Utah finally grabs signature conference win

George Frey

The Utes needed all four quarters, but they held on to shock fifth-ranked Stanford.

Finally.

After three seasons, a lot of heartache, some blowout losses and a great deal of doubt, the Utah Utes grabbed that signature Pac-12 victory.

And boy was it a beauty.

Fifth-ranked Stanford, batted around as potentially the best team in the Pac-12, last year's champions, in fact, and a dark horse national title contender, walked into what David Shaw called the 'Hornet's Nest' and saw their thirteen-game win streak snapped.

Just like that, the tree fell and Utah celebrated.

The fans celebrated.

Coach Whittingham celebrated.

Much earned, much needed ... much wanted.

Utah has finally earned their Pac-12 stripes.

They won't be taken lightly from here on out.

Of course, it wasn't like they were taken lightly to begin with. This was, after all, the team that took Oregon State to the brink and, despite six turnovers, nearly shocked the south-leading UCLA Bruins. They are 4-2 on the season, are led by one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, and look poised to return to the postseason after a brief, one-year hiatus.

2012 what?

But this win was important. It was huge. It was gigantic. In all of the regular season victories of the past, this one will be up there. Of course it will be. It was only the Utes' second win ever over a top-five team. Victories like that don't come along much - especially for a team like Utah.

Glorious it was. Amazing it continues to be.

Still, it was not easy. Sure, at times, the Utes made it look easy and nearly took Stanford behind the woodshed in the second half. However, there is a reason this team hadn't lost in thirteen games and only fell four times before in the regular season since 2010. The Cardinal are a legitimately good team and one that is certainly capable of bouncing back, and yes, winning out. So, this game was never going to be decided in a rout. It just was not going to happen. Which is why, when the Utes built what looked like a comfortable thirteen-point lead, I still couldn't exhale.

I don't think anyone exhaled. At least, not until Kevin Hogan's pass sailed through the end zone - giving the Stanford quarterback his first loss ever as a starter.

But before that moment could happen, the Cardinal did what we all expected them to do from the start - they pushed and shoved their way down field. In the fourth quarter, by all accounts, one that was owned by Stanford, there wasn't a drive where they didn't look unstoppable. Yet when it came to the final play, the final moment, the Utah defense did something no one could have ever anticipated in the wake of the Oregon State defeat - they stepped up and got the stop.

Cue pandemonium.

The celebration took to the field. The cheers roared on down 500 South and echoed off the Wasatch to the east. Throngs of red-clad fans chanted and cried and rejoiced in something many nationally thought impossible. But we believed. We believed that Utah would #shockstanford. And they did.

Now comes the hard part - building on this win. As great as it was, and it was, Utah can't get too wrapped up in the emotion of it. They have a tough game on the road next week against Arizona and can only add to the statement they made Saturday night with a victory.

Yes, Utah football has re-arrived. The catch, though? Now they've got to stay.

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