There are special moments in sports history that are always lasting - no matter how much time passes or how many new memories are created. It's a play or an outcome that you can recite with such accuracy because, even if ten or fifteen years pass, you remember it just like yesterday.
The 2008 Oregon State game is, at least for me, one of those moments.
It was that game where I knew we had a special team on our hands and they were being led by a very special quarterback.
Utah entered it 5-0 and really hadn't been tested much in the first few weeks of the season. The Beavers, though, were coming off an impressive victory over #1 ranked USC the week before and were clearly Utah's biggest challenge to that point in the season.
Unlike any of the games on this list thus far, Utah played Oregon State already proving a lot and with a lot more on the line than just a win. The Utes, at this point, had established themselves as one of the earlier favorites to crash the BCS and a lot of the national media's eyes were on Salt Lake City due to what had happened the week prior and what could happen in the wake of a Utah victory.
The game took place on a warm Thursday night in October - I remember wearing shorts - and there was a lot of pregame buzz around campus and the valley because of the stakes. I remember arriving at the stadium with knots in my stomach.
Those knots didn't leave my stomach until right before the half. Utah had capped off a successful drive when Brent Casteel scored on a 12-yard run to put the Utes up 20-9 with less than three minutes left in the second quarter.
It was the third consecutive score by Utah and at that moment, it looked like the Utes were finally pulling away from the Beavers - who actually had led 9-3 at the start of the quarter.
Wishful thinking on all our parts because Oregon State came right back and Shane Morales scored on a 24-yard pass from Lyle Moevao with about a minute left in the first half.
I don't know if the Utes slagged off a bit after going up by 11 or if that deficit woke the Beavers up, whatever the excuse, it dramatically altered the course of the game and nearly cost Utah a shot at perfection.
Things continued to spiral out of control at the start of the third when Brian Johnson fumbled on Utah's 34 and, a few plays later, Jacquizz Rodgers scored on a 7-yard run to put Oregon State up by a point.
Now this is where things get a bit more interesting. Beaver head coach Mike Riley opted for a two-point conversion here instead of kicking for the point and they failed to convert. At the time, it seemed meaningless because the Utes were going to be down regardless - but as the game played out, and Oregon State had the chance to put the game away in the fourth, it would prove pretty damning.
That third quarter, though, was awful. Maybe the worst quarter of Johnson's career at Utah. In fact, you could say pretty much the entire second half was the worst stretch of football that season.
It was only saved, fortunately enough, by the final two minutes. Which I don't think anyone could have expected because everything to that point was leading to a loss - everything!
Even so, the Utes continued to hang around. Though the Beavers scored early in the third quarter, Utah somehow managed to keep their offense out of the end zone for much of the remainder of the second half. So for almost the entire third and fourth quarters, even though they looked terrible through stretches, the Utes still only trailed by a point in this game.
As a fan sitting there watching this unfold, I was hopeful and disgusted all at the same time.
Then, on a 3rd-and-9, Rodgers broke free on a screen and trotted 41-yards up the middle of the field before finally being forced out deep into Utah territory.
With the clock winding down and Oregon State poised to put this one away, it felt like all hope was dashed. Soon enough, Moevao hit Brady Camp for a two-yard touchdown pass and, with the extra-point, Oregon State ballooned their lead to eight points.
Utah was still in it, but it felt like only technically. This was an offense that hadn't done anything in the second half and we expected them to not only make it downfield in about two minutes, but also successfully convert on two-points.
It wasn't going to happen.
So fans tepidly set in for one final series. It would probably end with a Brian Johnson interception and just like that, any talk of busting the BCS would die on the field of Rice-Eccles Stadium that night.
I remember sitting there between the period of Oregon State's score and their kickoff thinking of how I would address this game on Block U. It was that painful.
Then the Beavers made their third mistake of the game: they opted for a short pop-up kick that only made it to the 40-yard line. Not a bad place to start a game-tying drive.
And just like that, Utah's offense found new life. They started moving the ball. Four quick plays later, Bradon Godfrey caught a 25-yard pass in the end zone and the Utes were a two-point conversion away from tying.
It's remarkable how quick the feeling changed at Rice-Eccles Stadium. When Oregon State was lining up to kickoff after their score, it felt like a tomb. Now, though, it was as loud as ever.
Of course, being the pessimistic fan that I am, I didn't celebrate too hard. I knew they still needed two points to tie the game and two-point conversions were not easy - all you had to do was ask the Beavers that, since they failed on two earlier in the game.
I didn't want to get my hopes up, I guess.
The first two-point conversion failed but failed because of a pass interference call that couldn't have put the Utes any closer to the end zone. Brian Johnson could literally fall forward and score.
Instead, they ran a bootleg and Johnson easily walked into the end zone untouched and just like that, after 30 minutes of pure hell, the Utes had tied this game up.
Now it was the defense's turn. Certainly the Beavers would try to score instead of facing overtime on the road against a team that had all the momentum - right?
No. They went conservative, ran on second down, failed to convert on third down and had to punt the ball with plenty of time still left on the clock.
That was mistake number four. Mistake number five came on the punt itself, as the kick only made it 32 yards.
At this point, you could sense things were setting up nicely for Utah - which was remarkable with how this game had played out for much of the second half. Yet here they were, a few plays away from potentially scoring 11 points in about 90 seconds.
Johnson, who only moments before was the goat of the game, stepped up and put the Utes in scoring position with little time left on the clock. After running it down to two seconds, Kyle Whittingham called timeout and Louie Sakoda took the field for the biggest kick of his career.
Of course it was good.
Cue the celebration. Fans, not because of who they beat, but how it happened, stormed the field. It was, in the entire history of the football program, one of the most improbable and entertaining wins in school history.
It's kind of overwhelming to know that if one or two plays go the other way in that game, there is no undefeated season, no 13-0 and no Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
Utah was a failed two-point conversion away from most likely playing in the Las Vegas Bowl that year.
Instead, because Brian Johnson found his mojo and Louie Sakoda had ice running through his veins, Utah kept perfection alive.
Utes score 11 points in 90 seconds to beat Oregon State (via JazzyUte)