Maybe Next Year: Utah bulldozed by dominating TCU

A shell of my former selfCorrespondent INovember 17, 2009

The first thing Kyle Whittingham said when he addressed the media in his weekly Monday morning press conference about summed it up to perfection.

"We got beat by an outstanding TCU team this weekend," the Utah coach said. "We knew we were going to have to play near-flawless football to compete, and we were far from that."

Thanks, coach. 

You took the words right out of my mouth. 

The Utes marched into Fort Worth, Texas, seemingly prepared to give the class of the Mountain West Conference a run for its money. 

All it took was for Utah to completely fall apart at the seams early and quite often, and that was that.

So much for the second straight MWC championship. 

The trophy will no longer reside in the Dee Glen Smith Center. Rather, it's on a one-way flight to the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area for the next 12 months or so.

As Whittingham noted, his Utes got beat outstandingly by a downright amazing Horned Frogs team Saturday night. 

Beat, squashed, trampled, obliterated, what have you—that's what it was.

A kaboom of well-balanced football freshly mixed with constant execution, evident preparedness, and athleticism to fluster a Utah defense with nine returning starters. 

Although the score read 55-28, what stands out is the double nickel, more than the 27-point shellacking. 

This was a game for all of eight minutes or so. Then, to the plight of this 2009 Utes team, the disciplined football that Whittingham and the entire program prides itself on evaporated into thin air. 

"We dug ourselves an insurmountable hole," Whittingham said. 

Insurmountable—yet another perfect choice of words, coach. 

A fumbled kickoff was all it really took for the floodgates to open unto Utah. 

The defense was supposed to be able to keep these Utes in the game—turns out the versatility and hunger of TCU were the cause of so many mental brain farts that an 8-1 Whittingham team finished the game with 14 penalties worth 110 yards. 

That's 45 more yards than Utah was able to churn out running the football. 

Whether the Frogs and coach Gary Patterson readily admitted it after or not, this was sweet redemption for what Patterson called the toughest loss of his coaching career a year before in Salt Lake. 

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Jerry Hughes, Andy Dalton, Jeremy Kerley, Ryan Christian, and Daryl Washington didn't forget. Patterson surely told them to keep a lid on that boiling frustration for the past year and that their time would come.

It did—and they made no mistake and left no doubt. Just a whole boatload of evidence at the crime scene.

The scene littered with the astonishing feat that just took place sent a message to the powers that be. 

A) These aren't your 2008 Horned Frogs.

B) These aren't your 2008 Utes.

To be fair, Whittingham pulling all the right strings this season is a testament to how truly great he is as a leader of a football program. 

Two first-time coordinators (one having lost its play-calling) and a true freshman 19-year-old quarterback that had all of six quarters of collegiate experience under his belt. 

8-2 is more than respectable—it's impressive.

Impressiveness aside, the tale of the tape was that this isn't Utah's year. They have overachieved and have had a few less than promising showings, yet still were able to come away with the win.

They fought back against an Oregon team that smoked USC (how much that matters is irrelevant) by 27 points and were one poorly underthrown ball from taking the game into overtime, and from there on, who knows?

It's a growing pain that Utes fans have come to despise greatly. Unfortunately, the program will not be looking or even be able to shatter the BCS on an annual basis. 

They've got to retool. Regroup. Put the puzzle together and press forward and hope that it'll be solved. 

2009 is the year of the Frog. 

TCU is no pretender, no jokester playing pranks on the national pundits.

This team is so real that the college football big guns would be tentative to play them. 

What if Patterson went all Whittingham 2008?

After last year's Sugar Bowl win, the Utah coach essentially sent a public challenge to Urban Meyer and his would-be national champion Gators.

What if Patterson challenged, say, Mack Brown to a true Texas two-step? Brown (an avid hater of those damned machines we call computers) would avoid the statement or question hypothetically made coming out of Fort Worth.

How real is this TCU team? Will we ever know? Fortunately for Utah, they were able to put Nick Saban in timeout for an entire game and enjoy the view of his sideline pouts. 

Is that a path maybe paved for this year's party crasher (excuse me while I flush Boise State down the toilet) to have a real shot?

2009 is not like its preceding year.

There will be a couple, maybe a few undefeated teams. 

Everyone said that last year's Utah team couldn't beat the Tide, and after they rolled tide down the hill, they said there's no way the Utes could beat the Gators.

Was Saturday's showcase a stepping stone in the right direction?

Sure, if you're a TCU fan.

The future this program holds is the brightest in the MWC. 

The defense has a handful of star seniors they will lose (Hughes and Washington included), but offensively is where it gets interesting.

The Horned Frogs were billed as a defensive team a year ago. If that was truly the case, this year, it's all about offense, too. 

342 rushing yards against a Utah defense is something to be remembered forever. 

To make things worse on the rest of the MWC teams, kids like Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, Kerley, Dalton, Antoine Hicks, Bart Johnson, and Jimmy Young are slated to be back in 2010.

Oh man.

Maybe that's what Whittingham was talking about when he addressed his team. Maybe these Frogs really are that good. 

Maybe the Utes really aren't in comparison. 

"Our lack of production was to TCU's credit," Whittingham said.

The Horned Frogs took more than a 27-point win to the Utes. Utah players were stunned, to be frank.

Senior captain Stevenson Sylvester told one reporter that it was "one of the worst performances as a university."

He went on to call TCU the No. 1 team in the country.

Bold, yes. But hey, at least someone can vouch for another "nobody" team.

Senior free safety Robert Johnson deleted his Facebook page a few hours after the loss. 

The usually jovial and humble Johnson had posted a status update that seemed equally frustrated as humbled. And then, poof. It was gone.

It's hard to address the rights-and-wrongs of the Utes because one outweighed one so heavily that the other seemed to fly skyward and not come back.

The season is in no way "lost" for this Utah team. They should be proud of what they've accomplished and still can achieve a 10-win season and will most likely get a more than formidable foe in a bowl game this year.

It's a good year for Utah football. It's just not a great one.

Great currently resides in Fort Worth. 


Photo by: Ty Cobb


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