Magic moment: BYU touchdown with no time on clock stuns the U.
August Miller, Deseret Morning News
This time, nobody laughed at John Beck's tears.
The guy that cried in a press conference in 2003, saying the loss would "probably ruin my weekend," had finally lived it down.
Cue the background music. Pan slowly away from the scene. This time, as he stood on the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium, tears welled up again as he spoke of BYU's 33-31 win over Utah on Saturday. One play, no time remaining and nothing at all on the line. Except, of course, whether he would go down in history as a glorified Kevin Feterik, or one of the better quarterbacks at a school famous for quarterbacks.
It was, as he said afterward, "the moment I had been waiting for all my life."
And then, as if unfolding in slow motion, it was there: Jonny Harline, a lone figure in the far corner of the end zone. Waiting.
"Thing was, I remember taking a deep breath before the play happened," said Beck, as a crowd of BYU fans chanted his name. "I remember telling myself, 'John, you've prepared forever for moments like this.' And we've been so close for so long, and it's a great feeling because we made it happen."
With that toss to Harline, Beck moved from being just a good BYU quarterback to a fine one. Not only did he beat archrival Utah, he also showed at last that he could win the close one.
Said Beck: "It's funny because everyone talked about us not being able to come back, but we came back against TCU (in 2005) with like 50 seconds left and came down the field and kicked a field goal to send it into overtime. Against Utah we sent it into overtime. So we were this close. Today we don't have to worry about being close."
Beck's story is just the latest turn in the long and dramatic history of the rivalry. There was current quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman's late-game heroics in 2000 and Luke Staley's sideline run in 2001.
There was Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff's overtime pass to Travis LaTendresse last year and Chris Yergensen's last-moment field goal in 1993. And a couple of dozen others.
But throughout his career, there were signs that perhaps the strong-armed Beck wasn't in the clutch-play class. Even this year, he failed in early-season losses to Arizona and Boston College. The list of games in which he was close but short was considerable: Utah, Cal, Boise State, UNLV and TCU, to name several. After the loss to B.C. this year, his record as a starter was just 13-16.
But that was worlds away and eons ago. Since then, the Cougars have won nine straight, claimed a conference title and earned a bowl berth.
To his credit, Beck made certain no game was especially close until Saturday.
Thus the winds of destiny began to stir. BYU took a 14-0 lead, and it appeared the Cougars were on their way to a blowout. But the Utes recovered, moving ahead 24-14 late in the third quarter. Time was slipping away. Beck led the Cougars on back-to-back scores, to go ahead 27-24.
It appeared briefly that fate would deal Beck another gut-shot. Utah's Ratliff got off a 19-yard scoring pass to Brent Casteel to give the Utes the lead with 1:19 remaining. But Beck passed the Cougars to the Utah 11 with 3.2 seconds left. He took the final snap and waited for someone to get open. The clock expired. Armies assembled. Nations rose and fell. Generations passed. Primeval forests grew. Stars winked in and out of existence.
"As I moved to the right, I could see everyone going to the right and Jonny (Harline) going the other way," said Beck. "I was just hoping the pass would get to the end zone."
Just like that, Beck was a different quarterback, his world a different world.
"For him to have the senior year he's had makes him probably as good as any quarterback we've had in the history of BYU," Doman said. "But to beat Utah in the last game; I think it sends him into the history books as one of the great ones."
Said Beck: "There's not too many places in college football that when you step on field with a minute left that you feel like magic's going to happen."And not too many times that magic comes around.
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