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Monson: Utes aren't even in the same league as TCU

Published November 7, 2010 6:43 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Turns out the Utes are pretenders, after all — at least by the harsh measure at the highest level of college football.

The soft schedule that had set the papier-mâché on and around the hollow form of an undefeated and fifth-ranked team in the BCS poll was shredded away chunk by chunk on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

That form certainly was no match for TCU, Utah getting stripped in front of a full house, to the beat of a sad-and-sorry 47-7 accompaniment. It got so sad-and-sorry that the second-biggest crowd to ever watch a game here, dressed out, fittingly enough, in black, booed the home team on a number of particularly somber occasions.

It could have booed all day, but, ultimately, fell into a kind of suffering stunned silence.

"We got our ass kicked," was the way Ute defensive end Christian Cox put it. "They smoked us. … We got killed."

Any questions?

Here's what happened, in less-vivid language:

Utah's offense couldn't find any consistency. Utah's defense couldn't stop the Frogs. Utah's penchant for mistakes never ceased. Utah's special teams couldn't make up any ground. Utah's coaches were outclassed, outprepared, outthunk.

Kyle Whittingham called it all a "recipe for disaster."

"Obviously, we're not as good a football team as TCU," he said. "Painfully obvious."

Including Whittingham, none of the Utes, exposed quarter by quarter as overrated and overranked, could come up with any way to make up all or any of the aforementioned over-and-out.

"It hurts," said senior center Zane Taylor. "It makes us want to play harder."

Too late.

TCU simply played like a pack of hungry dogs — and was rewarded for its hunger. Attacking the surprisingly vulnerable — and jumpy — Utes every which way possible, the aggressors rolled early and late, especially early, putting up a remarkable 237 yards in the first quarter alone, all but 15 of them through the air.

Fifth-year senior Andy Dalton was as snug and comfy on the field as a quarterback could be, hitting 21 of 26 throws for 355 yards and three touchdowns overall. He missed one pass in the opening period.

With Dalton leading the way, the Frogs poured it on and on, and Utah just continued taking its punishment, and adding to it with picks, fumbles, drops, blown assignments, missed tackles, scattered passes and shaky play.

Still, the Utes could have played flawlessly, and it wouldn't have mattered. Those dubious first 15 minutes, during which TCU took a 20-zip lead, set the stage and the storyline for a bad, but proper, ending.

Dalton opened the game with an 80-yard drive, punctuated with a 26-yard TD pass to Josh Boyce just four minutes and 46 seconds in. He followed with a 93-yard scoring pass to Boyce, chucked deep from his own end zone. Boyce caught the ball and jetted down field, outrunning Ute corner Brandon Burton, after Burton missed a tackle.

That play, as much as any other, and there were plenty from which to choose, symbolized the entirety of what happened Saturday: TCU aggression, Ute submission.

"Combustion," Cox called it.

"Very disheartening," Whittingham said.

The Horned Ones never looked back.

Instead, they jacked their lead to 23, then 30, then 37, then 40, and then … well, the Utes humbly ate their faceful of pie straight through to the finish.

Those bent toward a benevolent judgment here might say the Utes just had a bad day. But that's too benevolent. And Whittingham knew that. If these two teams played 10 times, TCU would win 10, not just because the Frogs are superior in body, but because they are tougher in mind and spirit.

The best thing that could be said about Saturday's revelation? For Utah, the only positive thing?

The Utes avoided their first shutout at home since 1967.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com.