Rivalry game will be Johnson?s day to shine with crucial interceptions

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

The Holy War 2009 is finally upon us. Another chapter of the rivalry will be written in two short days. Even though there is nothing more at stake than a rivalry win, the game promises to be exciting as always.

Although players and coaches swear they focus on games one week at a time and don’t look ahead, sometimes it’s difficult to believe them. If I were Robert Johnson, I would have had a hard time not looking forward to the BYU game since early in the season.

Johnson leads the conference in interceptions caught, and Max Hall leads the conference in interceptions thrown. It’s a dream scenario for Johnson.

Emotions always run high in big rivalry games, with bragging rights and conference supremacy at stake. Whether anyone likes to admit it, getting emotional increases the likelihood of errors being made. Ask Hall, who threw five interceptions in last year’s rivalry game8212;a game that if BYU had won, would’ve created a three-way tie for the Mountain West Conference championship. That game has to be haunting for Hall.

Johnson was just one of four Utes to pick Hall in last season’s game and could have a heyday against him this year.

BYU lives and dies with the pass game, as it averages almost twice as many passing yards as rushing yards per game. This is perfect for Johnson and company, who have proven to be much more effective in protecting the pass than stopping the rush. Utah’s pass defense is third in the country, allowing only 173.3 passing yards per game8212;a lot less than BYU’s average of 295 yards of passing offense per game.

Johnson has come up with big interceptions in almost every key game this season. He got an interception against Oregon that was part of Utah’s second-half comeback. He single-handedly put the Colorado State game on his shoulders, earning three interceptions, all of which resulted in touchdowns for the Utes. His other interception blew the UNLV game open for the Utes. Johnson was nowhere to be seen in the loss to TCU, which was too bad for Utah because the defense could’ve used the electric spark an interception almost always provides.

I have no doubt the Utes have the talent and ability to win in Provo8212;something they haven’t done in four years8212;but Utah will have to shut down Hall to do it.

Johnson and the rest of the Utah defense should be licking their chops in anticipation for the chance to embarrass Hall and come away with a huge rivalry win.
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