown, Ute fans began to file out of the stadium. They had seen enough.

A few minutes later, after still another TCU touchdown, Ute fans were tripping all over themselves trying to escape the football equivalent of the Hindenburg. And to think it had been the hottest ticket in town since Paul McCartney only hours earlier.

"For anyone who loves the program, it hurts," said center Zane Taylor.

The long-awaited showdown between No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Utah — two unbeaten, non-BCS teams trying to win national respect and a BCS bowl bid — was a dud. After beating up on chumps for eight weeks, the Utes picked on someone their own size and got crushed. They were hoping for the Rose Bowl; now they're looking at the Vegas Bowl.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham grimaces after TCU recovers a fumble and scores. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham grimaces after TCU recovers a fumble and scores. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

This is how bad it was: Late in the game, TCU backup quarterback Casey Pachall – yes, they were playing their JV at this point – fumbled the ball. A big loss? A Ute turnover? No, TCU running back Waymon James picked it up and weaved 25 yards for a touchdown. Coach Kyle Whittingham palmed his forehead and winced like a man with a migraine.

This is how bad it was: The Utes crossed midfield one time – and that wasn't until the fourth quarter. They trailed 20-0 at the end of the first quarter, 23-0 at halftime, 40-0 early in the fourth quarter.

This is how bad it was: The Frogs outgained the Utes 558 yards to 199.

This is how bad it was: It was the fourth biggest home loss in school history, and the team's biggest loss since 1996.

"My bishop won't be happy, but we got our a---s kicked," said defensive end Christian Cox.

Say good-bye to BCS bowls and national championship pursuits. Say goodbye to the Top 10. Say goodbye to an unbeaten season. Say goodbye to a rare opportunity, one that was made all the better by Alabama's defeat on Saturday.

Talk about anti-climactic. The buildup to the game began weeks ago. The table was set for the Utes. They had a national TV audience and their first top-tier opponent of the season. This was their chance to show the BCS they belonged, that they were worthy of vying for a berth in the BCS National Championship game.

For a day, the state came to a standstill. The Utes were all the rage and all the talk. Red and black sweatshirts and U. flags were everywhere this week. Thousands camped out at the stadium, and that was just to watch ESPN do its pre-game show. More than 200 media types showed up for the event, plus reps from the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls.

The Utes ordered a "black out" – fans were asked to wear black to the game, an appropriate color for the occasion, it turned out. The Utes broke out new black/camouflage jerseys, which sported, in place of names, various aphorisms -- COUNTRY, DUTY, SERVICE, INTEGRITY, COMMITMENT. Nice. Then the game started. They could have changed those words to INEPT, CONFUSED, DAZED, FRUSTRATED, DOMINATED.

The Utes and Horned Frogs had both vowed to open up their playbooks for the big game. Apparently, they had defeated a string of weak opponents to that point using only a few pages of their playbooks, or possibly only the table of contents.

The Utes' new and old plays resulted in dropped passes, errant passes and runs that were stuffed at the line of scrimmage. For their part, the Frogs couldn't have performed much better if they had been playing against air.

"They smoked us in every phase of the game," said Cox.

The Ute defenders, fearing TCU's speed, played soft coverage and the Frogs exploited it with an assortment of bubble screens and quick passes to the flat. That set up two double-move routes that resulted in touchdown passes of 26 and 93 yards. Quarterback Andy Dalton had a dream game, completing 21 of 26 passes for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns and leading a nearly flawless team performance.

"That's a quality football team to say the least," said Whittingham.

It was quite a comedown for a Ute program that has been on a roll for several years. Exactly no one saw this one coming from a team that had won 39 of its previous 43 games, including 21 straight at home.

"We just gotta put this behind us; it's ancient history," said one U. player, relegating the game into antiquity just 15 minutes after it ended. As if on cue, moments later a player could be heard from the Ute locker room exhorting his teammates to press on the rest of the season. "Whooooo! 11-1"

e-mail: drob@desnews.com

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