Friday, January 2, 2009

Sugar Is Sweet: Utah Utes Conclude Perfect 13-0 College Football Campaign With 31-17 Win Over Alabama Crimson Tide

Unlike the Fiesta Bowl in 2005, which was a letdown when a then-unbeated Utah faced 8-3 Pittsburgh, and unsurprisingly wore them down 35-7, the Utes had a more suitable opponent in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The University of Alabama was 12-0 at one point, was number one in the nation for five weeks, but Utah parlayed an early 21-0 lead into a 31-17 victory. National story from Sports Illustrated.

Utah Media Stories:

-- No. 6 Utah beats No. 4 Alabama 31-17 in Sugar Bowl, KSL Channel 5
-- GAME BLOG: Utah 31 Alabama 17, KSL Channel 5
-- Utes cap undefeated season with convincing Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, Deseret News
-- Utah Utes-Sugar Bowl live game blog, Deseret News
-- Sugar Bowl: Utes stun 'Bama with dominating win, Salt Lake Tribune
-- Repeat: Utah knocks off another big-name opponent, Deseret News
-- Utah Utes football: Who's No. 1? Utes feel like they've made their case, Deseret News
-- From the wires: U. makes believers out of Tide, SEC, BCS, Deseret News
-- From the wires: Sugar Bowl was indeed a mismatch, Deseret News
-- Utah Utes football: Saban knew Utes were good, but team didn't believe, Deseret News
-- Utah Utes football: Fans galvanized by 31-17 victory, Deseret News

Alabama Media Stories:

-- Sugar Bowl final: Utah 31 Alabama 17, The Birmingham News
-- Alabama’s season ends in Sugar Bowl thud, Opelika Auburn News
-- Size doesn’t matter, execution does, Capstone Report, AL
-- Sugar Bowl: Saban Post-Game Quotes, CBS42, AL
-- No. 7 Utah rolls over No. 4 Alabama 31-17, WWL New Orleans.

ESPN Game Summary HERE.

I had the pleasure of watching this game, and was astounded at how the Utes were firing on eight cylinders right out of the box. It took only five plays for the Utes to score first, then they scored in their next two possessions. Just like that, 21-0.

However, I knew better than to relax. Alabama didn't go 12-1 because of their looks. They played in the tough Southeast Conference. And sure enough, they fought back. First, a field goal to make it 21-3. Then, a punt return to narrow the gap to 21-10. And early in the second half, a touchdown run to bring the Crimson Tide within 21-17. The momentum had apparently shifted.

But Utah stiffened, and fired back just a little over a minute later with a TD of their own to make it 28-17. And there it remained until late in the fourth quarter. Knowing Alabama's capabilities, I was not comfortable with a mere 11-point lead. Then with 5:49 left, it happened: Alabama fumbled, Utah recovered. I could relax, even more so when Utah banged home a field goal shortly thereafter to make it 31-17. But the final nail wasn't driven home until 2:49 when Utah intercepted an Alabama pass. At that point, I knew it was over. Utah prevailed in three key areas; passing yards, time of possession, and fewer turnovers.

Comments posted by Alabama fans to the Birmingham News show that they're disappointed, but accept that Utah played a better game. Some take issue with Auburn fans who apparently were unwilling to set their intra-state rivalry aside and support the Crimson Tide. Some question whether or not the outcome would have been different had suspended Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith been available. Alabama fans need not be ashamed of their team; they gave the Utes a better contest than Pittsburgh did in 2005.

Although Utah is now the only unbeaten college football team in the country, there is some question whether or not they have a chance to be number one, since the Mountain West Conference is not a BCS conference. Most likely the number one team will be the winner of Florida vs. Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on January 9th.


steel68 said...

The Utes could have played with ANYONE last night.Brian Johnson's NFL stock went up enormously after the game.

By rule, the winner of the BCS Championship game is crowned as Div. I champion. The only way for the Utes to "share the title" is through the AP poll-and that won't happen

Deseret Dawg said...

Unfortunately, this is true. The coaches will be required to vote for the winner of the Orange Bowl, either Oklahoma or Florida.