Utah offense rolls through Crimson Tide

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

Utah fans have become familiar with the “Roll Tide’ chant in the Big Easy. Friday night, it was Utah’s offense that rolled.

Brian Johnson threw for 336 yards on 27-for-41 pass attempts, Freddie Brown caught 12 catches for 125 yards and the Utes scored on their first three offensive possessions to jump out to a crucial 21-point lead against Alabama.

“We expected to start fast and we did,” Brown said. “We surprised them with our no-huddle offense and went up and down the field. Putting up 21 points in the first quarter was huge, but we expected to do that, and it worked well establishing the tempo.”

Alabama entered the game as heavy favorites and the shoo-in choice by several national pundits to dominate Utah. The Utes’ fast start quickly proved otherwise.

Utah nearly gave away its first offensive opportunity when Brent Casteel bobbled Alabama’s first punt of the game. RJ Rice recovered, however, and five plays and one minute and 19 second later and Johnson found Brent Casteel on a 7-yard pass to take an early 7-0 lead.

“Yeah, we caught them not lined up on the touchdown pass,” Johnson said. “They were trying to signal in the defense still. And, you know, the two-minute is something we practiced a ton.”

Two plays later, Robert Johnson’s interception gave Utah the ball on their 32-yard line.
It wasn’t until Utah faced a third-and-10 from the same spot that Johnson hit David Reed on a 30-yard pass that put the Utes on their 2-yard line. Two plays later, Matt Asiata punched the ball in for another touchdown and just like that Utah took a 14-point lead before five minutes had run off the clock. The lead surprised just about everyone but Utah.

“I think it was something we strive (sic) on as a team and it was something the entire team kind of fed off individually and collectively, was the fact that nobody gave us a shot, and the only people that mattered were the people in the white jerseys,” Johnson said.

During film study, Utah found that Alabama’s big defensive line, which featured the likes of 365-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody, were good for about two plays. That gave the Utes the idea of going with a no huddle. On the final play of their first drive, Alabama had barely called the defensive play in before Casteel was off for the game’s first score.

“First of all, we’re good at the no-huddle,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “They did have some big guys that they don’t want to run so much8212;that they want to tap out.”

Utah’s defense held Alabama to a six-play nine-yard drive, before the Utes struck again.
This time the Utes took the ball on their own 35-yard line and marched down the field in seven plays in less than two minutes to give Utah a 21-0 lead. All that coming from a team that was labeled as the 10-point underdog on some betting lines.

“It felt like we were being completely disrespected,” Johnson said. “Everybody making the Hawaii and Georgia comparisons from last year’s Sugar Bowl. It made me angry.”

Johnson and the rest of the Utah offense channeled all of that anger into a 150-yard, 21-point output, which turned out to be all the Utes would need to complete the biggest upset of the bowl season so far.

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