Favorite Memories, Plays From Historic 2004, 2008 Utah Football Teams

May 10, 2020, 7:24 PM
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)...
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It has been 12 years since Utah football busted the BCS for the second time in 2008 and 16 years since the 2004 team won the Fiesta Bowl.

To this day, players have very fond memories from those two teams that finished their respective seasons undefeated.

In 2004, Utah went a perfect 12-0 with a win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl and in 2008, Utah finished 13-0 with a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Former Utah running back Quinton Ganther, defensive back Eric Weddle from the 2004 team along with 2008 quarterback Brian Johnson and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester joined KSL Sports for “The Great Ute Debate: ’04 vs. ’08.”

The Great Ute Debate

Utah Football 2004 v. 2008 Eric Weddle, Stevenson Sylvester, Quinton Ganther and Brian Johnson are here to debate the greatest Utah Football team of all time.

Posted by KSL Sports on Thursday, April 30, 2020

The four Utah players took a stroll down memory lane and talked about their favorite memories and plays from their special season.

Favorite 2004 Memories/Plays

Ganther’s first season with the Utes was in 2004 when he transferred from junior college. His experience was unique from the other players.

“That was the hardest training camp I have ever been a part of in my life,” Ganther said. “I was second guessing football. I was coming from junior college and I had no idea what training camp was so this was my first training camp ever. It was brutal and physical but well worth it.”

When it comes to a favorite play in 2004, for Ganther, it was against Air Force when he made a statement that he was Utah’s running back now and in the future.

“One of my favorite plays was a run I had against Air Force,” Ganther mentioned. “It was special to me because I wasn’t getting a lot of playing time at the beginning of the game because Marty (Johnson) was getting a lot of playing time and in my opinion, I felt like I was the much better back at the time. I got my first or second carry and I ran three guys over and let everyone know that I am here and don’t forget about me. I was making a statement that I was the guy.”

Players in the past have told stories about how difficult a training camp from Urban Meyer can be. But for Eric Weddle, it was competing at a high level.

“All of us have one thing in common among other things is wanting to prove ourselves,” Weddle said. “I can go on and on about ruffling feathers of the older guys just doing things my way and trying to compete at all times. That’s what separates the good ones from the great ones. The way we competed, the way we got after it in practice, it accumulated to success on the field. But, that brotherhood, we are all still as close as ever and in all parts of the country. The minute we call or text each other, we pick up right away. That’s ultimately what the game has brought to us is the relationships and friendships that last a lifetime.”

Weddle made a lot of big plays for the Utes in his career and had a major impact on the 2004 defense for Utah. But, his favorite play wasn’t one that me made himself. It was a play that happened against BYU.

“My favorite play wasn’t a play that I made but it was against BYU,” Weddle stated. “It was a tight and somewhat close game. It was when Alex (Smith) did the option to the right and pitched it to (Steve) Savoy. Seeing that play and the emotion and feel the energy from the fans. You knew that we were on our way to breaking the BCS. That was a play that stuck out to me from that game and that season because we didn’t have many close games that season.”

Favorite 2008 Memories/Plays

In 2008, Brian Johnson and the Utes had many great moments. Some great comebacks in the final moments have filled the 2008 squad where the 2004 team dominated every game they played in. Johnson has been a critical part of some great moments and memories for fans in 2008.

“From the games, it would have to be the last drive against TCU. It sticks out to me on that fourth and five, out cut to Freddie Brown,” Johnson said. “Keep the drive alive and to beat the No. 10 team in the country at home. That was something that was really special. Off the field, we had such a tight bond. I enjoyed my entire collegiate experience but just being able to build some of those relationships with people that last a lifetime. That’s really special.”

Johnson had a hard time going through a specific play that stood out from his favorite from the 2008 season.

“It’s hard to break down to one play. But, the best moment was at Air Force,” said Johnson. “We didn’t not play well in the first half. I didn’t play well at all in the first half. We came out of halftime and then we went on a run in that second half. We ran an option play to the left on the goal line and just pitched it blind to Darrell Mack for the game winner. The other play that was my favorite was a technical play throwing a post-wheel combination against Alabama. I ripped the back shoulder seam to Bradon Godfrey on a wheel route for our second touchdown.”

What Stevenson Sylvester enjoyed from the 2008 season was how focused and locked in the team was when they were going to battle Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

“There was a lot to be taken from that season. Each play, each game was different,” Sylvester said. “We had close games and blowouts but what was consistent was our preparation. How each game felt like the same. We knew we were going to have the same output and performance. Especially in the Sugar Bowl, we were so locked in and prepared. I think that’s why we were successful in the end.”

Sylvester didn’t take long to decide his favorite moment from the 2008 season. It was the clash with TCU in one of the best wins in Utah football history.

“My favorite play was against TCU. That last drive after BJ (Brian Johnson) and Freddie (Brown) connected in the end zone and took the lead. TCU had less than a minute left, I had an interception in my hand and I dropped it. It’s my favorite play because Robert Johnson ended up making it (the play). I know both teams were No. 10 and 11 in the country but it really felt like a top five matchup.”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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Favorite Memories, Plays From Historic 2004, 2008 Utah Football Teams