Summer is generally a dead period on this blog - at least up until we get into August and then start to seriously preview the upcoming season. With no football and baseball in the pits, there isn't much to talk about during these next few weeks, so, instead of just rehashing over everything we need to do this season to get back to bowl eligibility (we'll start up on that again later this summer), I thought it'd be fun to revisit some older Utah football games I have in my medium-sized library.
Originally, I was going to rewind us back to 1993 for the Utah-BYU game ... unfortunately, I can't find the CD for that one, so, we're going to have to skip it until I do (or entirely if I never do find that CD again). But I did find my copy of the 2007 Utah-Louisville game and so, to kick things off, we'll revisit that classic.
And it was a classic. It was a very good game against a Cardinals team that had yet to really implode under Steve Kragthorpe (brother of Kurt, who writes for the Salt Lake Tribune). In fact, the year prior, they had gone 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl in Bobby Petrino's final year and started the '07 season as a potential dark horse national championship contender ... but that ended when, in week three, they lost to rival Kentucky.
Louisville entered this game 3-2 and had put in a fairly impressive win the week prior against North Carolina State. Utah, on the other hand, was struggling at 2-3 and were only a couple weeks removed from hitting rock bottom against UNLV (by far the worst loss of the Whittingham era ... at least to that point), so, the Utes really needed a victory.
Let's begin the blogging...
This was a Friday night game that aired on ESPN. Back then, Utah, and the rest of the MWC, had abandoned their contract with ESPN and created a partnership with CBS Sports and Versus, which meant no home games were ever aired truly nationally (at least in games that felt national - like on ESPN). This was actually the second ESPN game of the season for Utah, who had lost their opener (a Thursday night contest) on the road against Oregon State.
ESPN has really hit it big with classic Friday night games (think Utah-USU last season) and this one does fit the bill.
Louisville's offense was introduced by ... Street Sense, a horse, because, you know, Louisville and the Kentucky Derby and such:
A bizarre way to start the game, especially since the horse just stood there ... its mouth didn't move and the horse's voice sounded like it was trying to impersonate Eddie Murphy's Donkey from the Shrek series.
Utah lost the coin toss and Louisville got the ball first. Their first drive indicated just how fierce the Utes defense really was in 2007 (probably the best of the Whittingham era). Brian Brohm was the Cardinals' quarterback this season and he was floated early as a Heisman contender. That'd never pan out (much like most of the preseason predictions for Louisville).
Even though Utah and Louisville have never shared a conference and are located in different areas of the country, their histories kinda sync up. The Utes, of course, opened Rice-Eccles Stadium at the start of the 1998 season with a win over Louisville and the two battled each other for a BCS berth in 2004. The Utes are 4-0 against the Cardinals, with this game in 2007 the closest of the contests.
Gabe Long! There's a name I haven't heard recently. This defense was stacked.
After an early first down on their first drive, Louisville fails to convert on 3rd and 10 and have to punt.
The first play for Utah on offense is of the spread variety with a quick toss from Brian Johnson to Elijah Wesson for an eight-yard gain. This game was one of the best of the Johnson era. He really was in his element, though, the Utes' first drive ends after a swing pass on 3rd and a few to Darrell Mack fails to convert ... so Louie Sakoda, getting some love from the ESPN crew as one of the best punters in the country, boots the ball and we remain scoreless.
Lots of batted down passes by Long in this game and Utah shuts down the Louisville offense once again.
Utah's second drive of the game begins at the three yard line ... and it's backed up with a false start penalty. Even in 2007, the Utes struggled with stupid penalties.
The Utes bounce back, though, as Bradon Godfrey hauls in a 14 yard pass from Johnson to advance out of the shadows of their own end zone. This is the beginning of an epic drive.
A play later, Derrek Richards picks up a 37 yard reception and just like that, after starting this drive on their two-yard line, the Utes are in Louisville territory.
Wow. I really forgot Utah had a vertical offense. It existed, guys! Really! I AM WATCHING IT. Downtown Freddie Brown hauls in an 18 yard pass for the first down.
