August 19, 2007

#15: 2005 Emerald Bowl - Utah vs. Georgia Tech

HOW IS IT GREAT? What do you do when you've had a fairly successful year and finish the regular season with a national ranking, but have to settle for a second-tier bowl game across the country against a team from a second-tier conference? Well, you go out and kick some ass, obviously. You let every expert and every pundit know that they had you figured wrong, and that you consider your bowl assignment to be a sign of disrespect!

No matter what Georgia Tech fans tell you, the truth of the matter is that Utah was the better team that day. Don't believe their lies about GT not caring or trying their hardest, or that the field was too slick, or whatever. Those are the desperate words of losers. For weeks leading up to the game, we had to endure the endless taunts about how GT's second-strings were more talented than our first-strings, how the ACC was too good to be associated with the Emerald Bowl, and how Calvin Johnson was going to have 200+ yards receiving.

The Utes (6-5, 4-4) owned the Yellow Jackets (7-4, 5-3) that day. And if Georgia Tech did indeed give up and stop caring about winning the Emerald Bowl, it wasn't until the Utah victory was well in hand. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Georgia Tech entered the game ranked #24 and favored to beat the Utes by nine points. Nevertheless, backup QB Brett Ratliff and WR Travis LaTendresse shredded GT's 10th ranked ├╝berdefense for four touchdown completions. But what may not show up in the boxscore was Eric Weddle's legendary performance in holding future #1 draft pick Calvin Johnson to a mere two receptions for 19 yards.

2007 RANKING: #11. I admit this may be a case of a game receiving a better ranking in the countdown because it was relatively recent. But before the game, I was bracing for a beat-down. I thought Georgia Tech was going to kill us. I remember hearing about GT's performance in their two previous bowl games: winning both by a combined score of 103-24. Ouch.

So for Utah to go out and dominate on both sides of the ball makes this game exceptionally memorable to me. It extended Utah's bowl-winning streak and in a way extended the wave of glory that Utah had been riding since 2003.

So yeah, that's my reason for putting this game at #11. I realize that it beat out some pretty legendary games, but for as long as I remember this upset, it will be difficult for me to ever doubt our Utes again.

FURTHER READING:
• Block U named this the #9 Game of the Decade.

• "Man, it was a nightmare. The field was in terrible condition. We brought the wrong cleats. I couldn’t run a route without slipping."
-- Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson

WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:

GEM DANDY
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Utes' 5th Consecutive Bowl Victory Is Another Lopsided Season-Ender
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By Dirk Facer
Deseret Morning News
December 30, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO — Utah's fifth consecutive bowl victory was a lot like the fourth — lopsided.

Wide receiver Travis LaTendresse and defensive back Eric Weddle earned MVP honors as the Utes surprised 24th-ranked Georgia Tech 38-10 in the Emerald Bowl at SBC Park. The margin of victory was equal to last season's 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

"We had so many guys make plays today it was unbelievable," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose team finished 7-5 in his first season at the helm.

Contributions were plentiful as the Utes quickly and decisively overpowered the favored Yellow Jackets (7-5).

"I guess all of our doubters can shut their mouths now," senior captain Steve Fifita said. "Everybody just let it go."

Utah excelled on both sides of the ball.

On offense, LaTendresse set bowl records with 16 catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Brett Ratliff completed 30 of 41 passes for 381 yards in his encore to last month's heroics in Utah's 41-34 overtime win over BYU.

"When the whole offense plays great, it makes me look good," said Ratliff, who executed Utah's game plan to exploit holes in Georgia Tech's cover-three defense.

"Brett Ratliff just did a great job of throwing the ball in the hole," LaTendresse said. "We were just on the same page all night."
The Utes wound up with 550 yards of total offense and 31 first downs, all but 10 via the air.

"I really don't think the ACC has seen a passing attack like we have," LaTendresse said. "We knew if we spread it out it would cause a lot of issues for them."

It did.

Former Georgia Tech redshirt Brian Hernandez caught eight passes for Utah to support LaTendresse's performance.

The Utes also moved the ball on the ground,

Tailback Quinton Ganther rushed for 127 yards and a score against a nationally ranked defense that had allowed an average of just 98 yards on the ground during the season.

"They executed very well I thought. They did a great job of execution," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "We didn't do a good job of getting people in the right spots to defend like we needed to do."

Utah never trailed — scoring the game's first 20 points. It took just one quarter and 30 seconds for Ratliff and LaTendresse to team up on three touchdown passes.

The first capped a game-opening drive featuring positive yardage on all five plays the Utes ran. In a 4 1/2-minute span over the first and second quarters, the duo connected on scoring strikes of 23 and 25 yards.

Georgia Tech didn't reach the end zone until quarterback Reggie Ball threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to George Cooper with 9:25 remaining in the half. The Yellow Jackets added a 29-yard field goal by Travis Bell just before the break to make it 20-10.

The Utes, according to Weddle, weren't worried. Both of Georgia Tech's scores were made possible by what he considered "fluke plays" against Utah's defense.

"We knew if we kept playing the way we were," Weddle explained, "we'd shut them out."

Georgia Tech never scored again. Utah's offense, meanwhile, was far from finished. They added three scores down the stretch—a 23-yard field goal by Dan Beardall, a 16-yard touchdown pass from Ratliff to LaTendresse and a 41-yard run to the goal line by Ganther — to win handily.

Georgia Tech, LaTendresse noted, didn't offer much resistance. He said the Yellow Jackets came out talking and jumping up and down early on. Such behavior eventually diminished, however, and a scenario similar to the New Year's Day win over Pitt prevailed. The opposition pretty much surrendered. Weddle said it was obvious.

Utah, on the other hand, continued to give a determined effort.

"I think it speaks to the preparation of our players and the mindset," Whittingham said. "It's awesome, everything that is attached to this victory."

The defense did its part by shutting Georgia Tech out for three quarters. The Utes have given up only 39 points in their five-game bowl winning streak.

Starting safety Steve Tate finished with a game-high 10 tackles and returned an interception 45 yards to set up a score. Shaun Harper also picked off a pass for Utah. Martail Burnett and Fifita each had sacks as the Utes made five stops behind the line of scrimmage.

"We had great defense, and they weren't ready for our offense," Ratliff summarized. "We came to play."

There was plenty of motivation to do so after a challenging season. A three-game skid in the middle of the season doomed Utah's hopes of a third consecutive Mountain West Conference title.

"At the beginning of the season we were supposed to be conference champs and at the end of the season we were not supposed to be anything," Fifita said. "So it's great to show that we should have been conference champs. A lot of things didn't go our way. We're better than our record shows."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Utes at CSU definately a better game than this. I remember not being able to catch this one live and wondering at my reaction. I wasn't that surprised at the beat-down, but then I was surprised at myself for being surprised, then disappointed. Then I was just faintly confused. Still, it's been interesting to see everyone on ESPN wet themselves over Calvin Johnson for the last year and a half. Was that an all-time great performance by Weddle or just an ACC athelete being overrated? Time will tell...