I grew up on The Goonies. It was a staple in my childhood and led me to seek out many adventures of my own. None could ever live up to what Mikey and the Gang saw - but it was that hope of uncovering the unthinkable that kept us at it. We were convinced as kids there was some lost treasure buried beneath the dying grass and jagged rocks in the dirt field just northwest of our neighborhood.
We'd spend hours searching and hoping for something special and the only thing we had to show for it was some carved rock that certainly was a makeshift headstone for some boy's little dog. It was cool to us because the thing was dated, crudely I might add, 1978-1983 - which made the headstone older than any of us!
Before we knew any better, we were convinced it was a remnant of an old graveyard our entire neighborhood was built on years ago - similar to the movie Poltergeist.
The night I found that grave, I half-expected Charley, the name written across the stone, to show up in my bedroom. I pictured a five year old boy dressed in turn of the century clothing haunting me as I slept.
Of course, in reality, had anything returned that night, it would have been Charley the Dog - the five year old whatever (maybe a chocolate lab or a beagle) standing in my doorway. Not a little boy.
But that's what makes childhood so awesome. We're able to bend rationality and believe in the unbelievable. It's childhood films like The Goonies where the underdogs prevail. They never lose.
The entire premise of the movie is about these kids searching for treasure not to better their personal fortunes, but to keep their houses from a greedy land developer who wants to expand the local country club. They go off on their journey in hopes of fighting a corporate power much larger than themselves.
If there was any movie that gave an entire generation hope that the underdog can, in fact, succeed, it's The Goonies.
They never said die and because of it, they were able to fight off the Fratellis, get some of One-Eyed Willie's treasure and save their Astoria neighborhood. In the end, the Goonies and their adventures continued. The underdog kids beat the odds.
They won in the end because they never gave up. There was a point in the movie where they could have, after finding a wishing well that led to the surface. But after an impassioned speech by Mikey, they decide to head on down the caverns in search of the lost treasure. Why? Because down there it was their time and because, dammit, Goonies never say die!
And they don't.
This Wednesday, the Utes are the Goonies. They're the underdogs and they've got to find their Mikey.
Their adventure is going to be difficult. It's one that already starts with most of America (96%) writing them off in their game.
Beyond just that core of players who wear the Crimson and White and a few of their fans who join them on their journey, no one believes in them. The local media doesn't. The national media doesn't and even some of their own supporters don't. They're done. They're cooked. This game is over before it started.
The rational part of me agrees with this. The Boise St. Broncos are an incredible team. They are always perfect in every aspect of their game. They have an offense that ranks second in points per game and fourth in yards per game and their defense is just as impressive. There, they rank fourth in points given up a game and fourth in yards given up per game.
On either side of the ball, they are truly a dominant team. The last time Utah faced such an opponent was back in November, against TCU, and they were rolled 47-7. It was an embarrassing defeat and really gave the Broncos a blueprint on not only how to beat the Utes, but how to do it rather convincingly.
And that is what most in the media expects Wednesday night - a convincing and thorough defeat of our Utes.
I'd like to say they're wrong. I'd like to say I have complete confidence in Utah's ability to go out there and win. However, I do not.
This team has shown over the season they have issues and those issues very well could carry over into the bowl game. It's not unprecedented for something like that to happen and certainly I don't think we'd be terribly surprised if, like they did against TCU and to a lesser extent Notre Dame, Utah came out listless and took their thumping with minimal fight.
But blindly believing that also means you're not believing in the Utes.
That is where I differ. That is where I find my confidence.
I believe in Kyle Whittingham. I believe in his ability to successfully game-plan for any team when he's given more than a week or two to do so.
You see, this isn't TCU or Notre Dame. Those were regular season games and the coaches only had a week to prepare for both opponents. The latter of which came after a humiliating home loss and though I detest the idea of hangover games, it's an argument that holds some merit.
When you're looking at a bowl game, coaching more than anything comes into play because it neutralizes certain aspects that, in a regular season game, can't be neutralized. One of those issues is talent and while talent is always important, a good coach knows how to exploit the weakness of the opposing team's talent and more importantly, how to play up the strength of his own team's talent.
There, I think Whittingham excels more than any coach in college football. His track record speaks of this.
Does it mean he's unstoppable? Of course not. But it does mean the Utes will enter Wednesday's bowl game with a very good game plan and that will be the difference in a game where they get worked and one where they're working hard for a victory.
So how can Utah attain that victory?
Well it really begins with some basics that we've been preaching on this blog for years. You can't turn the ball over. Similarly, you must create turnovers. Especially against a team like the Broncos, who play a very disciplined style of ball. Those turnovers could dramatically alter the game and give the Utes much needed momentum.
More importantly, they've got to establish the run. You wouldn't think this would be a weakness for the Broncos, but against Nevada and, more surprisingly, Utah State, this was a problem. They struggled at stopping the run and though the Aggies hardly put up a fight (when you have no passing game, that will happen), Utah is in a much better position here due to their potential for a solid and sustainable running game.
This is an aspect where I think the absence of Jordan Wynn actually might help the Utes. Terrance Cain is a far better mobile quarterback and he will be able to exploit some of that weakness the Wolf Pack surely brought to the coaches' attention with their shocking win over Boise last month.
But he can't do it alone. Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata really need to play the games of their lives. This is their last collegiate game and that can't be lost on them and I hope they use that as motivation to really push the defensive line of the Broncos. If Utah can wear them down over the course of an entire game, the running game could not only take some pressure off Cain's arm, but create the type of sustainable drive needed to win the game.
That is, of course, if it's close. Boise State is not used to close games and much of that has to do with their dominating offense. It smothers teams. It's done that all season and it's something Utah needs to contain at least to a point, or no amount of offensive success is going to matter.
Here, the defense really needs to play flawless. Kellen Moore is a legitimate Heisman quarterback and he will, if given the chance, pick apart Utah's secondary.
The defense has to keep him from controlling this game. That is something easier said than done, but if the Utes are going to have any hope of defeating the Broncos, getting to Moore and disrupting him will be key.
Thankfully, that is something Kyle Whittingham's defenses are exceptional at in bowl games. Just ask John Parker Wilson of Alabama and Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh.
Hopefully Kellen Moore is a name we add to that list.
If not, then the upset won't happen and the underdog won't win.
But my childhood naivety gives me hope. It's that feeling of doing the unthinkable that was the bedrock of my youth.
It's realizing that sometimes, yes, the underdog does win.