SALT LAKE CITY -- They started leaning over the rail -- straddling it, even -- with about three minutes remaining because, you know, preparation is the key to any good field-storming. Spying from above, the public address announcer decided it was time to speak up. So he implored the Utah students not to make their way onto the field, which was akin to somebody asking Amy Winehouse not to do that line sitting on the mirror in front of her.
|'It feels sweet,' says QB Brian Johnson. He deserves more than a feeling. (Getty Images)|
And though this stadium is not as big as the stadium at Florida and the tradition not as great as the tradition at Oklahoma, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more festive atmosphere anywhere than the one that took place here Saturday night after the Utes capped an undefeated regular season with a 48-24 victory over BYU. There were guys with crimson hats chanting and girls with crimson faces crying, and this one dude with a "U" shaved into the back of his head took pictures of the scoreboard, that "12-0" sign, the trophy presentation and anything else he could get into his lens.
Then Utah coach Kyle Whittingham took the microphone and yelled.
"How about that!?!"
The Utes are headed to a BCS bowl game for the second time in five years, and they seem happy about this in a way that is both understandable and yet kind of hard to understand. The fans chanted "B-C-S" as they covered the field. And when the players finally made their way into the media room they were equally thrilled, talking about how this was "amazing" and a "dream" and an opportunity for which they were "grateful" because going undefeated sure does feel nice.
Over to the side, Utah athletic director Chris Hill stood.
He smiled and offered congratulations but seemed to realize that even a night of celebration such as the one he was enjoying should be tempered by the fact that he once again has an undefeated football team that has no chance to compete for a national title. In what world is that fair, besides the world of college football, of course? So when Hill was asked by a reporter whether the moment was bitter-sweet, I have to imagine President-elect Barack Obama -- he with a hope for a playoff system -- would've agreed with the sentiment and echoed the hint of frustration.
"All I can do is tell my players to win all their games," Hill said. "If they do they should have a shot at a national championship."
Let's be clear: This is not a column suggesting the Utes would actually win the national title. Typing as a man who has seen Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma in person, I'd pick any of those schools over Utah any day of the week and for all the reasons anybody else might do it, because of speed and size and whatever.
So no, the Utes probably aren't the best team in the country.