In all honesty folks, who could have predicted this one?
Sure, we all had our hopes that Utah would shock the nation, but I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone that truly believed it was going to happen. Well it did, and boy was it glorious. The Stanford Cardinal, who were #5 in the nation and dark horses to make it to the national championship game, had that dream crushed Saturday night when they came into Salt Lake City and squared off against the Utah Utes.
For the two and a half years that the Utah football program has been in the PAC-12 they have been searching for that elusive statement victory, one that would earn them their PAC-12 stripes and show they can hang with any of the conference elite. This victory came against Stanford, who were the conference champions just a year ago, by a score of 27-21.
The stars were aligned on Saturday night, and everything that needed to occur for a Utah victory did. Utah’s smash mouth defense overpowered Stanford’s smash mouth offense, Travis Wilson was able to move effectively, Utah was able to run the football, and the Utah defense was able to limit the big plays. Wilson further solidified his spot as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference against Stanford as he threw for 234 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception (which was a tipped pass).
Aside from Wilson’s outstanding performance, running back Bubba Poole had his game of the year and secured his spot as Utah’s number one back. Poole had 22 carries for 111 yards, and caught the ball for 75 more. Utah’s effective run game helped to keep Kevin Hogan and the explosive Cardinal offense off the field.
Utah’s defense showed that they have what it takes to contain the best of the PAC-12, and effectively won the game for the Utes. The defense forced two Cardinal turnovers, and limited Stanford to less than 400 yards of total offense for only the second time this season. It was also the defensive unit’s impressive goal line stand that sealed the game for the Utes. On the last drive of the game, with Stanford down 6 points, Kevin Hogan marched the Cardinal offense down to the 6-yard line with just a minute remaining. The Utah defense showed their mettle and then some by not allowing Stanford to reach the end zone, when it almost seemed to be destiny.
On fourth down, when that ball sailed over everyone’s head out of the end zone the earth shook. Rice-Eccles hasn’t seen pandemonium like that in years, and I loved every second of it. On the night the Utes shocked Stanford and the rest of the country, they also solidified their spot as a real PAC-12 contender. Whenever a team comes into Rice-Eccles stadium they better be prepared for a battle.