Johnson is just picking apart the Louisville secondary now ... and so is Mack. Where the hell is the MACK TRUCK sound effect when you need it?
TOUCHDOWN, BRADON GODFREY! WIDE OPEN IN THE END ZONE!
A 97 yard drive! It only took Utah three minutes and nine plays. That's an efficient offense. Please let's get back to this, mkay?
The Utes defense continues to be bruising on Louisville's drive and the Cardinals have a quick three and out ... with a shanked punt adding even more to Louisville's troubles.
Oooh, a 3rd and 8. I'm closing my eyes.
OH SHIT, JEREME BROOKS WIDE OPEN!
That's another UTAH FIRST DOWN!
Announcers reminding us how Mack was going to redshirt ... but didn't because Matt Asiata broke his leg in the opener against the Beavers (that game was just a horrible hex of a mess) and, of course, two years later, had his season abruptly ended against ... Louisville. So, I guess that's how the universe wraps back around and torments us like that.
Damn cosmic mumbo jumbo.
Utes pull in a near-first down on a Brooks run (he got hammered) and they're setting up for another score. Can you say blowout?
Bam, SMACK, DARRELL MACK! Utes score. 14-0, Utes!
That smothering defense...Brohm goes down after a sack from Alex Puccinelli. Utah is just dominating this game right now.
After another three and out, the first quarter comes to an end with the Utes leading 14-0. Without question one of the most dominant quarters of the 2007 season for the Utes.
Uh oh...my copy of the game is choppy. Hopefully we can pull through.
...oooh, it's steady again.
Mack opens up the 2nd quarter with a nice 18 yard gain. Utah's wearin' their suits tonight because they be in business!
CORBIN LOUKS SIGHTING! HOLY HELL...WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT GUY? I miss the Louks Package and boy did that baby pay off there with a 16 yard TOUCHDOWN!
Utah entered this game averaging just a shade over 19 points per game. After a quarter and a few minutes, they had 21. Oh yeah...this game is over. Utes are gonna cruise. No way Louisville gets back into this one!
(I really thought that while watching...felt so good, but these were the '07 Utes and things weren't going to be that easy).
And just like that...Louisville's Brohm finds life with a 35 yard pass on the first play of this drive ... which might've been more yards than the Cardinals had in the game at this point.
There's Sean Smith! ESPN jokin' that he introduced himself as 'The Legend' when he came to the U. He'd certainly live up to that name.
Now the crew trying to figure out how Utah beat UCLA the way they did. I'm still trying to figure that game out.
Cardinals finally score ... Trent Guy. Not Brent Guy, guys, he coached USU (and then Louisville, believe it or not - see, that cosmic shit again), but Trent. Mike Sanford also coached the Cardinals after losing his job with the Rebels.
So, 21-7 now ... but the Utes lead.
Wow. Marquis Wilson gets a mention (incomplete pass) ... that was a player with a whole lotta potential pissed away. Sad.
Utah's offense did some things on this drive, but stalled when it counted the most. Crowd getting into it now and Louisville finally seeing some signs of life.
Signs of life don't last as Cardinals have a quick three and out. Again, the Utes' smothering defense taking over in this one.
Cardinals punt and here comes that Utah offense.
Utes can't get the first down ... but decide to go for it on fourth down! Oh boy. Utah was only 4-12 on fourth down prior to this conversion ... which was good for 8th in the Mountain West. Johnson decides to pass to Dallin Rogers and he converts easily for the first down. Utah's still workin' this defense.
A crazy play here ... Johnson hit, loses the ball, Mack picks it up and salvages what could have been a game-changing defensive play for Louisville. The luck of the '07-'08 Utes really begins to materialize on that play!
That mystic magic returns on the next play as Utah fakes a field goal and Matt Sims nearly hauls in a touchdown - but it's good for the first down! This game was craycray.
