2008 Mountain West Football Year in Review: Utah Utes

JeremySenior Writer IJanuary 29, 2009

Back in August, very few—if any—people thought that Utah would end up crashing the BCS and finishing No. 2 in the AP poll.

The Utes were one of the top teams in the country by receiving votes in the polls and started the season well by going on the road to beat Michigan at the Big House. Yes, Michigan was bad, but people didn't know they would be that bad.

However, after week one, the Utes were in the polls for good.

Here at the MWC Connection I thought of putting Utah first but people know I graduated from Utah so they would think I was being a homer. My gut thought was that Utah could win but I did not pull the trigger. We ended up putting them second and below is how we thought the season would turn out:

  • Lock it up… @Utah State, Weber State, Colorado State
  • 50/50… @Michigan, UNLV, @Air Force, Oregon State, @Wyoming, @New Mexico, TCU, @ San Diego State, BYU
  • No chance… NONE
  • Projected Record: 10-2

During the season local media members were wondering if this Utah offense would ever show up, because they had a ton of talent on offense and the supposed weak spot—their defense—was doing quite well.

The matchup of Oregon State and Utah showed what the Utes could do. Early in the game, Utah looked dominate with a nice lead, and then quarterback Brian Johnson did what he has done all year, and threw a bad interception which resulted in a score.

Late in the game, with Utah trailing by eight with 2:18 left, the light switched on and the Ute offense drove at will in less than 90 seconds and scored the tying score. Then most people thought overtime was on its way, but Oregon State gave up the ball with about 30 seconds and Utah scored the game winning field goal when time ran out.

Even in the Wyoming beat down which was 40-7, that was all defense, partly because of how the team finished the week prior against an Oregon State team who beat then No. 1 USC in the Beavers last game.

A lot of people in the area felt that with the lackluster 13-10 win over New Mexico, Utah would lose to TCU the following week. The Utah/TCU matchup was the blackout game that featured two top 15 teams. The game was in TCU’s hands in the first quarter when they scored all their points, and then it was the Horned Frogs defense that held the lead.

Utah was fortunate that TCU missed two field goals, but when a third chance was nearing the Utes came up big with two sacks that forced TCU to punt. Then an all too familiar thing took place when Utah had the ball with 2:48 left and used their 2-minute offense to perfection and picked apart a defense that was dominant in the game.

That is when Ute fans started to believe that their team could go undefeated. The final test was the BYU game that was close for about two and a half quarters, but BYU quarterback Max Hall helped out the Utes by having six turnovers. The Utah defense confused the Cougars all day and forced them into the mistakes.

Everyone knows the rest of the story—Utah was given zero chance by the media to beat Alabama, and even after the win.  Some people still believe that if Alabama’s offensive tackle Andre Smith had played then ‘Bama would have won.

The Ute speed defense sacked quarterback John Parker Wilson eight times and forced a few picks. The Utah defense swarmed the ball and the quarterback while stopping Glen Coffee in the running game to dominate a team that was half a quarter away from going to the BCS national title game.

The Ute offense finally showed their muscles by scoring with ease on their first three possessions to go up 21-0, and then winning 31-17. The Utes ended up finishing second in the AP poll and after a grass roots campaign received 16 first place votes.

The season helped defensive back Sean Smith and defensive end Paul Kruger's stock in the NFL—both are projected to be a top 40 pick.

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