By Pete Herrera: The Assocoated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — Quarterback Alex Smith was efficient, Steve Savoy sure-handed and Utah’s defense too quick for New Mexico.
That was a combination good enough to give undefeated Utah a dominating 28-7 victory over New Mexico on Friday night.
Smith ran for two touchdowns and Savoy caught 11 passes for 150 yards. On defense, the 14th-ranked Utes (5-0, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) overwhelmed New Mexico’s offensive line and made shambles of the Lobos’ game plan.
“There’s no doubt that they did their homework on us,” New Mexico quarterback Kole McKamey said. “They definitely knew how to play us. They knew what was coming most of the time and if they didn’t, they played hard enough to stop it anyway.”
Utah has won nine straight dating to last season and is off to its best start since 1994.
New Mexico (2-3, 0-1) beat Utah 47-35 last year — the Utes’ last loss — but this time the Utes were a step quicker on both sides of the line. New Mexico’s only score came on Gabriel Fulbright’s 68-yard return of a fumble by Smith with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
Junior wide receiver Hank Baskett of Clovis was one of the few bright spots on offense for the Lobos with four catches for 75 yards.
“Actually the defense had a shutout,” said Smith, a junior who is 14-1 as a starter. “Their touchdown was on me. When you have a defense like ours, it makes it easier.”
Fulbright’s touchdown was on a questionable no-call. Smith was hit by defensive end Michael Tuohy while attempting to pass. It appeared Smith’s arm was going forward, but the officials didn’t whistle the play dead and Fulbright picked up the rolling ball and ran it in.
So effective was Utah’s defense that New Mexico finished with 157 total yards and had more punts (14) than first downs (8). Utah had 466 total yards. A year ago, New Mexico had 633 total yards — 407 on rushing — in its win in Salt Lake City.
“We felt last year New Mexico beat us up front and tonight the opposite happened,” Utah coach Urban Meyer said.
“The biggest change from last year is that there’s no panic,” Smith said. “We weren’t in a rush to do anything.”
McKamey completed just two of his first 14 passes, finished 7-of-22 for 83 yards, and spent much of the night trying to elude Utah defenders. When he did have time, he often overthrew open receivers.
The Lobos had just 74 yards rushing as halfback DonTrell Moore, the leading rusher in the conference, sat out with a sprained ligament in his left knee.
But even a healthy Moore might have had trouble finding holes in Utah’s defense.
“It was a combination of not executing and their defense being pretty good,” New Mexico coach Rocky Long said.
Fulbright’s score tied the game 7-7 and Utah responded with a nine-play, 84-yard drive that took less than 3 minutes. Runs of 23 and 12 yards by Quinton Ganther and a 17-yard pass from Smith to Savoy set up Paris Warren’s 7-yard scoring run with 12:14 left in the second quarter. Warren made a one-handed grab of a pitch from Smith and walked into the end zone.
Smith scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter and on a 6-yard run in the second after the Utes successfully faked a punt on third-and-14 from their own 20. Punter Matt Kovacevich ran 21 yards to the 41 and a roughing-the-passer penalty on New Mexico got the Utes to the New Mexico 44. Smith hit Warren with a 21-yard pass to the 13 and three plays later scored on a quarterback draw.
Savoy scored the only touchdown of the second half on a 10-yard end around that came two plays after a 41-yard pass from Smith to Savoy to the New Mexico 12.
Smith, who came into the game having thrown for 952 yards, got off to a slow start, completing just one of his first five passes. But a 59-yard run by halfback Marty Johnson to the New Mexico 4 set up Smith’s first touchdown with 7:34 left in the first quarter.
Smith finished 14-of-28 for 167 yards and threw his first interception of the season when Lobos defensive back Brandon Payne picked off a pass intended for Warren with 5:38 left in the game. That ended Smith’s streak of 116 passes without an interception.