Alabama Crimson Tide and Utah Utes parading with key rings. Soon comes powder, then comes sweets, then there’s boasting the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in Louisiana carriage. A first time for Utah. Alabama, a returning patron.
Televised by Fox, the seventy-fifth annual Sugar Bowl blasted off with mucho impressive defensive work by the Utes.
Crimson Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson was sacked by linebacker Stevenson Sylvester ninety seconds into the first quarter. Utes quarterback Brian Johnson connected well with his offensive teammates on their first possession: five plays + sixty-five yards + wide receiver Brent Casteel = touchdown. Utah 7 and Alabama 0. The Crimson Tide didn’t see that coming did they? Would the AL bring their athletic legacy to the show? Would the UT be able to keep up with the surprises? Apparently option B. John Parker Wilson threw an interception; the ball nabbed by Utes defensive back Robert Johnson. A few snaps later, nearly halfway through the quarter, the Utes reeled in another touchdown, thanks to running back Matt Asiata. Utah 14 and Alabama 0.
Perhaps a back-to-back-to-back parlor trick by the Utes shook the Crimson Tide offense back to their senses? Not exactly. They had the ball for a couple minutes before punting it away to the Utes. The Crimson Tide defense did, however, get its act together…to a certain extent. Utes wide receiver Bradon Godfrey increased his team’s lead by another six points. Kicker Louie Sakoda put the extra point through. Utah 21 and Alabama 0. Rocking to the bottom of the first quarter, the Crimson Tide offense demonstrated its waking up as John Parker Wilson completed passes to running back Glen Coffee. Oooo, but just as Parker Wilson was about to let one rip, Utes defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo knocked him down.
The second quarter ascended with Crimson Tide kicker Leigh Tiffin made a fifty-two yard field goal. Utah 21 and Alabama 3. The field goal inspired a noticeable surge of confidence for the AL as Crimson Tide linebacker Bobby Greenwood sacked the Utes QB, who then threw incomplete, complete to wide receiver Jereme Brooks, but the Utes still had to punt the ball away. When Crimson Tide got their hands back on the ball, they displayed marked improvement in the form of running back Mark Ingram. A forty-seven yard field goal attempt was made but didn’t stick. The Utes had to punt the ball back to the AL, and defensive back Javier Arenas ran that ball seventy-three yards (a Sugar Bowl record) into the end zone for a TD. Crimson Tide back in for the kill? Utah 21 and Alabama 10. As the clock ticked to two minutes left in the second quarter, a false start penalty on the Utes forced them to punt the ball. The AL couldn’t take advantage of that offensive opportunity but certainly reshaped their productivity by the end of the second quarter.
The third quarter spurt out crisply for the Crimson Tide. Defensive lineman Dont’a Hightower compelled the Utes QB to lose the ball, which was then recovered by Bobby Greenwood. Shortly thereafter, Glen Coffee sprinted into the end zone. Utah 21 and Alabama 17. The first quarter may have indicated the opposite, but the third quarter suggested that the Crimson Tide was minding the score gap and then some. And yet, even though Brian Johnson threw a few incomplete passes and there was a delay of game penalty, the Utes QB synced up with wide receiver David Reed, who then ran into the end zone for a TD. Utah 28 and Alabama 17. The next Crimson Tide possession produced an unsuccessful forty-nine yard field goal attempt.
The fourth quarter doodled down beyond the halfway mark when Crimson Tide’s QB was sacked and Stevenson Sylvester recovered the football. He was then slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. On the next play, the Utes put forth a trick play where Brian Johnson tossed the ball to Jereme Brooks who then tossed the ball to Brent Casteel. The Utes then elevated their lead with a field goal with fewer then three minutes left to play. When there was just under two minutes left, Robert Johnson intercepted a pass that was meant for Crimson Tide wide receiver Julio Jones. Utah 31 and Alabama 17. Final score. In the end the Utes got to boast about that Sugar oh-honey-honey Bowl. Who’s your candy girl?
Observations & Miscellania:
1. Alabama’s Million Dollar marching band got their brass on before kickoff.
2. New Orleans Shades of Praise gospel choir sang the national anthem.
3. Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston were the commentators.
4. The Utes wore white jerseys and white pants accented with red. Their helmets were red. The Crimson Tide’s uniforms were red on top and white on the bottom. It was like ketchup and more ketchup. Or, ketchup and peppermints. Or, Big Red and candy canes.
5. All surviving former coaches and players of a Sugar Bowl game were invited to the game (did I hear that correctly?). Frank Broyles tossed the coin. Utah won it but decided to defer.
6. Four firsts for Utah tonight. First appearance at the Sugar Bowl, first sack, first touchdown, first interception. The Utes were playing like there was no tomorrow in the first quarter. They blocked and ran and maneuvered like they would never play football again (for some, it probably wasn’t too far from the truth).
7. The slow-mo instant replay (extreme high angle courtesy of the DirecTV cam) of Javier Arenas’s punt-return TD revealed what I guess should be called the marvels of physics. One object moving at X speed in Y direction, nearly getting, surely getting stopped at one moment (surrounded by players, mostly his own teammates), but he isn’t stopped.
10. Steve Smith, wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, was on the sidelines supporting his alum Utes.
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