Set in the Wasatch Mountains of Salt Lake City, over 600 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the University of Utah has made a comfortable home in the Pacific 12 Conference. Although some aspects of this area geographically feel out of place with the conference, the fan base and history of this team make it a perfect fit.
Pacific 12 northwest weather hit old mountain west country. Utah has assimilated nicely into the new conference and today’s rainy weather had Ute fans hoping it would thwart Arizona’s desert comfort zone. The Wildcats reportedly conducted practices under the sprinklers to better prepare.
The drizzly skies wouldn’t keep Utah faithful from witnessing this matchup of conference heavyweights. Tailgating lots all around Rice-Eccles Stadium filled up with smoking grills and wind whipped flags. The marching band made its way through the parkas and raincoats to treat hearty fans to a little pregame entertainment. The celebration moved nearer to the stadium as fans and band members welcomed the team on the traditional Ute Walk. Evidence of anticipation for this big matchup stretched beyond the nearby radius and rattled through the streets of Salt Lake City. Fans filled Rice-Eccles to the corners and were treated to a relatively rainless first quarter.
Arizona would treat the fans to a first and second quarter scoring torrent. Utah suddenly faced a 21-0 deficit that seemed insurmountable. The rain picked up and soon became a fitting backdrop for Utah’s depressing outcome on the field. Despite a slight offensive spark and rousing halftime performance from the surrounding Ute Tribe, the Wildcats would shift into high gear during the fourth quarter sending the red clad patrons to an early exit. Impressively, The Utah fan base supported their struggling team through all the ups and downs. The atmosphere here and strong fan backing make it a perfect fit for major football in the Pac 12. This lopsided loss to Arizona is not an indicator of the mountains they can move in their new conference.
The hallowed grounds of Notre Dame have become hollowed out by the weak and the mighty. Teams that are not traditional powers (Navy, Tulsa, etc.) have been undaunted by the mystique of Notre Dame Stadium. Coach Kelly is all about retrieving that mystique and making a win over the Irish in South Bend a rarity. In comes hobbling Utah (8-1) and reeling after a pounding from Texas Christian. Ranked fourteenth and seemingly overrated, this could be the Irish’s chance at toppling a ranked team for the first time in a long while.