SALT LAKE CITY — Among the many underachieving, overrated sports phrases from the last decade, "going forward" has a special place. As in "we think we have a chance to be a very good team, going forward."
As if there were anywhere else to go.
Even if the team stinks to high heaven, it will be going forward, albeit as a bad team. But that's actually good news for the BYU Cougars, who are coming off a gut-wrenching loss to Utah on Saturday. They play again on Thursday at Boise State, which officially puts the Utah game in the rear view mirror.
Hard as it is to imagine, the annual rivalry game between Utah and BYU is already getting moldy. Although Saturday's 24-21 game was a thriller, it was a one-week deal, quick as a grade school romance.
The rivalry remains alive, at least for now, but if it does go beyond 2016, it will continue to be what it has become: a special game, but not the only game; big but not gigantic; emotional but not emotionally damaging.
It's part of life but not life-altering any more.
To borrow another grossly overused sports term, it is what it is: a much-anticipated game, but neither a season-maker nor season-breaker for either team.
Riley Stephenson will never be in the Ryan Kaneshiro category. Stephenson missed the last-second kick on Saturday that would have tied the score. Kaneshiro is the much-maligned Utah kicker who clanged one off the upright at the end of the 1998 game against the Cougars. Asked this week if Kaneshiro could be reached, a University of Utah representative said the school doesn't keep contact information on former players. Another contact at the university said nobody had heard from Kaneshiro in years.
The gist was that he had distanced himself from the school. If so, who could blame him? Then-Utah coach Ron McBride criticized him after that fateful game, saying,"Chip-shot field goal – you've got make those" and adding, "he only has one job and he didn't do it."
Stephenson probably won't have to go through that much torment. There were no conference ramifications on the line on Saturday, and there was certainly no long off-season directly ahead.
As they say at the teller windows and concession lines: Neeeeeeeext!
For the Cougars, facing Boise State is (warning: cliché alert) just what the doctor ordered: another big game against a widely respected opponent. BYU is 0-2 all time against the perennially ranked Broncos. They weren't pretty losses. You think BYU is still fretting about Utah? The first game against Boise State was a 50-12 defeat at Edwards Stadium in 2003. The next year, BYU lost 28-27 on a missed field goal.
So the Cougars have a lot to process in a short time.
Then there's Utah, which is moving into its Pac-12 schedule with a game at Arizona State on Saturday, where Utes haven't won since 1976. It will be interesting to see how long the celebrating lasts if they lose their first four conference games again this year.
Unless BYU goes undefeated the rest of the way, losing to Utah doesn't affect the Cougars' season all that much. BSU, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Utah State and Oregon State are still on the schedule. Win a few of those and the Utah game would be a mere rash, not a boil.
Meanwhile, for Utah, there's still the Rose Bowl — or at least reasonable facsimile such as the Alamo, Sun or Holiday Bowl.13 comments on this story
Athletic department people from both schools, prior to the Utah-BYU game, seemed to feel it was a relief to get the rivalry game done early. And though no one was saying the outcome was unimportant, they invariably agreed it wasn't a season-ender, either.
Back when the rivalry game was played in late November, it set the mood for the rest of the winter, even when a bowl game ensued. Fans stewed about it all year.
Like the flu or unrefrigerated fruit, the whole thing lasts about a week.