August 11, 2007

September 8, 1990 - Utah at Minnesota

HOW IS IT GREAT? With the eyes of football nation fixed on Provo, UT, this game against Minnesota went relatively unnoticed. That was the day BYU upset Miami. Meanwhile, 1300 miles away, Utah pulled off this nifty little upset of their own.

Some games are great because they involve an upset, some are great because they involve an exciting finish, and some are great simply because they cap off exciting season or signal the beginning of an improved era. This game had it all: an upset win on the road against a Big Ten foe, an optimistic introduction to the Ron McBride era; but most of all -- an epic finish.

This was the first game of the season for Minnesota, and the second for Utah. One week earlier, the Utes beat Utah State 19-0, but lost their starting QB, Jason Woods, to an injury. However, his backup, Mike Richmond, was the more experienced player, having filled in for Scott Mitchell the final two games of the previous season. In those games, Richmond threw for 724 yards, eight TDs, and no interceptions. Richmond played the majority of the Minnesota game, and ended up being the main guy for the Utes in 1990. Unfortunately, he would merely match his TD production from the previous season (eight), and throw 16 picks.

Nevertheless, Richmond and the Utes played just well enough against Minnesota to pull off the upset.

2007 RANKING: #19. Even though Utah won only 4 games during Ron McBride's first season, this win still had a profound effect on the program, and is still remembered as a great start to the McBride era and sign of things to come. The fact that Minnesota went 6-5 in 1990 and finished 6th in the Big Ten may tend to diminish the quality of this victory, but then again this was still a game the Utes had no business winning. So to do so on the road in such exciting fashion make this the greatest Ute game so far on our countdown.

• See #99 on's 100 Greatest Finishes.

• From "Marcroft's Memories," Continuum (Fall 2003):
"Utah's playing Minnesota, at Minnesota, and we are tied at 29," Marcroft recalls. "Minnesota's got a 25-yard chip-shot field goal attempt to win it on the last play. Had it been on national television, the camera would have been on Minnesota's coach, but since we were televising the game back to Utah, the camera was on McBride to see his reaction if the kick was made and Utah loses the game. But Utah blocks the kick and Lavon Edwards (BS'92) returns it 91 yards down the sideline. McBride, with the came (sic) on him, is trying to go stride for stride with Edwards on the other sideline. It's one of the all-time great pieces of footage. It's been immortalized on tape just like the play involving the Stanford band." Utah won 35-29.
• Utah's WR Coach in 1990 was Brad Childress who now regularly coaches in the Metrodome as the Minnesota Viking's Head Coach.


By Doug Robinson
Deseret News
September 9, 1990

Just when it looked like the University of Utah had found a half-dozen crazy ways to lose a football game Saturday night - bench a red-hot quarterback, fumble without being touched, commit a late-hit foul, miss a PAT kick, muff a punt, drop a TD pass - they up and found an equally zany way to win one. With eight seconds left, Greg Reynolds blocked a sure-thing, 29-yard field goal attempt and LaVon Edwards picked up the ball and ran 91 yards for the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining.

Score it Utah 35, Minnesota 29. Bedlam ruled. The flabbergasted Utes raced onto the field and piled on top of Edwards in the end zone. Some Utah players simply fell flat onto their backs in the middle of the field and stared up in disbelief into the Metrodome ceiling. Coach Ron McBride, after breaking away from the pileup, lay prone at the seven-yard line. When he was somewhat recovered he ran sobbing to the locker room, where he was picked up by tackle Vince Lobendahn and hoisted onto a bench in the middle of a wild locker room. The team sang, prayed, hugged, high-fived and finally gave the game ball to Reynolds.

"I told you we would find a way to win!'' he shouted, his voice breaking. Later, he told reporters, "Minnesota has more talent, more players, stronger players, but we just never gave up.''

Outside, the 32,229 fans were stunned. They filed out of the stadium as if they'd just witnessed a car accident, shaking their heads and mumbling. It was a wild end to a wild night of bloopers. In all, there were six fumbles, five interceptions, 10 penalties and one big blown lead.

The Utes were up 19-0 at the end of the first quarter, and 29-14 early in the third quarter. Then the Gophers rallied. They tied the score with 4:46 left in the third quarter. Neither offense could do anything the rest of the game, but when Wayne Lammle's punt was partially blocked by Mark Keller, sailing a mere six yards and dying at the Ute 35-yard line with 1:04 left in the game, the Utes' seemed doomed. With eight seconds left, Brent Berglund settled in to try a 29-yard field goal.

On the Utah sideline, McBride told special teams coach Sean McNabb, "Give us the play that has the best chance to block it.'' The play is called "middle block,'' in which the Utes stack the middle, push the line back and leap. "We're going to block it!'' the Utes shouted on the sideline. Reynolds, who is 6-foot-2, bowled over the center and stuck his arm up and blocked the ball squarely.

