SALT LAKE CITY —
Just when it seemed a good time to start covering more basketball and less college football, something happened that made me feel like I was in a shampoo commercial.
I felt refreshed, invigorated, energized.
All thanks to what happened last weekend with Utah State, BYU and Utah.
Let me start by explaining about the gifts. I get them dropped on me on occasion — stories I never anticipate, yet fall in my lap. For instance, the time I went to Notre Dame and a friendly security guard asked me if I wanted to see the Irish locker room, the day before a game. They don't even open the locker room to media on game days, much less on a Friday.
The detour virtually wrote my column for me.
Years earlier I was in Los Angeles hoping to get a few minutes with world featherweight champion Danny Lopez, but was instead invited to dinner a night or two before his title bout. There we were, just me, the champ and his manager.
I had nearly two hours with nothing to impede my interview except a couple of porterhouse steaks.
But this week I received three more gift stories, two of which I hadn't anticipated. BYU was playing a nothing game against New Mexico State while Utah, already out of bowl contention, was playing a meaningless game at Colorado. Meanwhile, the only interesting game was Utah State's bid to become an outright conference champion for the first time in 76 years.
Yet they all came through for me. By Sunday morning I was thinking: Where's the videographer for this stuff? They needed to make these into movies.
As it turned out, BYU quarterback James Lark made the first start of his career, on his last regular-season game, and threw six touchdown passes.
This is how "Rudy" should have ended. In the film about Notre Dame's Rudy Ruettiger, he only played a down or two and made one tackle, yet ended up living out his dream. Lark also languished on the sidelines for an entire career, hoping for a chance. But in his case, he threw six touchdown passes.
Now that's a Rudy moment.
If they really did carry Rudy off on their shoulders, as the movie says, BYU should have whisked Lark away in a helicopter. It was that good. A guy waits patiently and uncomplainingly, then rocks out when his moment arrives.
He ended with 34-50 passing for 384 yards and no interceptions, telling reporters, "It's something I've been waiting for my whole life. I'm just happy."
Yeah, me too.
I'm always happy when good stories happen.
Lark waited as Jake Heaps came and went, after the job had become Riley Nelson's. But when Nelson stalled due to injuries, the job briefly became Taysom Hill's. Still no Lark. Hill got hurt so the starting job again became Nelson's.
Finally, when Nelson again got hurt, the job became Lark's by default.
Cue the Whitney Houston soundtrack; it was indeed a moment in time.
Also last weekend was the story of the 5-7 Utes. Not simply because they rallied to beat Colorado in a thriller, but because return man Reggie Dunn took a fourth-quarter kick back 100 yards for a touchdown. That gives him four transcontinental trips this season and five for his career. Both are college football records.
I've seen great returners like Erroll Tucker, Vai Sikahema, "Popcorn" Rodgers and Steve Smith, but none got more than one 100-yard return in a season and some never even got that. Even though Dunn is on a five-win team, he's someone I'd tune in to watch. After he breaks a scoring run, he first credits God and teammates, which isn't unusual among athletes. But it's still nice that he acknowledges someone beyond himself.
Seems to me Dunn has a gift for seeing the whole field, so to speak.31 comments on this story
Then there are the Aggies winning the WAC and gaining a Potato Bowl invitation. This is a team that lost two fine running backs (Michael Smith, Robert Turbin) and a star linebacker (Bobby Wagner) to the NFL. What do the Aggies do? They win 10 games for the first time in school history. Two more field goals and they would have been undefeated.
For perhaps the first time since the early 1960s, they were the best team with the best story in the state, a top-20 team.
So I'm going to hand it to them all. They gave me a reason to keep watching at the end of the season, even when it should have been massively boring. Lark, Dunn, Aggies, thanks for the entertainment.
All I really expected from last weekend was an excuse to rake the leaves.