A Tale of Two Teams:
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Chocolate and vanilla
Rich and poor
Obama and McCain
As I've stated just about every other week this year, Utah has some major issues playing consistently. This problem was magnified in Thursday night's game against Oregon State. At times, Utah looked like a team that might belong in the top 25. Other times, they probably would have been destroyed by the mighty Aggies. Their biggest problem lies in the play of their quarterback.
Last year Johnson was hurt for a lot of the season. This year, his body appears to be functioning at 100%. What doesn't appear to be completely working is his head - more specifically, his decision making process. If Utah's offensive line would let him, I think that he wouldn't mind having a little tea party in the pocket. He doesn't seem to mind doing anything but scramble or get rid of the ball anymore.
These bad tendencies only come up off and on throughout the game. There are other times where Johnson is the man of the hour, a quarterback so crisp and decisive that you can't imagine him playing any other way. He definitely is somebody to count on under pressure though.
I mentioned to a few people that I was more nervous for this game than for any other. I also predicted that if Rogers ran for more than 100 yards, Utah would lose. Rogers ran for 101 yards (A large chunk of them coming on 2 carries) and Utah needed a last second field goal to win the game. For the second game this year, Utah sold out on the run, stacked the box and made the Beavers beat them with their passing game (which was a highlight of the night for the Beavs).
Utah only had 30 yards of offense in the third quarter. When they got the ball back down 8 with just over two minutes remaining, most hope and all of the confidence had been sucked out of the stadium. Johnson and company proceeded to have arguably their best drive of the season, and one of their best defensive stops of the season (made more impressive by how exhausted they all looked). Utah tied the game up on a 2-point conversion, got the ball back and let King Louie kick the game winning field goal as time expired.
It has been a really long time since I've been to a game with so much emotion and passion from the fans. The stadium was probably about as loud as football games ever get - my ears were ringing for a couple of hours after the game. One of the ugliest games of the last few years as well as one of the most incredible comebacks in a long time.
As soon as the game ended, the students rushed the field. I've mentioned on this blog before that I am totally anti-students-rushing-the-field and I told my brother-in-law minutes after the game that "the Utah studentbody was embarrasing me." In cases of a conference championship or when you beat a team in the top 5, rushing the field may be justified, but I still think it's kind of hokey. I will give the Utah students the benefit of the doubt on this one though for a couple of reasons (I'm neither defending nor endorsing their actions. I was in the MUSS and stood firmly in my seat as other students rushed by):
1. While not the equivalent of making it into a BCS bowl, it's late enough in the season to know that if Utah goes undefeated, they will be in a BCS bowl game. Therefore, this win was almost like that.
2. It was pretty much only the students rushing the field, showing their school spirit. When the University of Utah class of 1998 joins in the rush, it better be a big deal.
3. The emotion in the stadium was incredible (and pretty much a had-to-be-there moment, in order to understand). Once Louie's kick went in, everybody just wanted to celebrate, hug, mosh and go crazy. Where's the best place to do that? The field of course.
4. Oregon State beat the number 1 team, USC, one week ago. Utah had 5 days to prepare and still beat Oregon State. Doesn't that mean the Utes should be ranked #1?
5. Almost everybody in the Muss was so stinking drunk that they didn't even know Utah had won. They all thought they were running from a fire.
(Point of clarification: I did join in with the Utes in rushing the field after beating BYU in 2004. This was the year Utah went to the Fiesta Bowl (an official of which was at the game Thursday night). I also went onto the field after Utah beat Georgia Tech in the 2005 Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. I had to know whether or not the field was spongy.)