SALT LAKE CITY – If you’ve seen “The Rules of
Attraction,” you know what the best part of the movie was.
No, not James Van Der Beek with his shirt off. It was that funny gay guy who appeared midway through and disappeared about 10 minutes later.
Though he was only on screen for a short time, that guy had the funniest line of the movie (“Drunk … I’m drunk,” which was repeated several times on the drive to Utah) and essentially made my $6 worthwhile.
Such was the case at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, where two supporting characters stole the show.
That’s right. I’m talking about the punters.
If the punters hadn’t come to play, Saturday’s game would have been about as intriguing as the drive through southern Wyoming. I have to extend on this:
Ever want to be surrounded by everything and nothing, all at the same time? Take I-80 west. Nature will be all around you – in its ugliest forms.
Rock formations abound look like they were poured from a Wendy’s frosty machine. Arid brush screaming silently for death. Every turnoff displaying more truck stops than houses.
It is a windy desert without any sand. The entire landscape looks stolen straight from Tatooine. No wonder Luke Skywalker wanted out of this place so bad – it’s crap-tastic!
But I digress.
CSU punter Joey Huber provided a much-needed jump start to the Rams’ slumping special teams units by putting together his first consistent performance of the year (and, according to him, of his career).
In the fourth quarter, with Utah mounting a charge to get back in the game, Huber sent the pigskin into orbit, drilling a 72-yard missle to the Utah three-yard line. Singlehandedly, Huber had turned the game’s momentum.
On the other side of the ball, following two colossal shanks from regular punter Brian Lewis, Utah decided to go on the attack, using safety Morgan Scalley on a fourth down option. When snapped, Scalley would try to run for the first down. If he couldn’t get it, he’d kick it. He tried this six times and made it three.
Desperate times call for desperate meaures, and these were the coolest fourth downs I had ever seen.
The punters (or safeties, as it were) had made the game fun. They turned fourth down from an automatic gimme into an exciting play, which is more than could be said about the bulk of the contest.
Early on, the Rams got up 14-0, but it didn’t feel like they were on the verge of domination.
The Utes then pulled to within 14-7, but it didn’t feel like they would come back. The game was close at half, 21-7, but hardly anyone besides the players seemed to feel the intensity.
Maybe it was because this game was, once upon a time, supposed to be for the Mountain West championship. Maybe a hearty dose of tailgating had left most of the announced “paid” attendance of 34,374 a little tired. Or maybe, just maybe, it was that average of a game.
In the first half, only the punters stood out from the crowd. The second half seemed to wake people up, but the punters were the ones drawing the most attention.
There were a lot of efforts, a lot of plays and a few story lines. Problem was there were no superlative efforts, no outstanding plays, no fascinating story lines.
Besides several fourth downs, it wasn’t until the game’s final series – an electric goal-line stand by the Rams’ defense – that I felt any real excitement about this game.
And even as Utah had drawn nearer to tying the score, all I could do was roll my eyes and say, “Here we go again,” like this was commonplace.
I realize now our Rams have succeeded in providing intensity inflation. Scarcity breeds value, and for CSU, close games are anything but scarce.
While the weekly “Rams make it close then hang on for victory” storyline had me drifting, it was the punters who drew me back, who made the game intense again, who gave me the kick in the pants I needed.
Punters will never be lead characters, but on any given game day, they CAN be like that funny gay guy who turns the movie around.
“Drunk … I’m drunk.”