A Tale of Two Seasons: Part III of XIII

I walked into Autzen Stadium still deluding myself that the Utes had a chance at the BCS. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s true; they had shown questionable playing skills the last two games, still managing to scrape through with wins. But like all die-hard Utes fans, I still hoped they would pull through. However, when Terrence Cain threw an interception to the Ducks in the last few minutes of the 4th quarter, I felt empty. After watching our team’s mediocre performance the entire game, there was no desire to beat up the Ducks’ quarterback, just desolation. The 16-game winning streak was over.

Remembering back to 2008, I went to every game but one: the third game. Ironically enough, the Utes game against Utah State was the one I missed…for a game at the y of all things. Can you believe it? A staunch Utes fan like myself missing a game for an inferior rival team (who I might add we beat in a blowout game last year)? But the chance to work with the Sports Illustrated photographer Bill Frakes8212;a once in a lifetime opportunity for an upcoming sports photographer8212;was too sweet a temptation to pass up.

Since I started taking sports photos as a mitigating factor against the slim chances I had of playing them professionally, I have dreamed of working at SI. I learned a lot from Bill, even though I spent the day watching the y beat UCLA in a blow out (never a positive experience) and carrying around extra cameras and lenses.

As I drove back to the airport and Bill slept, I turned the radio on to the Utes game and the fan inside of me started wishing I could be in Logan with the team. Lennie Mahler took my place at the game that ended up being a blowout for Utah8212; just as I had expected.

But this year did not go as well. Last week was the first time I had ever gone to Oregon. I drove more than 24 hours roundtrip and barely made it in time for the game. Driving through Oregon and Idaho was a tiring (and boring) experience, and I arrived with a sore butt. Oregon drivers can’t merge at all from what I saw, so we lost an extra hour of the trip. We passed the time by making up headlines for what a game with the South Carolina Game Cocks playing the Oregon State Beavers would be.

We arrived at the stadium just as players were being announced, but by the time we parked and my camera equipment was set up, I had missed the kickoff. Jostling my way to the field was the first of many horrific moments as I watched the Utes punt the ball and the Ducks take it to the house for six. It took away almost all confidence I had for that game.

Nonetheless, the Utes had pulled through in worse straits, including the brilliant game against TCU last year. And scoring 14 points in 17 seconds left Autzen stadium in stunned silence8212;a nice change if you’ve ever been in that ear-destroying stadium. It makes 54,000 fans sound like 150,000.

But instead of intercepting the ball like we had done against BYU so many times in the past that had me applauding their quarterback with atypical love and affection for his red colors showing forth, our beloved team gave the ball up in the last few minutes.

I watched as the Utes walked off the field as if they had just watched a puppy hanging by its neck from a tree, all bloody and beaten.

Then I noticed as Ducks fans started acting all high and mighty to their Utah counterparts. Beating an undefeated team like the Utes would be an exhilarating feeling, especially compared to wins against Idaho State. But don’t get too comfortable Ducks; you won’t be having any more of those “lucky’ wins. The Utes obviously weren’t at their best.

It was an unfortunate end to an amazing undefeated period, but I still hold true to the fact that the Utes have an amazing season left in them. Yes, Terrence Cain let down hopes that he was “able,’ but that doesn’t mean the season is over. For the rest of it, I will be out there on the field or in the stands with a beer in my hand, watching and hoping to see the Utes show their true colors once again. And if they don’t, that’s what the beer is for.