AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Linebacker Adrian Koch returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown and Larry Croom scored on a 13-yard run as Arizona beat Utah 17-3 in the opener for both teams Saturday night.
The Arizona defense, hoping to help the Wildcats recover from a disappointing 6-6 season in 1999, seized control in the first five minutes of the second half, capitalizing on several mistakes by the Utes.
On the third play of the third quarter, Utah quarterback T.D. Croshaw was smothered by three defenders. The ball popped loose and Koch scooped it up and ran untouched into the end zone to give Arizona a 7-3 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Wildcats defensive end Idris Haroon reached Croshaw again, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Keoni Fraser at Utah's 29.
Linebacker Kautai Olevao sacked Arizona's Ortege Jenkins for a 12-yard loss, but a roughing penalty against the Utes on the next play moved the ball to the 13.
Croom took a handoff and curled around the end for a 14-3 Arizona lead with 9:52 left in the third quarter, finally giving Dick Tomey an edge over his former assistant, Utah coach Ron McBride.
Sean Keel added a 44-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
It was a sloppy night for the Utes, the preseason favorites to win the Mountain West.
The Utes penetrated Arizona's 35 six times but produced only the second-quarter field goal. The Utes lost three fumbles and backup quarterback Darnell Arceneaux threw two late interceptions.
Utah led 3-0 after Golden Whetman made a 46-yard field goal with five seconds remaining before halftime. But he missed on attempts of 34 and 32 yards in the first half and shanked a 28-yard try in the third.
But Utah's hopes evaporated early in the fourth quarter with the failure of a gimmick play after Arceneaux had directed a 78-yard drive to the Arizona 2.
After three unsuccessful running plays, the Utes spread the field with a line shift to the left. But Arceneaux's pass to wide-open D'Shaun Crockett on the right side was broken up by Arizona's Joe Tafoya.
Jenkins, taking over as Arizona's regular starter after splitting time for three seasons with graduated quarterback Keith Smith, was 3-of-15 for 11 yards and was sacked twice.