Snow College's national championship hopes were dashed Saturday. The Badgers' dream season was spoiled.
And though she made things quite interesting and slippery by coating the Rice-Eccles Stadium field for the first half, Mother Nature wasn't the culprit.
The Butler did it.
With all the white, fluffy stuff on the turf, it seemed like a perfect day for Snow. But it was the Grizzlies from Butler Community College of El Dorado, Kan., who won the Snow Bowl (a.k.a. the Zions Bank Top of the Mountains Bowl Classic), walloping the Badgers 56-27.
Beau Johnson led the 12-0 Grizzlies to the win that all but assures second-ranked Butler of its fifth NJCAA title, pending the final poll. The sophomore running back, who's being recruited by the likes of Kansas, Oklahoma State and TCU, punished Snow's highly touted defense for 233 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
"He's a good one. We kept him in and then he would bounce out," said Snow coach Steve Coburn. "He does a good job of running their offense. Everything was set up to take him out of the game, and he stepped up to the challenge."
Johnson scored three of his touchdowns in the second half and Butler racked up 315 of its 504 total yards when the field was actually visible. Both teams slipped and slid on a completely snow-covered surface during a storm in the first half.
"I just want to credit my offensive line ... because they made a lot of holes for me," said Johnson, who was named his team's offensive MVP for the bowl. "They just made it easy for me to run. I just ran to daylight."
With Butler leading 21-13, the stadium crew plowed the field at halftime, and that act alone might put them on the Grizzlies' Christmas card list.
Johnson busted loose for an 80-yard touchdown run just a minute into the second half. That was quickly followed by a Snow punt and a 64-yard TD catch for Wayne Bonner from Mike Garrison, who had three TD tosses, putting Butler ahead 35-13 at 11:07 of the third quarter.
Snow couldn't claw back in the second half as Butler's offensive and defensive lines dominated.
"I do think that was the big difference in the game," said Butler coach Troy Morrell of the quick scores. "Coming right out of the locker room and scoring two big ones like that is great for momentum."
The loss ended a crazy week for the 11-1 Badgers, who suffered a huge setback when three players were arrested for burglary and arson. Snow also dealt with rumors about its coach being named as a possible candidate for the open SUU job.
Still, Coburn, whose team won another WSFL title and held the No. 1 ranking most of the year, called it "an awesome season."
"We expect to be back here again next year," he said. "They're a good football team. ... We just didn't answer the bell on a couple of plays."
For most of the game, the Badgers' offense looked like it slid off the road into a snow bank. Playing without injured running back Soni Sotele, the fourth-leading rusher in the NJCAA, and against a tough Butler defense, the Snow offense was held in check and committed four turnovers.
Sophomore defensive lineman Markus White, the NJCAA sacks leader who's being recruited by Florida State and Miami, spearheaded Butler's defense. He had eight tackles, with one sack and a hurry, as the Grizzlies held the Badgers 100 yards below their usual offensive output and well below their 44.6-point scoring average.
With Sotele dressed but sidelined with a calf injury, Niu Takai got the bulk of the carries for Snow. He was the bright spot offensively, rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Jon Eastman struggled to find any rhythm. He threw three picks, including one on the 5-yard line as Snow was attempting a fourth-quarter comeback, and finished with 250 yards and two TDs on 19-for-35 passing.
"We went out here, we put it all together (and) we showed them that we could stop them," White said. "They didn't get no 50 points on us, and we're just proud of it."
This is the Grizzlies' third national title in the past 12 years clinched in the Beehive State. Butler beat Dixie State College in 1999 and 2003 in the St. George-based Dixie Rotary Bowl.
But their players didn't get to throw snow balls or do snow angels to celebrate those like they did at the U. Saturday.
"It's a lifetime dream," Johnson said. "It's pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so we've just got to enjoy it."
Asked to comment about the three arrested players, Coburn declined comment."No," he said. "I'll deal with those guys next week."
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