Dec. 23, 2006
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Louie Sakoda kicked four field goals, defensive standout Eric Weddle ran for a touchdown and Utah matched the longest active bowl streak with its sixth straight postseason victory, 25-13 over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday night.
The Utes (8-5) have won all of their bowl games since 1999, including two years ago when they were the first non-BCS team to play in the Bowl Championship Series and beat Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl to cap an undefeated season.
Brett Ratliff was 23-of-34 passing for 240 yards and was credited with a 10-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, though it was actually a designed catch-and-pitch similar to a score the Utes had in their Fiesta Bowl romp. Brian Hernandez caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage and pitched to Brent Casteel, who ran around the left end and leaped into the end zone.
Paul Smith scored on a pair of 1-yard keepers for Tulsa (8-5), which finished a once-promising season with its fourth loss in five games.
Boston College also has won six straight bowls. The Eagles have a chance to extend their streak next Saturday against Navy in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Utah's latest bowl victory came on the TCU campus, where it played for the first time since a September 2005 game when the Utes' school-record 18-game winning streak ended in a 23-20 overtime loss against the Horned Frogs.
Weddle, the two-time Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year who also plays several snaps a game on offense, ran 10 times for 56 yards. His 4-yard score with 1:05 left in the game was his fifth rushing TD this season.
The ball was in Weddle's hands to end the game, his seventh interception coming on the final play. Weddle also threw a touchdown pass this season and scored three times on defense -- two interception returns and one fumble recovery.
Sakoda kicked a 41-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to give Utah a 9-7 lead. The Utes put the game out of reach by scoring on their first two possessions after halftime, the second when they started at their own 1 after a punt.
Weddle took direct snaps on consecutive plays for runs of 7 and 10 yards. That set the Utes up at the 10 for the catch-and-pitch TD that capped the opening second-half drive and made it 16-7. He carried on seven of the eight plays on the drive that ended with his touchdown.
After Utah started at its own 1, Ratliffe threw a 7-yard pass to Derrek Richards and ran for 12 yards on the next play. The Utes actually gained 92 yards on the drive, making up for two 5-yard penalties, before they had to settle for Sakoda's 34-yard field goal.
Sakota kicked a career-long 45-yard field goal on Utah's opening possession of the game. He added a 39-yarder midway through the second quarter.
The game provided a first-time matchup of head coaches who were childhood friends, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe. Their fathers were on Lavell Edwards' staff together at BYU from 1973-79.
Smith's 1-yard keeper put Tulsa ahead 7-3 early in the second quarter, only after the play was reviewed to confirm the ball didn't pop out of his hands until after he stretched it across the goal line.
That ended an 80-yard drive that almost never got started for the Golden Hurricane after punt returner Idris Moss fumbled. Two Utah players missed chances to recover before freshman linebacker Mike Bryan emerged from the bottom of the pile with the ball.
Tulsa finished with only 254 total yards -- 146 below its season average that was second-best in Conference USA.
The fourth-year game, formerly known as the Fort Worth Bowl, was sponsored by Bell Helicopter.