Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - Brandon Warfield scored early in the second quarter and Morgan Scalley added a late defensive touchdown, as 25th-ranked Utah defeated Southern Mississippi, 17-0, in a defensive battle in the Liberty Bowl at Memorial Stadium.
Warfield rushed for 87 yards for the Utes (10-2), who won their final four games of the season and finished with 10 wins for the second time in school history. Alex Smith completed 8-of-19 passes for 124 yards with one interception in the win.
Utah, which finished the season by not allowing a point in its final 157 minutes and 35 seconds of play, forced five turnovers in the game.
Dustin Almond was only 11-of-33 for 126 yards and was sacked four times for the Golden Eagles (9-4), who had their six-game winning streak halted.
Trailing 7-0 midway through the fourth, Antony Harris put the Golden Eagles in position to score as he ripped off a 41-yard run down to Utah's 19-yard line. After the offense could only muster eight yards in three plays, Southern Mississippi elected to go for it on 4th-and-2, but Micky D'Angelo was sacked.
Utah then threw a 49-yard pass over the middle of the field to Paris Warren on the next play and Alex Smith scrambled for 27 more yards to put the ball inside the five-yard line. The march then stalled and Bryan Borreson kicked a 19-yard field goal with 3:24 remaining in the game to make it 10-0.
Scalley's 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 1:36 left capped the scoring.
Southern Mississippi had a chance for an early lead, but Darren McCaleb missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt. The Utes then mounted a long drive in the opening minutes of the second quarter and tried for a 29-yard field goal, but Utah bobbled the snap and Borreson was sacked for a big loss.
The scoreless game was finally broken with 4:39 left in the second quarter on Warfield's five-yard touchdown run. The drive began at Southern Mississippi's 17-yard line after Almond was sacked and fumbled the ball, giving the Utes excellent field position.
Both defenses were dominant and lived up to their top-billing in the first half. Utah mustered only 77 yards and the Golden Eagles managed just 65 yards of total offense in the opening 30 minutes.
The Utes had a golden opportunity to extend their lead in the third quarter as Almond was hit and again fumbled the ball. Utah recovered and began at the Golden Eagles' 18-yard line, but after two sacks and a rush for negative yards, Utah was forced to punt.
Southern Mississippi was down a touchdown with 3:07 remaining in the third quarter and began at the Utes' 43, but again the Utah defense stepped up as it forced a three-and-out.
Game Notes: The Utes, who improved to 2-0 all-time in the Liberty Bowl, are 6-4 all-time in bowl games. Utah defeated West Virginia 32-6 in the 1964 Liberty Bowl...Utah shut out BYU 3-0 in the regular-season finale on November 22 and did not allow a point in the second half of its 47-17 win over Wyoming on November 15...Southern Mississippi fell to 5-6 in its postseason games and lost for the first time in the Liberty Bowl (2-1)...Utah went 10-2 in 1994...This matchup was one of only three bowl games that matched up two conference champions (Orange, Rose). Utah won the Mountain West Conference, while Utah was the Conference USA champions...Rod Davis had 14 tackles and a forced fumble for the Golden Eagles...The Liberty Bowl has taken place every year since 1959.