Mack steamrolls ahead and it's a TOUCHDOWN! Once again, the Utes blowin' the doors off this one.
Louisville gets the ball back with less than two minutes to go and does nothing. Another three and out gives Utah a golden opportunity to really put this one away before the half. But of course, the '07 Utes still had some derps left in 'em and it was on full display toward the end of the first half.
Utah worked the ball down the field, again, with ease and appeared poised to at least get a field goal ... but some horrible clock management leads to Johnson throwing a complete pass short of the first down and with no time outs left, the Utes fail to get the field goal kicking team out there in time and the clock runs out.
Yeah...that look from Whittingham about sums it up.
No biggie, though, right? Utes led 27-7 (Sakoda also had one of his rare misses in this game) and that was good enough for us to not sweat the small stuff ... except this game was far from over and even though Utah looked well in control...we'd find out at the start of the second half just how in control they really were (hint: not much).
Utah's first drive of the second half was a failure (killed by, yeah, a penalty) and then Louisville decided they had enough of getting embarrassed and actually did something on offense.
This is where the game got a bit crazy ... and left you wondering where the hell the '07 Utes were going.
Brohm is now picking apart Utah's defense. THIS DEFENSE IS BETTER THAN THIS. C'mon, Utes! Get it together.
First and goal. Oy.
On third and goal, Patrick Carter hauls in a pass for the score and shit just got real.
Right now, we're all having flashbacks of past ineptitude and boy the Utes didn't make us feel any better as the offense shrivels up and dies when they cross midfield.
Cardinals get the ball back. Dammit to hell.
It takes Louisville all of three plays to get into Utah territory. Where's the Tums?
Brohm now looking like the Heisman candidate he was supposed to be. Kid is ripping apart Utah's defense.
THIS IS GETTING OUT OF HAND NOW.
Touchdown, Louisville. If I didn't know the outcome of this game, I'd probably be breaking something right now. Utah's once dominant lead is now six. SIX. Thanks, Sakoda! Mr. I Can't Make a Damn Extra Point.
Richards steps up and delivers a huge first down to shut those cocky Louisville fans up. GO DRINK YOUR MINT JULEPS, YOU FREAKS!
Johnson again great at stretching that field vertically ... with a beautiful 34 yard completion to Brian Hernandez. MORE OF THIS THIS SEASON, OKAY?
JOHNSON SHOWS HIS VERSATILITY WITH A HUGE 25 YARD TOUCHDOWN RUN! WHERE'S YOUR STREET SENSE NOW, LOUISVILLE?!?
All he do is win! Except as OC ... but as quarterback? HELL YEAH.
This is turnin' into a shootout.
This song is now playing over the PA system at Papa John's Stadium as Utah kicks off:
Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger (via SurvivorVEVO)
Utes end the third leading 34-21. It got dangerously close there prior to Johnson's huge touchdown run. But this one ain't over yet...
I CAN HEAR THE UTAH FANS CHANTING, "UTAH! UTAH! UTAH!" THAT'S HOW YOU REPRESENT, BITCHES!
THROW UP FOUR FINGERS, BABY! LET'S DO THIS! CLOSE IT OUT!
MACK TRUCK *makes truck noise* WITH THE TOUCHDOWN! DYNAMITE!
We's gots ourselves a blowout now! Utes lead 41-21!
Of course, Louisville won't go quietly into the night. They've got one last gasp left in 'em. Buckle up.
Cardinals methodically work the ball down the field...I'm having nasty flashbacks to earlier in the third quarter ... but miraculously (again!) the Utes hold as Louisville can't convert on 4th and goal.
Utah does what Utah does best ... they go into ball control offense in hopes of running out the clock. But this Louisville defense hasn't been able to stop 'em all night, so, it might just work!
Oh shit! MACK FUMBLES! WTF? Louisville recovers on Utah's 46. Oh Jesus. This game ain't over.
WHAT THE SHIT IS THIS?
Utah's defense decides it's spent enough time in Louisville, so, I guess they all board the plane back to Salt Lake before the rest of the team. Great. Just great.
