Sunday, Dec. 19, 1999 | midnight
Fresno State head coach Pat Hill didn't try and sugarcoat his team's narrow 17-16 loss to Utah in Saturday's EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl.
"I just told my team that I call it like I see it," Hill said. "Utah was just more physical than us today."
The Mountain West Conference tri-champion Utes (9-3), behind a school and Las Vegas Bowl record 254 yards rushing by senior running back Mike Anderson, outrushed the WAC co-champion Bulldogs, 334 to 132, and held a huge 548 to 279 edge in total yards.
Still, it took a 33-yard field goal by Tommy Truhe with just 5:03 remaining to give Ron McBride's club the lead and the victory before a Las Vegas Bowl record crowd of 28,227 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Although Truhe's kick would be normally classified as routine, it wasn't on this night.
That's because Bulldog junior safety Terence Brown twice skyed high to block two other Truhe field goal attempts, including an identical 33-yard try midway through the first quarter. Fresno State cornerback Payton Williams then scooped up the loose ball and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Fresno State lead.
After Anderson's 34-yard cutback run off a left tackle tied it, 7-7, with 3:51 left in the first quarter, Brown blocked a 34-yard try by Truhe that would have given Utah a 10-7 halftime lead.
So it was far from automatic when Truhe booted his game-winner through the uprights just over the outstretched hand of Brown.
"I felt like I got close, but it just wasn't close enough," Brown, voted Fresno State's player of the game, said.
"I was a little nervous," McBride admitted. "But our guys blocked it perfect and Tommy struck it perfect."
Fresno State had taken a 10-7 lead in the third quarter on a 27-yard field goal by Jeff Hanna, but the Utes came right back to take a 14-10 lead a few minutes later with Anderson's five-yard touchdown run off left tackle capping a 68-yard, seven-play drive.
Fresno rallied to take a 16-14 lead on freshman fullback Derrick Ward's two-yard plunge over the middle with 14:57 left in the game. However, Hanna's PAT attempt was blocked by Ute defensive back Colby Knight to open the door for Truhe's game-winning field goal a few minutes later.
The 6-foot, 232-pound Anderson, the easy choice for Utah player of the game honors, was especially impressive on the Utes' 11-play, 70-yard game-winning drive, carrying six times for 40 yards.
"This was a great way to end my career (at Utah)," Anderson said. "I made some great reads and you have to give credit to the guys up front. ... To finish like this is just a great feeling."