Bleeding Red: There was no place like home for Utes Saturday night

The offense continued to run cold then hot
But when it counted they were dead on the spot
Yes the Utes gave their fans a reason to cheer
As the defense proved again the buck stops here

COMMENTARY — Last weekend my 8-year old daughter, Sammie, finally got a chance to don her Dorothy (from the Wizard of Oz) costume for a much anticipated Halloween party. As a stiff wind blew through Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night, I kept looking for a house to clear the South end zone and land on the field with little Sammie inside.

Sammie Vance as "Dorothy." | Photo courtesy Dwayne Vance
Sammie Vance as “Dorothy.” | Photo courtesy Dwayne Vance

It is an incredible understatement to say that the Utes have exceeded expectations thus far this year. I am fairly certain that I am not the only Utah fan who was afraid the first six games were a dream, not unlike the one Dorothy experienced in the Wizard of Oz. With a late 8 p.m. kickoff Saturday night, I hoped beyond hope that I wouldn’t wake up back in Kansas on Sunday morning only to learn that the dream was over.

Isn’t that one of the reasons why we love sports? We are given an opportunity (but with no guarantees) to live a dream vicariously through the team of our choice. We forget about what should happen, and instead revel in what can and really does happen when the game is actually played and even an underdog is given a fair chance to compete. We get to forget the cares and pressures of our own lives and bask in the pure joy of a game (and at the end of the day, let’s not forget that it is still just a game after all).

Forget Hollywood flicks, you can’t make up some of the stuff that happened in the game between the Utes and the Trojans last Saturday.

On USC’s first offensive possession, a simple swing pass out of the backfield was actually ruled a lateral because the ball was thrown backwards, resulting in a live fumble instead of merely an incomplete pass. Many players on both sides of the ball initially thought it was just an incomplete pass, but the fumbled ball was finally picked up by Davion Orphey and returned 53 yards for a touchdown, much to the dismay of the Trojans and the delight of the home crowd.

A kickoff was returned for a touchdown, but amazingly it was not by Utah’s Kaelin Clay and instead, USC’s Adoree Jackson went end zone to end zone in the second quarter to put the Trojans up 14-10.

Perhaps most amazingly, Utah fumbled on the 1-yard line — twice — and still won the game!

“The personality of this team is a mentally and physically tough group of guys that slug it out with you until the bitter end,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said at his Monday press conference. “We definitely have outstanding leadership.”

Ute fans celebrate the win, USC at Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 25, 2014 | Photo by Dwayne Vance, St. George News
Ute fans celebrate the win, USC at Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 25, 2014 | Photo by Dwayne Vance, St. George News

Ute faithful came out in force for the annual blackout game. The crowd was officially the largest ever in Utah history, ultimately topping out at 47,619 (and unlike games earlier this season, the stadium actually looked full). A black mob storming the field after the game was a nice change-up from the typical sea of red that floods onto the field after a big win.

“The whole environment was really what college football is all about,” Whittingham said. “A lot of thanks goes out to our fans — from our coaches and from our players — to let them know we really appreciate that.”

Notably, the last two times that a big production has been made about BYU potentially going undefeated, while it hasn’t worked out so well for the Cougars, it has been a good omen for the Utes. During the Y’s 2008 Quest for Perfection, it turned out to be the U that completed the feat, capped off with a sweet Sugar Bowl victory. Just a short four weeks ago, Cougar nation was crowing about deserving to be considered for the inaugural four-team playoff. Four losses later, BYU is 4-4 while Utah became bowl eligible after only 7 games and sits atop the Pac-12 South Division. I hope BYU goes big about potentially going undefeated again next year (and the year after that, and the next one, and so on).

This weekend, 18th-ranked Utah takes its show on the road as it pays a visit to Tempe to take on 14th-ranked Arizona State. It will be the Utes’ third game against a Top-20 team in four weeks (and next week Utah hosts fifth-ranked Oregon).

I am not going to doubt these gritty Utes anymore. I am just going to jump on the bandwagon, keep my arms and legs inside the ride at all times and enjoy the dream for as long as it lasts. Hopefully, Dorothy and Toto won’t find their way home anytime soon.

Dwayne Vance is a columnist covering the Utah Utes. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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