This week Amieable and I are thrilled to welcome Cougar nation back to the Wasatch Front for our tilt with the Utes of Utah. For those of you making the trek to Salt Lake City, here is a handy guide to help make your stay more enjoyable. We can’t wait to see Coug fans crawling all over the SLC, and we are especially excited to hear the shouts of “GO” answered by “Cougs!” ringing out across Temple Square. Besides being a chance to avenge Connor Halladay’s liver, this game is also the first leg of what promises to be an improbable miracle run to a bowl eligible finish. How are we going to do it? Click the jump to find out…
Revenge is a dish best served with onions.
Mark me down as one who was mostly thrilled with the Cougs performance last week, despite the outcome. Although we showed that our margin of error against very good teams is slim, we also showed that we could go toe to toe with a physical, mature team for four full quarters with every opportunity to beat them. More than that, we did it on the road. The recipe for beating the Utes will be very similar to what so nearly worked against stanford… On defense, stop the run and force them into throwing situations and on offense, take care of the ball and maintain long, patient drives that culminate in points. I know, that isn’t a huge revelation, but this is a simpler game than we make it sometimes.
Last week Stanford was able to find their margin of victory thanks to two big scoring plays that were the result of major, but correctable errors by the Cougs. First there was the long touchdown pass which was obviously the result of having Tyree Toomer in the game. That does not need to happen again. Problem solved. Second, the pick six thrown by Tuel was one of the very few plays the whole day where he really locked onto a guy and telegraphed a pass right into the arms of a very alert safety. On a day when he threw over 60 passes, we can all take comfort in the fact that this play was an anomaly. Further, we should be encouraged by what happened after this play. No mopey corpse basset hounds zombie faces were anywhere to be found on our sideline.
Instead, Tuel marched the offense back onto the field and straight to a score. How refreshing was that? How many of you almost walked away after that pick 6 thinking, “Well thats ballgame.”? I know I did. We have been conditioned to not believe that this team has any bounce back whatsoever when things go badly. Last week, they had plenty.
This week we play a Utah team that is depleted at the offensive skill positions and fighting desperately to salvage a Potato Bowl bid out of a season where a Pac12 South Championship was an honest aspiration. Much like Stanford, they rely on a tough running game, with a very good back in John White IV and a tough defense anchored by all world D tackle Star Lotuleile. The Utes are also scrappy as hell, and although there is no real way to quantify “scrappiness” I think it becomes clear when reviewing their “ugly” wins this year that they are a team that doesn’t know how to not give it their all. As disappointing as this season has been for them, this team is still a terrific reflection of the toughness and competitiveness of their coach, Kyle Whittingham. All this means is that while this is a game we can definitely win, we will need to win ugly. That fight to the end spirit we saw start to emerge the last few weeks needs to be fully realized this week in Rice Eccles stadium.
Last year the loss to Utah in the snow in Pullman was one of the best college football games I have ever been to. From the conditions, to what was at stake, to the all out war that the players on the field waged for four quarters plus overtime, highlighted by Connor Halladay’s play with a lacerated liver. I think its perfectly fitting that the game ended in controversy because, frankly, the Cougs deserve at least some claim to victory that day. Both teams did, really. But the fact remains that game ended our chances for a bowl game last year and we are in the exact same position again this year. Lets be the spoilers this time. A home loss to us at this point in the season after their rousing win over Cal last week would be an absolute crusher for the Utes. I say, lets crush em and crush em good. If we do we will suddenly find ourselves a mere 3 game win streak away from stealing their spot in the potato bowl.
So far this year we are 100% in randomly running into readers at our away games, meeting Danesh at BYU and Trucoug89 at UNLV. Who’s it gonna be this week? You are likely to find us and our entourage at Lumpy’s Downtown if we don’t see you in the stadium. Keep the streak alive!