CRIMSON CORNER

Utah’s 2004 Undefeated Team Wanted To Play Auburn In Fiesta Bowl

May 3, 2020, 9:42 PM

The Utes won the Fiesta Bowl 35 - 7 against the Pittsburgh Panthers in Phoenix, AZ on January 1, 20...

The Utes won the Fiesta Bowl 35 - 7 against the Pittsburgh Panthers in Phoenix, AZ on January 1, 2005 (Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – When the 2004 Mountain West Champion Utah Utes cracked the BCS, they were matched up with No. 19 Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Utes had a dominate team on both sides of the ball. They outscored opponents 544-234 in 12 games in 2004.

They averaged 44.2 points per game and allowed just 19.2 points per contest.

Despite all of that, they were handed Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl. Utah blew out the Panthers 35-7 to cap off an undefeated season and became the first team in a non-BCS conference to win a BCS bowl game.

Former Utah running back Quinton Ganther and defensive back Eric Weddle were two players from the 2004 Utah team that joined KSL Sports in “The Great Ute Debate: ’04 vs. ’08” and was asked about having to play Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

“We were hoping for Auburn,” Weddle stated. “Because USC played Oklahoma so their were three other undefeated teams and it didn’t work out that it happened that way. We were a little bit slighted just to get there and finish it off.”

You can watch the entire debate with Weddle and Ganther along with 2008 teammates Brian Johnson and Stevenson Sylvester below.

The Great Ute Debate

Utah Football 2004 v. 2008 Eric Weddle, Stevenson Sylvester, Quinton Ganther and Brian Johnson are here to debate the greatest Utah Football team of all time.

Posted by KSL Sports on Thursday, April 30, 2020

Ganther wanted to play Auburn because he felt like they were ready for that challenge.

“We wanted to play Auburn,” said Ganther. “That was who we wanted because we wanted to make a statement to the country. We were up for that challenge. That was one thing about that team was that we wanted the best and we felt like Auburn was one of the best teams in the country. We didn’t feel like Pitt was one of the best. So we just made it our thing that we have Pitt and we can’t control it. We will go out and show that these guys shouldn’t be on the same field as us. We made it personal to make a statement that they shouldn’t have sent Pitt to play us. They are not ready.”

2004 Utah Team

It’s amazing how dominant Utah was in Urban Meyer’s last season as the head coach of the Utes. The most points they scored in a game was 63 twice against UNLV and Colorado State. The least amount of points they scored in a game was 23 against Arizona.

The offense was led by All-American Alex Smith who was a Heisman Trophy Finalist. The running backs included Ganther and Marty Johnson. Weapons on the outside included Paris Warren, Steve Savoy, John Madsen among many others.

On defense, the Utes limited teams to six points twice against Arizona and Utah State. The most yards they allowed in one game was against Air Force with 471 and the least was 157 against New Mexico.

Utah’s defensive line featured starters Marquess Ledbetter, Jonathan Fanene, Sione Po’uha and Steve Fifita. Spencer Toone and Tommy Hackenbruck anchored the defense at linebacker among others. The secondary was very talented with Ryan Smith and Bo Naghi as the cornerbacks with Morgan Scalley and Eric Weddle at the safety positons.

2004 Auburn Tigers

Like Utah, the Auburn Tigers finished the 2004 season undefeated with a 13-0 record. They started the season ranked No. 17 in the country and ended the year at No. 2. Utah finished at No. 4.

Their quarterback was Jason Campbell who threw for 2,700 yards, 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. They featured two NFL running backs with Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.

Williams rushed for 1,165 yards and 12 touchdowns while Brown racked up 913 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Auburn was a run heavy team while the Utes could do multiple things on offense. The Tigers beat five ranked teams while the Utes didn’t beat a ranked opponent during the season until the Fiesta Bowl. That would be the only argument as to why Auburn shouldn’t have faced the Utes.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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Utah’s 2004 Undefeated Team Wanted To Play Auburn In Fiesta Bowl