Sugar Bowl: Party Crashed; Utah Goes Undefeated Again

Vincent JacksonCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2009

I read a comment on a message board somewhere that should Utah defeat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl that fans should print out mythical national championship t-shirts. Tell them to start working overtime on that project.

The No. 6 Utah Utes (13-0) completed their second undefeated season since the Urban Meyer/Alex Smith era. The only undefeated team in the country this season, Utah pulled off another upset in winning the Allstate Sugar Bowl over the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide in New Orleans 31-17. MVP Brian Johnson threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns. 

Like the 2005 Fiesta Bowl against Pittsburgh, Utah was not given much respect or much of a chance against the toughness and brute strength of Alabama (their offensive line outweighed Utah's defensive line) but after taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter a clear message was sent. 

The Utes become the first non-BCS school to win two BCS bowls. Also like 2005, the question will be brought up as to why Utah can finish the season undefeated but not play for the BCS Championship.

Utah's defense set the tone all night long, harassing John Parker Wilson (177 yards, TD) on almost every play. Wilson was sacked eight times, picked off twice and fumbled once; his turnover after a sack with under five minutes to go sealed the game for Utah.

Brian Johnson executed a picture-perfect opening drive, going 5-for-5 for 68 yards and hit five different receivers on the game's first scoring march. Utah employed an ingenious no-huddle spread offense attack, containing as many as five wide receivers, that confused Alabama's vaunted defense and caused them to be out of position on many plays. Johnson finished 27-of-41 passing, hitting seven different receivers. His go-to receiver, Freddie Brown, caught 12 passes for 125 yards.

As for Wilson, he was under constant pressure.  Some of the blame could be put on the loss of All-American tackle Andre Smith who was suspended by the university. But not even Smith could protect Wilson from Utah's constant array of stunts and fire zone blitz pressure schemes that forced the senior quarterback into quicker throws and took him out of his usual rhythm. 

Utah also shut down Alabama's running game that averaged 196.5 yards per game during the regular season; Glen Coffee was held to 36 yards on 13 carries, Mark Ingram to 26 yards on eight carries.

Alabama had not trailed in any first quarter all season, outscoring opponents 133-27 in that period.  Utah had 21. The Tide did not allow a 300-yard passer in any game all season, but Johnson threw for 336. Alabama also allowed only 13 points per game, sixth-best in the country; the Utes scored 31. 

After surging to No. 1 in the rankings with a 12-0 regular season, Alabama closed the season with two consecutive losses, the first against Florida in the SEC championship game.

Though Javier Arenas returned a punt 73-yards for a score, the Tide were outplayed in every facet of the game and head coach Nick Saban's body language echoed that sentiment as he could be seen pacing, mumbling, cursing and grimacing.

Utah quickly dismissed any lingering effects from last year's 41-10 Sugar Bowl pounding taken by potential BCS buster Hawaii at the hands of SEC power Georgia, proving their worth and record on the field.