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Meyer's farewell game a real Fiesta



Published: Sat, January 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Florida-bound coach led Utah to a 'dreamlike' undefeated season.

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Utah used an unstoppable offense to break through the walls surrounding college football's big bowls.

The unbeaten Utes were expected to do more than merely win the Fiesta Bowl. They were supposed to win big over Big East champion Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

That was heady stuff for the Mountain West Conference champs, who brought a large chunk of Salt Lake City's population with them for the game at Sun Devil Stadium.

"This has been pretty dreamlike," quarterback Alex Smith said. "This has been a goal of ours since January, and to finally reach it, it's pretty surreal. I'm just trying to take it all in and not let it go by too fast."

Road to prominence

Coach Urban Meyer, who brought about Utah's improbable climb to national prominence, coached his final game for the Utes, sharing duties with his successor, defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham.

After two years at Bowling Green and two at Utah, Meyer is bound for Florida. He leaves behind a Utah program that represented the hopes of every school outside the six conferences that make up the Bowl Championship Series.

The Utes (11-0) were the first non-BCS team to make it to one of the four elite bowls -- automatically qualifying by finishing sixth in the BCS rankings.

They did it with an offense that averaged more than 500 yards and 45 points per game. On 60 trips inside an opponent's 20-yard line, the Utes scored touchdowns 85 percent of the time. Utah scored fewer than 40 points in a game only twice.

Meyer's explanation of his offense is simple.

"It's a personnel-based offense," he said. "Spread the field, and let the good players touch the ball."

Pitt undeserving?

The Panthers endured criticism that they really didn't belong in the Fiesta Bowl. Pittsburgh was just 21st in the BCS ratings but earned an automatic bid as the champions of a Big East depleted by the departures of Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Pitt, West Virginia, Boston College and Syracuse all were 4-2 in the not-so-Big East, but the Panthers had the tiebreaker to earn the first BCS invitation in coach Walt Harris' eight years at the school. It also is his last year.

With Pittsburgh's administration showing little support, Harris opted to accept an offer from Stanford. Dave Wannstedt, who resigned this season as coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, was hired by Pitt to replace him.

XSaturday's game was not completed in time for today's editions.




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