The guy callin' the game literally was in the middle of talking about how this game was likely over (some crap about Kragthorpe's brother being a columnist for the Trib ... but that he won't likely be writing about his brother's loss) as the Cardinals scored that touchdown and he had to EAT HIS WORDS like two seconds later by saying this one wasn't over.
GET IT TOGETHER, UTAH. YEESH.
Louisville onside kicks it ... Utah recovers. Remember later in the '07 season when TCU pulled a Louisville and came back against the Utes and onside kicked it and then got it and nearly won the goddamn game? Or am I making that up? I don't think I am ... because I remember yelling at the TV (to be fair, tho, I do that a lot during Utah games).
Utes still trying to run out the clock ... Mack runs for five yards ... Mack runs for no gain. Louisville calls time out. Incomplete pass from Johnson to Freddie Brown. Cardinals get the ball back. Oy. Oy. Oy.
Apparently I become a Jew during close Utah games.
This game should be over ... I really don't know why it isn't over. But the final few minutes drag on like a legless zombie using his arms to crawl up a large mountain.
At least Utah still leads by two scores...
ARE YOU SHITTIN' ME?
Louisville is now a touchdown and an extra point away FROM WINNING THIS DAMN GAME.
Lord have mercy.
Cardinals try another onside kick ... Utes recover again and spare me a heart attack.
3:30 left. Utes just need a few first downs and a field goal to ice this one. THEY CAN DO IT!
AND OF COURSE, JOHNSON IS SACKED ON THE FIRST PLAY. MOTHER!
At this point, it feels like everything is working against Utah. You know that feeling ... where no matter what they do, it just doesn't ... AND THEN JOHNSON TAKES OFF FOR 12 YARDS! FIRST DOWN! UTES KEEP THAT CLOCK A TICKING!
I miss having a quarterback like Johnson. I really hope Travis Wilson pans out because it's been now five years since we last had a quarterback who could take over games like this and do what needed to be done to win 'em.
Louisville just burned through their last time out. Utah basically needs a field goal and this one really should be over. It's third and five ... Whittingham won't chance it. You know he'll run it and then bring on Sakoda for a long field goal.
Johnson only gets about two yards and IT'S SAKODA TIME!
This will be a 46 yarder. Oh boy.
Gotta give credit to both Whittingham and Sakoda - this was a huge kick. If he misses, which he already has a missed extra point in this game, Louisville has great field position to potentially go and win it. Utah could've punted, pinned the Cardinals deep in their own territory and forced 'em to go nearly the length of the field with about a minute left and no time outs.
Gutsy call ... if he makes it, of course.
Was there any doubt?
Utes balloon their lead to nine ... which means the Cardinals need two scores to win. Ain't. Gonna. Happen.
ESPN guy just said he's convinced Louisville will win big under Kragthorpe. LOL
Cardinals do nothing on their final drive and the last play of the game is an incomplete pass.
This was a huge win for the Utes. After defeating Louisville, they'd go on to stretch their win streak (it was two at this point) to seven before finally losing to BYU. But the victory over the Cardinals gave 'em confidence, something they had lacked throughout much of the early Whittingham era. Though Louisville turned out to be an underwhelming opponent, it's never easy for a team to travel out of their comfort zone, already six weeks into the season, and beat a BCS team in their house.
When the Utes beat the Cardinals, and followed it up two weeks later with a huge win on the road against TCU, I really started believing things were turning around for the program. I don't know if much changes with a loss in this one, but with how they led, and dominated, much of the game, you could make the case that things may not have worked out as well as they eventually did.
Regardless, it was an impressive win - maybe even more impressive than the UCLA victory earlier in the season. They had to earn this, away from home, and they did.
Johnson finished the night 24 of 31 for 312 passing yards (37 rushing), one touchdown and zero interceptions. It was one of Johnson's best performances of the season and really gave Ute fans a preview of what was to come in 2008.