Louie is the king of Utah Football

Life is full of doubts. When I watch my 49ers play on Sundays, I doubt they will win. When I watch the San Francisco Giants and Tim Lincecum isn’t pitching, I doubt they have a chance. When my editor wants a column on time, he doubts he will get it before the deadline.

As I sat in the press box watching Utah down eight against Oregon State, I doubted Brian Johnson had it in him. He pulled it off8212;and pulled it off again against TCU. He has proven that when the team is ready to die, he can pull them out of the grave.

The problem, though, is Johnson is often the one who dug the hole to begin with.

I doubted Johnson would lead the comeback against Oregon State, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Louie Sakoda would make the field goal to win it. A hurricane could have ripped through Rice-Eccles Stadium and I would have watched calmly as Sakoda kicked the ball through the swirling uprights.

Johnson is a great player. Sakoda is the king.

I, and every Utah fan, have lived through heartache after heartache with our kickers. Ryan Kaneshiro was like an abusive husband. In 2001, he made only eight out of 14 attempts, including several critical misses. We lost to Colorado State by two points, and lost close games at the end of the year because he just couldn’t be trusted alone with the football.

We left the abuser for worse. Bryan Borreson went 11-for-21 in 2002, including three misses against New Mexico and two against the Cougars. Urban Meyer learned his lesson and just stopped kicking altogether when he took over the team.

Sakoda is like finding true love after a lifetime of failed relationships.

Johnson was clutch at the end of the TCU game, but struggled mightily before the final drive. If it weren’t for Sakoda’s clutch performances, Johnson wouldn’t even have the opportunity to lead the team to victory.

In that game, Sakoda punted nine times, and put it inside the 20-yard line on five of them. In a game that ended 13-10, the difference between the two teams was Sakoda’s foot.

This year, Sakoda has scored 103 points for the team. Johnson has 120, but 36 of those points came against lowly San Diego State. With four games decided by fewer than three points, the worth of Sakoda is only magnified.

Sakoda is ranked nationally as the best at his position by several scouting sites. He will likely be the first kicker drafted into the NFL because of his multifaceted talents.

On average, Johnson is ranked around No. 18 for FBS quarterbacks. He will likely have to sign on a team as an undrafted free agent if he wants to play in the NFL.

Sakoda was also a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top placekicker, and the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter. He is the most decorated player in the Mountain West Conference with 11 career Special Teams Player of the Week awards.

They should rename the honor the Sakoda Award.

There is a simple way to sum up who is more important to this team. BYU comes to Rice-Eccles on Saturday in a game historically decided by one play. If you have to choose one player to make that play, who would it be8212;Johnson or Sakoda?

Life might be full of doubts, but the answer is clear. Louie is the king of Utah football.

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Nick Pappas