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Monson: Utes certainly a team of destiny

Published November 6, 2008 11:11 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Let's say it the way it is: Something crazy's going on here.

The Utes are destiny's children. They've accomplished more than just being good, which they obviously are. In their you've-got-to-be-kidding-me 13-10 win over TCU on Thursday night, they also mastered the Fates.

And had the time of their lives doing it.

As the Utes joined together in the middle of the field, having put together a nine-play, 80-yard game-winning drive in the final minutes, they danced and hugged and celebrated an ending that would not happen, could not happen, but did, in fact, happen.

"This is nuts," said Brian Johnson, mobbed by fans who were every bit as jubilant as he was. "This is what college football is all about. It's a great, great time. We have to take advantage of it."

That's exactly what Utah had just done, getting its 10th win in 10 tries, despite being outplayed for nearly the entire game by the Horned Frogs. The Utes were outgained, 416 yards to 275. They got fewer first downs, fewer rushing yards, fewer passing yards, and they possessed the ball for fewer minutes. They also scored fewer points - until that one last drive that won the game and made fools of the football gods.

In the first quarter alone, Utah surrendered 202 yards to the Frogs, and allowed 10 points. Just when the Utes looked as though they were neck-deep in a drubbing, they steadied themselves and turned this game into what everyone initially thought it would be - a defensive brawl.

Back and forth it went, one offense running into a brick wall, the other into a stone one. Susceptible offense met sure defense, in both directions. And while some might consider such a struggle boring or inefficient or lame, this game had an authentic feel to it. Like it really was a big game, played the way big games should be played. The way a Big 12 or SEC championship might be played.

In the stirring dust, Utah got a couple of field goals, but seemed channeled into an outcome in which it would pay for its early discretions. It trailed 10-6 straight through until the drive that changed everything. The Utes were helped by karma, or whatever, when TCU kicker Ross Evans missed two short field goals, the last one with just under three minutes to play.

That's when Utah suddenly exploded into that long march, a drive during which Johnson transformed himself into Dan Fouts, who happened to be calling the game for a network broadcast. He deftly hit passes hither and thither, including a fourth-and-5 ditty to Freddie Brown to the 15-yard line that preserved the last chance. A few moments later, he hit Brown again for a 9-yard TD with 48 seconds left.

Yeah. It was a big ending to a big game. Maybe not the biggest Ute game ever, just one of the biggest.

And the blackest.

The crowd fittingly complied with the call for a blackout at Rice-Eccles, as the Utes and Horned Frogs went ahead and beat the daylights out of each other, honoring the theme - and everybody's expectations for a conference match that had implications far beyond a league title. These two teams raised their fierce levels of play, and brought alongside the rarest of competitive gifts: an outcome that mirrored the hype.

And the hype was huge, with the Mountain West's best facing off, and the Utes' using the occasion to unveil their - and their fans' - darker side.

It was the perfect metaphor for a game that was destined to be about defense.

Until the Utes, at the end, remarkably rearranged all that, when destiny adopted them, and made them its own.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Monson & Graham Show" weekdays 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">gmonson@sltrib.com.