"That's very embarrassing," UNC coach John Bunting said.
The Tar Heels (3-4, 2-2 ACC) lost both Jacque Lewis and Ronnie McGill to injury on their first offensive series of the game, leaving a much-depleted running corps that managed only 48 yards rushing yardage for the game against a stingy Utes defense. The Tar Heels would manage only 221 yards of total offense for the night, a figure that was tripled by the Utah offense's 669 yards.
By halftime, six Tar Heels were sidelined by injuries and the Utes (6-0, 2-0 MWC) had amassed 30 points and nearly 400 yards of total offense. A missed extra point on their final touchdown drive of the first half was the only blemish to a stellar offensive performance.
Despite the injuries, the Tar Heels scored first on an 11-play, 59-yard drive punctuated by a one-yard plunge by Madison Hedgecock. It was the first time UNC has scored first against an opponent this year, and it was Hedgecock's first career touchdown. The defense held the Utes three-and-out on their first possession, but a Hedgecock fumble on the ensuing UNC series gave the ball back to Utah on the Tar Heels' 29-yard line. Four plays later the scored was tied, 7-7.
"There is not much to say, other than that the first few minutes went well," Bunting said. "I'm real disappointed."
The Utes went in front as the first quarter drew to a close, 10-7, on a 22-yard Bryan Borreson field goal which capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive.
Alex Smith, the Utah quarterback, began to hit his stride in the second quarter, at one point connecting on eight consecutive passes. Utah struck quickly on their first possession of the second quarter, covering 88 yards in 6 plays and taking only 1:09 off the clock.
The Tar Heels closed to within seven points, 17-10 on a Connor Barth field goal with 9:45 left to go in the first half, but the deluge was about to begin. Utah scored 13 unanswered points to lead 30-10 at the half. Smith would finish the first half with 16 completions on 23 attempts for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
On their first offensive series of the second half, the Utes marched 80 yards in 11 plays as Alex Smith ran five-yards for the touchdown. After the extra point, the Utes led 37-10.
The UNC injuries continued to mount as Darian Durant left the game with a sprained right elbow in the third quarter. Utah fumbled the ball on their own 20-yard line, but the Tar Heels were unable to convert the turnover into points as a fourth-and-two pass attempt from Matt Baker fell incomplete in the end zone.
The Tar Heels would force yet another turnover on the next Utah possession, as Larry Edwards intercepted a pass attempt by Alex Smith. Hedgecock scored his second touchdown of the game, and the second of his career, with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Matt Baker's attempt for the two-point conversion was stopped just short, and Utah's lead stood at 37-16.
As the fourth quarter began, Utah drove 80 yards in 4:27 and scored on a 15-yard Smith touchdown pass to John Madsen. The extra point pushed the score to 44-16 with 12:30 left in the fourth quarter.
The Tar Heels moved the ball to the Utah 29-yard line on their next possession after a 41-yard return by Mike Mason gave them excellent field position, but the drive ended when Utah intercepted Matt Baker's attempted pass to the end zone.
Utah notched the final score of 46-16 when they blocked a David Wooldridge punt attempt from the 20-yard line and scored on a safety.
The Tar Heels will have a much-needed bye week before they face Miami October 30.
"It's a four-game season from here on out, and those are games I think we can win," Bunting said. "It's up to us as a staff, our players and everyone involved with our football program, to decide what we want to do with it."