Stop us if you've heard this before, but the University of Utah football team was routed Saturday night. This time it was San Diego State that delivered the carnage, beating Utah 66-14 in Jack Murphy Stadium.
Warning: these routs may be habit forming. A week ago, the Utes were blown out by Air Force 52-21.The latest defeat was worse. The 52-point loss to the Aztecs was the Utes' worst defeat since 1986, when they lost to Ohio State 64-6. It was believed to be their worst loss ever in Western Athletic Conference play.
Saturday's game was never close, as the Aztecs scored on six of their first seven possessions to take a 42-7 halftime lead.
"This is a real sad day for Utah football," said Coach Ron McBride.
Dan McGwire, San Diego State's 6-foot-8 quarterback, did most of the damage. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 278 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception - and sat out most of the fourth quarter. McGwire's favorite targets were wideouts Patrick Rowe and Dennis Arey, who both caught 7 passes - for two touchdowns apiece and a combined 222 yards.
"We gave their receivers too much cushion to make plays," said Utah coach Ron McBride. "We didn't put enough pressure on the quarterback. You can't do that when the guy is a great thrower and has great receivers."
As for the Utes, they failed to score more than 14 points for the fifth time this season. Going up against the worst defense in the nation Saturday in San Diego - a defense that had allowed an average of 509 yards and 39.8 points per game - the Utes managed a meager 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Jason Woods, getting yet another try as a starting quarterback, completed 10 of 25 passes for 147 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Brad Foster rushed 12 times for 40 yards and Charlie Brown, a freshman from San Diego, rushed five times for 29 yards and 1 TD. That accounts for just about all of Utah's offense.
"We need to make the same kind of plays they were making," said McBride. "The worst thing is our team came apart at the seams."
With two games remaining in their season, the Utes are 3-6 overall and 1-5 in Western Athletic Conference play. They have lost eight or their last 10 WAC games. The Aztecs are 3-4, 2-2.
In the first half alone, San Diego State scored six touchdowns. Curtis Butts scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, and the other four came on the strong arm of McGwire. He threw two touchdown passes of 32 and 14 yards to Rowe, and two touchdown passes of 12 and 19 yards to Arey. By halftime it was 42-7, and the Aztecs had alrady rolled up 331 yards.
Whither the Utes? They managed just seven points and 87 yards in the first half.
The Ute coaches had spent the entire week deliberating over which quarterback they would start Saturday - Mike Richmond or Woods? - and didn't make their final decision until late Friday night. "We want to make sure we make the best decision," said Coach Ron McBride, as if it really would make much of a difference.
Richmond and Woods had each made four starts this season and neither had been effective. Saturday's Flavor of the Week turned out to be Woods, who hadn't played since being relieved by Richmond in the second quarter of the UTEP game two weeks ago. The decision to start Woods against the Aztecs seemed sound enough when, on the Utes' second possession, he passed to slotback Sean Hutson for a 38-yard gain. That set up a score - a 14-yard run by freshman Charlie Brown on an option pitchout - to make it 14-7.
But that was that. The Utes weren't heard from again the remainder of the half. Woods completed 2 of 9 passes for 48 yards in the first half and fumbled to set up the Aztecs' fifth touchdown.
The Utes blew several chances to score. Late in the first half a first down at the San Diego 14 was nullified by a motinn penalty. On third down, Woods overthrew a wide open Dean Witkin and on fourth-and-six he overthrew everybody.
"We thought about changing quarterbacks," said McBride. "But I didn't think the problem was the quartrback. It was a lot of things."
In the third quarter, McBride was chewing on the offense over on the sidelines when the Utes finally got a break: LaVon Edwards intercepted a deflected pass at the Aztec 22. But four plays later the Utes' threat was finished at the 27 after a net gain of minus-5 yards.
The Utes finally managed to score again on their next possession, this time on a 13-yard pass from Woods to tight end Mike Anglesey, who was wide open in the flat.
But that only riled the Aztecs, who responded with a 12-yard touchdown run by Tommy Book early in the fourth quarter. Utah's Sean Knox fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Aztecs' Chris Johnson recovered it at the 28. The Aztecs benched McGwire, sending out Cree Morris in his place, and they settled for a 47-yard field goal by Andy Trakas. That made it 52-14.
And counting. A Woods pass deflected off the hands of Hutson and into the hands of safety Johny Walker. Two plays later Kip Jeffries scored on a 7-yard run. Larry Maxey scored the final touchdown of the night, on a 6-yard run.