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Monson: Utah's crazy win a good win

Published November 20, 2011 12:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Pullman, Wash.

The Kodak moment arrived for Utah football here on a dark, cold Saturday night … after a first half of horrendous offensive football, after a blizzard hit at halftime, after the Utes took two 10-point leads in the second half and let each of them slip away.

And then the clearest picture came at the last second — when the Utes piled on Coleman Petersen atop a snowy field after the walk-on kicker drilled the game-winning field goal in overtime to seal not only a 30-27 victory over Washington State but also Utah's fourth straight win.

"My teammates trust me," Petersen said with a grin. "They expect me to make it in those situations … and so do I."

What situations?

This wasn't a situation, it was insanity.

It was Utah overcoming first itself and its own mistakes, then the elements, and finally the team in the other jerseys. All of them formidable.

But as they celebrated their good fight and fortune, the Utes seemed to agree that somehow the craziness — and the sheer battle within it — mirrored their entire season, and it defined them.

"We lose our first four [conference] games," Kyle Whittingham said afterward, shaking his head. "We could have said, 'That's that.' But the process went on, and this team made a lot of progress. These guys are tough and resilient. In the first half here, we struggled, but we didn't give up. We kept fighting."

In the aftermath, QB coach Brian Johnson passed along a story that fellow assistant Tim Davis recently told the Utes about a miner who relentlessly dug for gold, but gave up before striking the mother lode. "You know what happened?" Johnson said. "The next guy got the gold. So … we just keep digging. We tell the players that all the time. Never quit, just keep playing."

That first half was anything but golden.

It was an absolute dog, which made what happened in the second half, and in OT, that much more impressive. Like changing the path of a river of ineptitude.

The Utes flat-out stunk.

Imagine a half in which no offense was played.

Except for one looping, long pass by the punter.

Does that even count?

Imagine a half in which that punter passed for 49 yards and the quarterback just 17.

Imagine 11 blind men playing football.

It's not so easy, if you try.

Imagine 18 total yards for the Utes and zero passing yards in the first quarter, and 107 total yards in the first half.

Imagine quarterback Jon Hays getting rocked at his own goal line and somehow managing to evade a safety by the length of a frozen sock.

Imagine the Utes facing a third-and-34 deep in their own territory, after an offensive pass-interference call, a Hays fumble, and a substitution penalty.

Imagine the other guys throwing three interceptions in the game's first 20 minutes, and the Utes totally unable to capitalize on any of them, including a pick by cornerback Mo Lee that set Utah's offense up near midfield. And, still, nothing … but a punt.

Imagine the Utes' only touchdown coming after getting the benefit of a bad defensive pass-interference call, leading to a fake punt in which Sean Sellwood blooped a ball to Luke Matthews way over yonder somewhere, while Washington State's stunned special team had no clue what was going on.

Imagine the Utes crossing midfield just twice.

Imagine a wretched winter storm blowing in from the West, blanketing the field with a couple of inches of snow, and those conditions actually helping the offense come alive.

Imagine Utah coming back and winning a game like that.

It all happened.

In the second half, beauty chased ugly away, effort ran off inefficiency, all as the weather worsened and temperatures dropped.

Maybe the Utes should schedule the University of Antarctica.

At game's start, the temperature hovered around 27 degrees — it burrrrrrrowed lower from there. It was like watching outdoor hockey in a Siberian blizzard.

Utah, though, teed it up as though it were in the Bahamas.

John White, after gaining 49 yards in the first half, went for 137 in the second. Hays threw darts all around, more than a few to DeVonte Christopher. After managing that one touchdown in the first half, the Utes came up with clutch drives and scored 23 points thereafter.

Washington State isn't great. But the Utes' comeback victory here — and everything that went into it — was.

"It was a crazy win," Hays said. "A good win. We have a lot of tough guys on this team. We battled in some tough conditions. And we're feeling good right about now."

They should.

Gordon Monson hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone.