It’s not the college football playoff and it’s not the Rose Bowl. It’s the bowl, brought to you by an energy company, that celebrates the brave sacrifices of Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, and some 200 Texans trying to hold off Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1836.
There will be no improper comparisons made between that battle and the game that’s named after it, considering Utah is facing Texas at the Alamodome on Tuesday. OK, there might be just one.
It is not their last stand, but … well, it kind of is, at least in terms of football. So many important seniors will be lost off Utah’s 2019 team, it is a final look on the last night of the year at a group of players who deserve commendation for what they contributed to their program, what they accomplished on the field.
Over the past four years, the Utes won 36 games and lost just 17. In the Pac-12, they totaled 22 victories against 16 losses. And they seemed to transform Utah football from an average P5 outfit to a formidable one.
Whether that transformation will continue next season or fall back is anybody’s guess at this point.
Either way, it is fitting that the Utes finish out a season that might have been more than it became, but that still was stellar, sitting now at 11-2, with one more win. It is the only acceptable way for them to close out a campaign marked by excellence.
A loss to the 7-5 Longhorns would stain what shouldn’t be negatively marked. If that were to happen, it would punctuate an otherwise heady showing with consecutive losses — and this team is better than that. It may not be the best team in the history of Utes football — only the most talented— but it is good enough to complete the season with smiles and a hoisted trophy.
Another defeat is not written in the stars for these guys.
Such an end would indicate self-betrayal.
And, again, this team, after a culmination of gained momentum from seasons gone by, is better than that.
No need to go flat on the final two notes of their melodic ballad.
An accomplished, proud defense, even without Jaylon Johnson at corner and Julian Blackmon at safety, like the one the Utes fielded this season, should walk off the field having done one final time what it made a habit of doing nearly throughout — shutting down opposing attacks. Not just shutting them down, but putting fear in their hearts and souls, knowing before and especially after, that there was little chance anyone would or could move the ball on the ground.
A defense anchored up front by Leki Fotu and Bradlee Anae and John Penisini and Mika Tafua doesn’t come around often, or, really, at all. What happened against Oregon must be expunged, exorcised, and the only appropriate way for that to happen is for Utah to be Utah, again. Stop the run and force the opponent to heave away.
Texas, granted, likes to throw, anyway. But, if everyone knows that’ll happen on every play, advantage, Utes.
It would be shameful for Utah’s all-time leading rusher, Zack Moss, not to do to Texas what he has done to so many previous opposing defenses — namely, shred them. That, in part, will be the privilege and priority of the Utes’ offensive line, which when it has done its job has watched their opponents chasing and falling behind Moss as he’s galloped down the field.
And Tyler Huntley, the senior quarterback who has made so much progress in his years at Utah, evolving from a QB who depended heavily on his own athletic ability to gain yardage, now has learned to distribute and deal the ball liberally. With the exception of the losses to the Trojans and Ducks this time around, he found a comfort zone as wide as Jimmy Kimmel’s.
Efficiency was not only his pattern, but his friend.
The only decent and fitting way for him to walk away from Utah football is by putting 22 of 26 completions for 300 yards and three touchdowns on the ‘Horns.
The football gods may not owe the Utes a victory, but they are beholden to handing them an opportunity for such, and that, as painful as the loss to Oregon was, has been granted to them here.
Bet on Utah, then, in San Antonio.
The Utes deserve it, even if deserve’s got nothing to do with it.
They’re good enough to take this last victory and relish it.
Do not bet on the Longhorns, not at the Alamo. It’s not a place where Texas wins.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.