July 27, 2009

#12: October 2, 2008 - Utah vs. Oregon State

HOW IS IT GREAT? The story leading up to this game was all about Oregon State's 27-21 upset of #1 USC in Corvallis one week earlier; and the Beavers' 5'7'' RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who had 186 yards rushing in that win against the Trojans.

45,599 fans turned up to see the #15-ranked Utes try to prolong their undefeated season. At the time, it was the 3rd-largest crowd ever to attend a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Today, it stands as the 5th-largest crowd.

The buildup alone makes this one of Utah's most important victories of all time. Nevertheless, the thing that stands out about this game now--and the thing that truly makes it one of Utah's greatest games ever--is how the Utes got the victory.

Utah led 20-9 shortly before halftime, and it appeared they would just keep on rolling through the rest of the game. But OSU scored a TD right before the end of the first half, and another right at the beginning of the second half to take a one-point lead. Then it was back-and-forth . . . until 2:18 left in the game when OSU scored what appeared to be the clincher.

I won't attempt to explain what happened after that point. It will suffice to say I had my doubts Utah could pull off the comeback.

I had absolutely no idea--with Utah trailing 28-20 at the 2:18 mark--in just a few long minutes, my brother and I would be running rampant on the RES turf in celebration with the rest of you.


FURTHER READING:

Brian Johnson, recalling his thoughts while Utah was trailing Oregon State 28-20 with 2:18 left in the game:
“I looked into stands and saw all these people leaving. I thought, ‘Man, they’re about to miss a show. There’s no way we’re going to lose this game.’ ”
King Louie Blogs About the Kick.

WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:

LOUIE LOUIE
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Sakoda Kicks Field Goal To Win It As Time Expires
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By Dirk Facer
Deseret Morning News
October 3, 2008

Utah's quest for perfection continues.

A 37-yard field goal by Louie Sakoda as time expired lifted the 15th-ranked Utes to a 31-28 victory over Oregon State on Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The kick capped a wild comeback from an eight-point deficit in the final 1:29 and upped Utah's record to 6-0.

In the process, the Utes also became the nation's first bowl-eligible team.

"I couldn't be more proud of a group of players and assistant coaches as I was tonight," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "The resiliency and the ability to handle adversity was tremendous. Our backs were against the wall and we fought through it."

After tying the game and then forcing the Beavers to punt after three plays, Utah began its game-winning drive. The Utes moved into field-goal range with a 16-yard pass from Brian Johnson to Brent Casteel with 36.3 seconds remaining. Darrell Mack followed with a four-yard run to the Oregon State 20.

Utah then let the clock run down to just two seconds before calling a timeout. When play resumed, Sakoda knocked the game-winner between the uprights. He connected on a similar kick two years ago at Air Force. "When I got out there, the only thing going through my head was concentrating on making the kick," Sakoda said. "This was the biggest kick of my career, without a doubt."

Turnovers — and not the tasty treats found in a bakery — continued to plague the Utes. They entered the game with six fumbles and five interceptions this season. Both tallies would grow before the game was complete.

Johnson, who vowed earlier in the week he was determined to avoid such miscues, fumbled just over one minute into the third quarter. He lost the ball after getting sacked by defensive end Slade Norris. Defensive tackle Pernnell Booth recovered it for Oregon State on the Utah 34.

Three plays later, the Beavers took a 21-20 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run by Jacquizz Rodgers.

It stayed that way until a wild exchange over a span of 49 seconds late in the fourth quarter.

Oregon State got things started with a sustained drive that covered 80 yards on 11 plays and took 6:35 off the clock. The Beavers converted on third-and-9 with a 41-yard pass from quarterback Lyle Moevao that gave them possession on the Utah 3. They cashed in with 2:18 to go on a 2-yard touchdown toss from Moevao to tight end Brady Camp.

After the PAT, Utah trailed 28-20. Four plays later, it was 28-26 after Johnson connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Bradon Godfrey.

"I knew all along that we'd get a shot to win it," Godfrey said. "We practice the two-minute drill every week in practice, so (Johnson) stepped up and made the plays that we make in practice."

The Utes then had two shots at a two-point conversion. A second opportunity materialized after a pass interference call on the Beavers. Johnson capitalized on the situation by rolling right and running into the end zone to even things up, setting up the dramatic finish.

Johnson, who has led Utah to 14 wins in his last 15 starts, said the last two drives showed the team's toughness. He called it the "biggest win" since he joined the program.

"They made plays that we weren't covering. We'll look back at the last 20 plays and see that we had a couple of opportunities to get a few more points," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, whose team fell to 2-3 one week after upsetting top-ranked USC. "... I think it was a great football game and both teams came out to play. I thought we had enough at the end, but it turned out we didn't."

Utah led 20-15 at halftime, overcoming an interception return for a touchdown along the way.

Oregon State pulled ahead 9-3 early in the second quarter when safety Al Afalava picked off a Johnson pass intended for Casteel and took it back 26 yards for a touchdown. The ensuing PAT failed.

The Utes got a much-needed momentum swing on the kickoff that followed. David Reed returned the kick 79 yards to the Oregon State 15. It set up a 28-yard field goal by Sakoda and ushered in a run of 17 straight points by Utah.

The outburst included a 14-yard scoring strike from Johnson to Freddie Brown and a 12-yard touchdown run by Brent Casteel. Between scores, the Utes recovered a fumble. Linebacker Nai Fotu pounced on the ball after defensive tackle Derrick Shelby jarred it loose on a sack of Moevao.

Leading 20-9, Utah was unable to maintain the margin down the stretch. Jacquizz Rodgers had a 28-yard run and a 27-yard reception on an Oregon State scoring drive in the closing minutes of the half. The Beavers needed just four plays to march 80 yards and reduce the deficit. A 24-yard touchdown toss from Moevao to Shane Morales closed the gap to five points with 1:13 to go in the half.

The score was knotted at 3-3 after one quarter. Both teams capped opening drives with field goals. Oregon State took the lead on a 37-yard kick by Justin Kahut and Utah countered with a 33-yarder by Sakoda.

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