People were calling them the BCS Busters. Others were calling them Cinderella. Regardless of the title, Utah proved that it was simply one of the best teams in the nation, capping its perfect season with an exclamation point on the bright BCS stage. The Utes ran their spread-it-around offense to perfection and flew to the ball on defense to coast to a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in prime time on New Year’s Day.
Utah head coach Urban Meyer announced before the game that he would be taking the Florida job at the end of the season. He was on the sideline to lead the Utes to their most impressive season in their most improbable game to cap a 12-0 season in historic fashion, leaving the school with its first undefeated, untied season since 1930.
Utah became the first team from a non-BCS conference to earn a spot in one of the four BCS bowls by running the table, with dominating victories over Texas A&M, Arizona and North Carolina.
They were just as dominant on this night, featuring one of the nation’s most explosive and complicated offenses led by quarterback Alex Smith, who earned a trip to New York as one of the Heisman Trophy finalists, another first for the Utah program.
Smith showcased his talents and versatility to a national television audience with four touchdown passes and a Fiesta Bowl record for passing efficiency. Paris Warren caught 15 of his passes to shatter the previous Fiesta Bowl record, giving Smith and Warren co-offensive player of the game honors, a first in Fiesta Bowl history.
The most creative Smith-to-Warren connection came on a hook-and-ladder play with Steve Savoy catching the pass from Smith before lateraling to Warren who ran 18 yards untouched for the final points of the game.
Utah scored touchdowns on five of its first seven possessions, including all three in the third quarter to bring a loud, red and raucous crowd of Utah fans to their feet early and often throughout the game.
The Utes defense did its own damage on the field, holding a potent Pittsburgh attack to seven points and 17 net yards rushing, while recording a Fiesta Bowl record nine sacks. The Panthers were in Utah territory three times in the first half, but four sacks and a block field goal attempt kept them scoreless.