FBS FootballFootball Defense

The Historic 2008 Sugar Bowl

Like I say, I love to see an upstart team surprise the smug top teams of the FBS, financed by the perennial football schools. The 2008 Sugar Bowl (January 2, 2009) is one of my favorites. The up-tempo first and second drives by the Utes blew them all away. Great honor to QB Brian Delance Johnson, but to me, like I say, it’s the DEFENSE that saves the game.

Fred Whittingham was a survivor in more ways than one, a solid college and NFL player and a solid college and NFL coach, with a 34-year after-college career when he went to the U of Utah in 1992. Kyle Whittingham, his eldest son, had played both offense and defence in college. He followed his dad into the defensive coaching staff. Kyle is not one of your “flash in the pan” coaches that are not gold, though they glitter.

When Urban Meyer rode away from Utah to Florida on Alex Smith’s back in 2004, Kyle was just THERE, just STEADY. He already had put in ten years there coaching defense. Remember, this is not a famous football school with a lot of boosters and plenty of sports scholarships and perks. You take what you can get each year, and what you can get is not assured. Utah’s defense ranking? Well, it’s predictably variable, but wouldn’t you sayit’s a lot better than average? Here it is:

FBS Team Defense Rankings 2000 to 2019 for Utah:

Year’00’01’02’03’04’05’06’07’08’09’10’11’12’13’14’15’16’17’18’19AVG
Utah1915291924503851223241950734231343917628.5
Data extracted from sports-reference.com

If I were your usual reporter/commentator, at this point I would emphasize, TOTALLY IRRATIONALLY that in Kyle’s third and fourth year as head coach the defense achieved it’s highest ranking. That’s just the luck of the draw.

Anyway, the administration chose Kyle because he belonged and he had built a good reputation. Why would they want another outsider? Note that 2008 was his fourth year as head coach. Did he still control the defense? Duh.

Kyle is a LEADER, NOT a CONTROLLER of young men. You can see it in his every move. There is no doubt in my mind that he gave Brian Johnson the freedom to call his own shots for at least part of that Sugar Bowl game. No stupid predictable alternations of running and passing plays. Rather, one whole series of passes with not one running play; later a whole series of running plays with no passes.

Alexander Douglas Smith was super-sharp. He would have been a tough act for any quarterback to follow. Happens Brian Delance Johnson was just as smart – — or maybe more intelligent.

Alex had a long pro career getting beat up every year for sixteen years. As for Brian, he moved to a coaching career in 2010 after only one year in the UFL.

Meanwhile, the steadfast Kyle Whittingham is looking forward to his 27th straight year at Utah – one school, one team. And he’s doing OK.

Thanks for your interest. Hope you & yours are safe & well. Bobby G