"I turned around and the ball was right there,'' said Edwards. "I knew I was in. I'm not the fastest guy, but I knew they weren't going to catch me.''

"I've been in a lot of wild games, but never anything like this,'' said McBride.

Speaking of comebacks, the Utes, who were 4-8 a year ago, are two-and-Ohhhh(-my-gosh) - their best start in five years.

And still speaking of comebacks, how about quarterback Mike Richmond. Starting in place of the injured Jason Woods, Richmond completed 24 of 31 passes for 317 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions - not a bad night for a guy who did no more than mop-up duty a week ago and didn't throw a single pass; a guy who underwent off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder.

A week earlier, the Utes withheld part of their offense, partly because they didn't think they'd need it to beat Utah State, and partly to save a few surprises for Minnesota. On Saturday morning, they held a walk-through practice in the parking lot of the Bloomington Marriott, between lamp posts and a brown Chevy, because, said offensive coordinator Dan Henson, "We didn't want anyone around to watch. We'll open it up tonight.''

And they did. Woods completed seven of eight passes on the opening drive, ending with a 22-yard touchdown run by fullback Dean Witkin. The Gophers had no sooner got the ball back, than safety Sharrieff Shah recovered a bungled lateral at the 23. This time Richmond threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Anglesey. Wayne Lammle missed the PAT kick - his first miss in two years - to make it 13-0.

The local fans were already beginning to boo - and this was their team's first game of the year. They were booing again moments later when quarterback Scott Schaffner threw a perfect strike - to Edwards. Out trotted Richmond again. On first down, he connected on a 51-yard pass to Bryan Rowley, who made a leaping grab above the defender at the 16. Steve Abrams ran two yards in for the score and a 19-0 lead (the PAT pass failed).

Now it was Minnesota's turn. Ben Williams sacked Richmond, causing a fumble, which was recovered by John Lewis. Two plays later, Marquel Fleetwood, a new quarterback, ran 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 19-7. That was the first of five turnovers during an eight-minute span. Turnover No. 2 was a mindless interception thrown by Richmomnd directly to linebacker Pat Wright, which set up a 29-yard touchdown pass from Fleetwood to Pat Tinglehoff. Score: 19-14.

The turnover parade continued. Pita Tonga nailed Fleetwood and Anthony Davis recovered. But wait, Dean Witkin fumbled and Brinon Mayes recovered. But wait, Davis (who else?) intercepted a Fleetwood pass, which set up a 30-yard field goal by Lammle. At the half, it was 22-14.

Richmond got hot again to start the second half. Just as the rush closed in on him, he threw a scrambling 16-yard completion to Abrams. On third-and-four, he threw a beautiful 20-yard timing pass to Darrel Hicks at the two, where Abrams scored, making it 29-14.

But the Gophers responded, and Fleeetwood threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tinglehoff. Score: 29-21. Two plays later Richmond threw his second interception to Wright at the 44. That set up the tying score. - a 3-yard TD pass from Fleetwood to tight endKPat Evans, and a two-point PAT run by Marcus Evans.

But all this was not without an huge aid from the Utes. On third-and-16, tackle Dave Chaytors sacked Fleetwood for a three-yard loss, but Tonga was hit with a late-hit flag. Instead of fourth-and-20, the Gophers were given first-and-10 at the 29.

When the Utes regained possession, Richmond was replaced by Woods and his severely bruised right knee.

"I have no idea why I was benched,'' said Richmond. "My arm felt fine.''

"It was my call,'' said Henson. "I wanted a switch. Mike played a great game, but he made two poor decisions on the interceptions.''

The Utes never scored again, but they should have. On first down Woods, who completed four of nine passes for 59 yards, promptly threw a perfect 50-yard bomb to Khevin Pratt, but he dropped a sure touchdown. No problem. Two plays later Woods hooked up with Rowley on a 58-yard pass play. But on third-and-goal at the seven, Woods rolled to the right and, for no apparent reason, fumbled, and Linebacker Andre Davis recovered.

In the end of course, it didn't matter. As McBride said, the Utes, who outgained their rivals 424 yards to 297, found a way to win, crazy as it seemed.


j said...

I remember watching this one at home (I was almost 12 at the time). Our neighbors across the street were huge Y fans, and every time BYU would score they would run out of the house and up and down the street cheering.

Meanwhile, we were certain that the game was over with the FG coming. When we blocked it and won it was just phenomenal. Kind of a similar end to the CSU game in '03.

Anonymous said...

I played in this game and it was the craziest finish of any football game I was ever apart of. Coach Mac's raw enthusiasium was and is amazing. I'm just glad he didn't get hurt at the bottom of the dog pile at the end of the game. I think that me and a few other big offensive lineman were on top of him. This game is probably the game that was the first step toward what the uses are today. Nice memory thank for posting this. GO UTES!! Mike Murry #78 class of 1990