A few days ago, Steve Coburn seemingly had it made. At least he had some serious mojo working in his favor. Not only was his Snow College football team ranked No. 1, but also playing for the national championship. Meanwhile, his name was being mentioned as a candidate for the head coaching job at Southern Utah University.
What next, his own late-night talk show?
But quickly, the weather changed in more ways than one.
"It's been tough. I remember a couple of weeks ago I rolled over in bed and I had this big smile on my face," said Coburn. "Then on Thursday those smiles went away."
Nobody ever said life's a bowl of cherries, but does it need to be an ice-ball to the noggin?
Snow's bid for a national title ended with a 56-27 loss to Butler Community College in the Top of the Mountains Bowl at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.
Coburn said he fully expects his team to return next year.
Same time, same stakes, different blizzard.
"We'll just reload," Coburn said after the game. "You'll have to come see us again next year."
The problems started Thursday, when Coburn learned three players had been booked into Sanpete County Jail in connection with a series of small business burglaries. Among the allegations: they broke into the Splish Splash Car Wash and The Malt Shop in Ephraim.
What, ShoShack was closed for the winter?
Coburn immediately suspended the players.
"It's tough," said Coburn, "when your kids work so hard to get where they are and then a couple of kids aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. That's the most difficult."
So Snow ended up playing the game without Troy Cummings, Stephon Thrash and Andrew Castaneda.
Truth is, the Badgers probably wouldn't have won if they'd had Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the Incredible Hulk available. The nation's second-ranked defense gave up scoring passes of 31, 64 and 36 yards, as well as an 80-yard scoring run. The trouble started when Snow had a PAT blocked early in the second quarter, leaving the Badgers with a one-point deficit.
Turned out that didn't matter a bit.
"We expected that kind of (final) score, but we expected it on the other side," said Coburn.
The loss ended what was an up-and-down week for Coburn and the Badgers. They were playing essentially a home game, in front of largely friendly fans, fully expecting to win their second national title. Snow's only championship came in 1985, when TOMB bowl executive director Kevin White was playing quarterback for the Badgers. Things seemed in place to finally repeat.
The Badgers spent Thursday and Friday nights in Salt Lake, preparing for the game. A Friday bowl banquet went off nicely, with the teams hearing from various dignitaries not the least being former BYU coach LaVell Edwards.
But even a visit from the master himself couldn't hold off the looming trouble. The first clue their week was going south was the arrests. Then the air turned cold. By Saturday morning, snow was everywhere. At kickoff, the skies were full-on dumping.
Though the Badgers trailed by just eight at halftime, it took Butler only a few minutes to go ahead 42-20.
It was all over but the awards ceremony.
For Coburn and his players, the loss hurt, but the apparent betrayal by teammates seemed to hurt even worse.
"They were guys we really needed," said running back Niu Takai, who led the team with 112 yards and two touchdowns.
In both cases, the news was both harsh and unexpected. The nation's second-ranked defense allowed 56 points and 504 yards. Likewise, the nation's No. 2 scoring offense totaled 16 points below its average.
The best news of the day for Snow came when the weather subsided in the fourth quarter.Maybe it was sign to Coburn that somewhere on the other side of the gloom, there was a sun after all.
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