Here are my answers to Justin Karp's questions on the ASU vs. Utah game.
1) Take us on a play-by-play thought process into the final moments of that BYU game. Spare no detail and panic attack.
For seasoned Utah fans, a comeback by BYU should not be any sort of surprise and in fact, I kept saying to those around me when the Utes ended the 3rd quarter leading 24-7, that the game was not even close being over. If there is one rule to follow in this game it would be "that it's not over till it's over." Any early celebrations whether it be at the end of the 3rd quarter (as many did), after the incomplete pass with a second left on the clock, or after Star Lotulelei
blocked the first field goal attempt were not only premature, but completely hollow and useless until the refs walk off the field.
The first play of consequence in the crazy sequence that ensued was the 4th and 12 completion to Cody Hoffman
to keep the drive alive. That play was a killer for the Utes and after it was completed, Utah fans couldn't believe what they were seeing especially considering BYU had completed as similar pass several years earlier in a nearly identical situation gave the Cougars a comeback win. How the cornerbacks let Hoffman get behind them on a 4th down like that is insane. Whittingham needs to have them watch every Holy War game over the past 15 years as preparation for the game so that the same mistakes aren't repeated.
As for the first ending of the game, the stadium was going crazy as the pass fell incomplete, but for many of us, we noticed that the refs were still on the field and that BYU had not started walking to the locker room at which point panic started to ensue. The panic completely stems from a history of comebacks that Utah has seen BYU pull off over the years and it's almost expected to happen in every game.
When the refs put time back on the clock, fans are think, "Oh #&@, here we go again."
Once the field was cleared of fans and the Cougars attempted their first field goal which was ultimately blocked by Lotulelei, the first thought that came to me was concern over the fact that Moe Lee (Utah cornerback) didn't recover the ball and instead, got away from it which allowed a BYU player to pick up. If Lee falls on the ball it would have ended the play regardless of the fans running on the field.
Most fans thought the game was won and the celebrations truly began, however some noticed that the referees were still on the field (never a good sign) and celebrations began to die down and turn into confusion as to why the game wasn't over.
When the 15 yard penalty was announced on the fans, the stadium when crazy and now panic turned to chaos with a 37 yard attempt being a very make-able field goal. Now in fairness to the fans, if you watch the replay, you can see the Utah football players running on the field well ahead of the fans who were likely following their example. It should also be noted that Bronco Mendenhall was on the field well before the play was completed with photos of that being posted recently on the internet.
At that point when it was time for BYU to lineup for the 37 yard field goal attempt, Utah fans were just praying for their own miracle as I think most of us were expecting the game to go to overtime and likely end in a loss to BYU.
When the kick left the hold, it was like slow motion and many thoughts it was on track to be good. When it hit the upright and bounced back, the place went crazy and a huge sigh of relief was felt across the entire stadium knowing that the fans had not cost the Utes the win after all.
2) How has the team rallied around Jon Hays as he steps into the full-time starting quarterback role, especially after the excitement of having Jordan Wynn back?
The team and offense have responded very well to Jon Hays and plays at a higher level with him on the field. It was apparent in the Northern Colorado game and against Utah State that Wynn was not very confident in his arm and the offense struggled with him under center.
With Hays in last week against BYU, it was very clear that the Utes could throw the ball downfield with success which they did several times. Hays has also asserted himself as a leader on the team and the players are behind him a 100% because of the all the hard work, grit and determination shown by him not only last season, but during Spring and Fall camps. Hays isn't your prototypical Pac-12 quarterback, but he is a strong back up who now has the chance to add to his improbably legacy at Utah (7-3 as a starter).
3) Other than spearing him with a pitchfork, how can Arizona State's defense stifle John White?
John White has been very stoppable so far in 2012 and hasn't run with the same "violence" as one Utah coach recently observed. White didn't run a meaningful play or snap during the fall and spring camps and was kept from a lot of contact that has (in my opinion) contributed to his slow start.
If ASU is smart, they will follow the same plan of attack employed by the Utes 2012 opponents so far who have loaded the box with 7 or 8 players and keyed everything on stopping the run.
This is a critical game for White, who missed the BYU game to get healthy for ASU. He is looking have his breakout game of 2012 against the Sun Devils.
ASU will likely limit White in the first half, but John gets stronger as the game progresses and those 2-3 yard runs in the first quarter turn into 5-7 yards runs in the 4th and those 8 to 10 yards runs in the first half turn into huge plays in the second half.
ASU can't relax and think they've got him stopped coming out of halftime. They have to keep a focus on White all four quarters to limit his effectiveness.
4) What does Star Lotulelei eat for breakfast? How can we get our hands on that superfood? Also, just how much damage can he bring to Arizona State's run-predicated offense?
It's clear that Star eats offensive lineman for breakfast these days as he has been abusing them so far this season. The guy has been nothing short of amazing and most of the tackles or sacks made by other players can be attributed to his play.
So the plan against Star is the same every week: Double team him and if that doesn't work, then triple team him.
The problem with the double team is the fact that he pushes the double team back 2 to 4 yards on every play which disrupts the inside running game and the quarterback's ability to step up in the pocket. Triple teams are effective either as they leave two guys to block three defensive lineman and then worry about blitzing linebackers, corners or safeties.
The other thing that makes Star effective is how quickly he gets off the ball and then starts to get in the head of the opposing lineman. Lotulelei is also able to keep his head up during the rush and he watches and then reacts well to each play.
So how do you stop him? Well, if I knew that I'd be on some coaching staff somewhere and night writing this, but heres a shot anyway.
ASU should double team him all game. They should mix up their cadence throughout the game to limit his ability to get off the ball, and they should run away from him as often as possible and change their passing game to consist of designed rollouts and avoid passes that require the quarterback to step up in the pocket.
5) Moving to the Pac-12: great move for Utah or the greatest move for Utah?
That's a tough one, but looking back over the past 15 years, you would have to say that hiring Urban Meyer in 2003 was probably the greatest move for Utah football and really paved the way for a great move to the Pac-12.
Even though Meyer was only with the team for two years, he really changed everything for a program that had struggled to be slightly above average for nearly 30 years. Urban ignited the fan base and showed them them what was possible at Utah. He created The MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section), established a tough and effective off season training programs and instilled a pride in the program where players and fans now expect to win.
Kyle Whittingham, who took over after Meyer's departure, learned a ton from Urban and runs his program in a similar fashion to this day.
Without that foundation, I would not have seen the Utes having the successes they have had over the past ten years and making a splash nationally with two dominating BCS bowl game performances that made a great move to the Pac-12 possible.
6) Which Utah will show up tonight - the one that struggled against Utah State on the road or the one that knocked off BYU at home?
I hate saying this, but that Utah State game was all about the Aggies wanting that game a lot more than the Utes did. If you asked Utah fans over the summer (and I did) most of them were more worried about USU than BYU because they knew that it would be statement game for the Aggies.
They really brought it to the Utes and beat them in every phase of the game. Kyle Whittingham pretty much put the team and coaching staff on a lockdown the week after to prepare like crazy for BYU as the Ute's had to have that game to get their confidence back to go through the rest of the season.
Utah remembers their terrible start last season in the Pac-12 and they want to avoid an 0-4 start and begin conference play with a victory. I would expect that the team that showed up against BYU will be the team we'll see tonight.