Somebody once used a stopwatch to time all the actual action in a 60-minute football game and found that it added up to about eight minutes.
But that's not looking at football right. Maybe on the field there's only eight-plus minutes of armored assassins assaulting each other, but elsewhere there's plenty going on.Especially at the annual Utah-BYU war.
Well before the start of Saturday's contest the fans were getting their game faces on - sometimes literally, assisted by paint. Ute boosters had hung the usual banners with less-than-memorable slogans about the "Big Mac Attack" turning the Cougars into casserole, or something equally catchy. Cougar fans, who occupied nearly a fourth of the stadium, tried to put up a BYU banner, only to have a playfully irate Utah group tear it down.
The Cougar fans responded by singing the traditional farewell song to a defeated foe, "Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye," and it was still 10 minutes until game time.
Ute players were predictably pumped up for this one. Coming out of the locker room one player said, "This is it, fellas. This is our Super Bowl." They were welcomed to the bench area by ex-Ute Eddie Johnson, the hero of Utah's 1988 victory over BYU; ex-Ute Del Rodgers, who was a freshman when Utah beat BYU in 1978; U. hoop Coach Rick Majerus; and various local media types, resplendent in Ute red.
As the game started there was a marked contrast in players' attitudes. On the Ute side it was all whooping and hollering and shouts of encouragement. On the BYU side, it looked like guys punching in for another day at the office, especially when they scored on a four-play drive to make it 7-0.
Utah came back with a field goal, then tacked on a touchdown to make it 10-7, and moods were changing in a hurry. The Utes' enthusiasm turned into near-pandemonium as they contemplated a major upset, and the Cougars looked frustrated. Cougar assistant coach Robbie Bosco was screaming at an official about somebody holding his halfback, and offensive line coach Roger French had a polite conversation (this is not an attempt at understatement: it actually was a polite conversation) about some other issue.
Right about then Y. cornerback Tony Crutchfield intercepted a pass and capped it with a little strut in front of the Ute bench, prompting some unkindly remarks from his opponents. Moments later BYU halfback Matt Bellini was tackled in front of the Ute bench, and somebody behaved in an unsportsmanlike fashion. Yellow flag, 15 yards, and Ute Coach Ron McBride explodes. At his team, not the refs.
Early in the second quarter the Utes cheered wildly when Detmer was hit hard after a 12-yard scramble, and cheered even more when BYU's Earl Kauffman missed a 35-yard field goal. `This is our game, Utes. This is our game," one player shouted. That missed field goal was the last thing Utah had to cheer about until well into the third quarter. By halftime it was 35-10 BYU, and the Utes had spent much of the second quarter - and their energy - complaining about officials' calls. Heading into the locker room a few Utes reminded their teammates about last week's comeback against New Mexico. `Hey, we were down by 27 last week, fellas. `We're only down 25 now." Rodgers stood at the locker-room door, patting players on the pads and saying, "Last week. Last week you did it. Last week." There wasn't much rah-rah response.
Johnson said at halftime that Utah still had a chance. "They're really fighting out there," he said. "All they need is one player to give them a spark, to step up and get it turned the other way." Asked if he was thinking of a player like himself, Johnson laughed. "Suit me up. I'm ready to go."
Nine minutes into the third quarter, Utah had added one field goal and was lining up for another. The fans booed. Their team was down by 22, and they didn't think field goals were going to cut it. Even the players looked disappointed. Ute kicker Wayne Lammle cut the lead to 19, but there was little cheering.
Fourth quarter: BYU 38, Utah 16. With six minutes left to play, the Cougars are trying to close it out with one last score. On fourth and goal at the 4-yard line, BYU calls time out. Bosco calls over backup halfback Eric Drage and whispers something to him. A few seconds later, Detmer rolls right and throws back across the field to Drage for the touchdown. The Utah band breaks out with "Hey, Baby," and Cougar defensive linemen Brad Hunter and Eddie Green compare dance steps.
Three minutes left, and Utah is at BYU's 12-yard line. A situation that would have had all the players standing to watch a couple quarters before is treated with disdain: The Ute benches are full, and most of the players are talking, not even watching the offense.
After the game, three Ute seniors - Frank Bonifacio, Bob Bonifacio and Greg Reynolds - who have played for the last time sit on the Utah emblem at midfield and reflect. Fans ask them for autographs and offer words of consolation.
"This has been a big part of my life," Frank Bonifacio said. "All I kept thinking today was that this was going to be the last time."