2008 Utah Sugar Bowl Team Believes They Are The Best In Program History

Jun 4, 2021, 3:12 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 3:19 pm
Utah Utes Sugar Bowl...
The Utah Utes celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 31-17 during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s a debate that will linger on for years but the 2008 Sugar Bowl team believes they are the best in Utah football history.

The debate has always centered around whether the 2004 Fiesta Bowl team or the 2008 Sugar Bowl squad is the best in Utah football program history.

Members of the 2008 team joined the Crimson Corner via stream on Friday morning and brought up the discussion. KSL Sports had six players join in two groups that was hosted by myself and Stevenson Sylvester. The first group featured former Utah DE Derrick Shelby, linebacker Mike Wright and safety Robert Johnson. In the second group was former Utah offensive lineman Robert Conley and cornerback R.J. Stanford.

Sugar Bowl Champs Make Case For Best Team In Utah Football History

On Thursday, Derrick Shelby sent out a tweet to promote the stream and made a statement in his post.

“Tomorrow we revisit ‘The Best’ Utah football season of all time,” Shelby tweeted.

He was asked to make his case for that statement during the stream.

I think for me, honestly, look at the number of the players that went on to play at the next level,” Shelby said. “If you add Alex Smith, Eric Weddle, you got some all-pros. But I mean (for 2008), Koa (Misi), (Paul) Kruger, Sly (Stevenson Sylvester), Rojo (Robert Johnson), RJ (Stanford), David Reed, (Zane) Beadles, (Caleb) Schladeraff. Go down the line, I’m telling you.”

Robert Johnson made his case as well.

“Their offense was very powerful,” Johnson stated. “The offense was putting up points. You had Eric Weddle that was a defensive player that was putting up points too. But in reality, I felt like our defense can match up with anybody that anybody lined up on other side. Because even even that Sugar Bowl year, I mean, I wanted Florida really bad. I felt like defensively, we wanted Florida, because we felt in our heart that Tim Tebow and that offense was very powerful. But we wanted to show coach Whitt (Whittingham) that we had his back about who’s the best coach. But defensively going against that ’04 team, I’m 100 percent sure that we would have won that game. I’m not saying that we were gonna dominate it, we would have slowed that offense down. The offense was very good, but we would have slowed them down and that’s all you need is to slow it down. We played a lot of bend but don’t break defense that whole season. There was a lot of times that a lot of those games felt like we can lose either way. But we felt like defensively, if we’re the last person on the field, we could definitely win the game.”

Stevenson Sylvester joined his teammates and made his case.

“As far as the ’04/’08 matchup I do think we are the better team,” Sylvester said. “We tried to settle it last year with (Eric) Weddle and Quinton (Ganther). But, it’s all about matchups. I think our defense definitely matched up well against that offense. I think Alex Smith is a definite talent, but our defensive line would have been able to put some pressure on him. I think Robert Johnson was one of the best safeties, I played in the NFL with some really amazing people, but his ability to play the post, I don’t think there was anybody ever better to play it. So we would have played to that advantage. I think we had the advantage on defense, our offense too. I think we would have put them in a position to be vulnerable. I do think that it would’ve been a close game, but I definitely think that we are the best team in Utah football history. So 2008 will forever go down as that. I hope we started something at that point.”

Sylvester joined “The Great Ute Debate” in April of 2020 as he and quarterback Brian Johnson represented the 2008 team, while Eric Weddle and Quinton Ganther represented the 2004 team.

2008 Team Hopes Utah Will Have A Team That Is Better Than Them

Both R.J. Stanford and Stevenson Sylvester have respect for what the 2004 team did by going undefeated and winning the Fiesta Bowl. They believe fans and players should pay homage to them.

“We definitely have to pay homage to that 2004 team,” Stanford said. “They paved the way, they were the trail blazers, they were the smaller school that was still beating up on the bigger schools or the bigger names at the time. It provided a way for guys like me, Sly and the rest of guys that were on to actually come to the school and continue to build off of that reputation that Utah was building from 2004. We definitely give respect to those guys. They passed the torch and we did what we were supposed to do. I think the next team, the year after, you know, the 2022, 2023 team, they should pass the torch and just continue to improve and get better. Hopefully, there’ll be another team like us. I mean, we’re unique, but at least pass the torch on and make it a better place than where they found it.”

“I feel like we evolved and we’re better and I hope these Utah football teams that are going now are better than us,” Sylvester mentioned. “You know, that’s what we as alumni hope and wish.”

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2008 Utah Sugar Bowl Team Believes They Are The Best In Program History