Their last speed bump out of the way, the No. 7 Utah Utes are heading toward a high-stakes finish to the regular season.
Brian Johnson kept Utah on a BCS-busting course by throwing a career-high five touchdown passes in a 63-14 win over San Diego State on Saturday night.
Utah (11-0, 7-0) clinched at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title. The Utes will try to finish the regular season undefeated when they host No. 17 BYU in their big rivalry game on Saturday.
"It's big, you know, because so much is on the line," Johnson said. "We've got an opportunity to do something really special and we hope we can take advantage of it."
Utah was the original BCS buster in 2004, becoming the first team from an outsider conference to crash the Bowl Championship Series. Those Utes finished 12-0 after routing Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.
"We've got to be ready to play," Johnson said. "It's a huge game. We've done a good job of being ready and being prepared to play, week-in, week-out."
SDSU (1-10, 0-7) lost 10 games in a season for the first time.
The Utes had 520 yards in total offense and never had to punt.
"This is a tough night," SDSU coach Chuck Long said. "Utah is good but we also made them look good. We did everything possible that you can think of to give them part of the game."
Utah was already up 49-14 when Deshawn Richard had two interception returns for touchdowns in a span of four plays late in the fourth quarter. His first went for 89 yards and his second was for 38 yards. Both passes from redshirt freshman Ryan Lindley were tipped.
"I was just like, 'Not again,'" Richard said. "I was pretty tired still from the first one. When the second one came I was like, 'Here we go again.' "
Richard was the third Utah player with two touchdowns.
Johnson threw all five touchdown passes in the first half, giving the Utes a 35-7 lead. He was one off the school record. Utah scored on its first three drives and five of its first six against the outmanned Aztecs. Johnson had 228 of his 283 passing yards in the first half. Overall he was 27-of-38.
Johnson threw touchdown passes of 4 and 5 yards to Freddie Brown, 32 and 3 yards to David Reed and 2 yards to Colt Sampson.
"We felt like we could throw the ball fairly well," Johnson said. "They've given up a ton of yards rushing the football and teams just kind of threw on them when they had to. We wanted to come out and kind of establish our program early. We did that. We kind of got some spread going, ran some option routes and we were able to get into a rhythm with some touchdowns."
Johnson, a senior, has 50 career TD passes, moving him past Alex Smith and Mike McCoy into second place on the school's career list behind Scott Mitchell with 69. He joined Mitchell and McCoy as the only Utah quarterbacks to throw for 7,000 career yards.
"They have a great ability to get the matchups that they like," SDSU linebacker Russell Allen said. "They get their receivers on linebackers. That gives them an advantage."
Brown had 11 catches for a career-high 110 yards.
As if they needed it, the Utes got a gift on the game's first play from scrimmage when SDSU's Tyler Campbell fumbled at the end of an 18-yard run, with Koa Misi recovering at the Utah 47. Johnson hit Sampson with a scoring pass seven plays later.
Utah's Matt Asiata took a direct snap and scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Ray Stowers added a 1-yard TD run on Utah's next drive.
There were a few bright spots for the Aztecs, who have beaten only Idaho this season and are 8-27 in three seasons under Long.
Jose Perez intercepted Johnson at midfield early in the second quarter to set up SDSU's first score, a 31-yard pass from Lindley to Darren Mougey.
On the first drive of the second half, Johnson was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the SDSU 5-yard line.
The Aztecs then moved 95 yards in 17 plays, with Lindley throwing a 16-yard TD pass to Justin Shaw.
Utah's Louie Sakoda tied the school record with nine PATs.