Disrespect drives Utes

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

NEW ORLEANS8212;Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t seem bugged by Alabama head coach Nick Sabban in the least.

Not even after Sabban was quoted as that his team “was the only team from a real BCS conference to go undefeated.”

Strange coming from a guy that seemed to take particular exception to a certain Wyoming head coach guaranteeing a certain victory in Salt Lake City two seasons ago. But it’s what the man said.

“I never made a point of that,” Whittingham said about gaining extra motivation from Sabban’s comments. “Coaches say things at times, you know, that maybe they don’t – I don’t know how to say this – but we didn’t do a lot with that at all. Maybe the players, you know, fed off that. But certainly that wasn’t, you know, due to my presenting it to them.”

The players might have caught some wind of what is being said. There’s a chance that they got some motivation from it.

“A lot of the time, we’ve been looking at the media,” safety Robert Johnson said. “They didn’t say nothing about our defense. They didn’t say nothing. We just wanted to make sure we put our defense on the map and just help out the Mountain West Conference, by getting them some type of respect. Because we all know the Mountain West Conference doesn’t get any respect from any other conference.”

Johnson wasn’t the only player that felt disrespected by nearly the entire free world. Every player talked freely when asked what fueled just a dominating performance against a supposedly “superior” opponent.

“I think they watched the film, we watched their film and you gotta know that we’re a good team and they’re a great team as well,” linebacker Kepa Gaison said. “I think, what it came down to, is our team wanted it more.”

It seemed that Utah took particular exception to all the predictions going on from ESPN.

“Like I said, a lot of ESPN people, there were a lot of people that was saying that Alabama was going to come in and beat us because Alabama almost went to the championship,” Johnson said.

The Utes played with a chip on their shoulders the entire game and dominated play on both sides of the ball. Not that what the media says about them matters anymore, but several players feel like Utah has earned its due respect.

“I mean a little, give us a little respect,” said lineback Stevenson Sylvester, who had seven tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery. “We had the worst spread of all the bowl games in the whole thing. I mean I don’t understand that, but we’re 13-0 now, so we can say that we’re the third team in the nation to do that, so it’s just great.”

Whatever the Utes took or saw from the media, there’s no doubt it brought them together as a team and brought out the best in them on the team’s biggest stage in school history.

“Despite what other people say about them being too big or too fast or too physical,” said wide receiver Freddie Brown, who finished with 12 catches for 125 yards. “That didn’t matter. We played well together and came out on top.”

The disrespect even persuaded wide receiver Brett Casteel to offer some advice that seemed more like a venting session minutes after Utah was crowned Sugar Bowl champions.

“You must always be ready to play any opponent, whether they’re a lesser opponent than you,” Casteel said. “Be ready. This is why the game is played. Don’t be mad because you’re playing an opponent that you think is lesser than you. You gotta go play and we took it personal and that’s why the story is, what it is.”

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