Utah’s 1986 Blowout Loss To Ohio State Was A Learning Experience For Scott Mitchell

Dec 9, 2021, 9:26 AM | Updated: 9:26 am
Photo: University Of Utah Archives...
Photo: University Of Utah Archives

SALT LAKE CITY – When Utah lines up to face Ohio State in the 2022 Rose Bowl it will be just the second time in school history that the Utes and Buckeyes will have faced off. The prior time was all the way back in 1986 was a 64-6 dismantling of the Utah football program.

This time around things are going to be different and while Utah is about a touchdown underdog in this game they very much have a chance to win this matchup. This Utes team has come a long way from that 58-point loss to the Buckeyes to being Pac-12 champions.

Unrivaled’s Scott Mitchell was on the sidelines for that 1986 game and it was an eye-opening experience during his freshman year in which he was redshirting. Despite not playing that year he could tell how big a deal it was from previously playing in front of small high school crowds in Springville, Utah, to 89,645 people at the Horseshoe.

“I remember back at that time at the University of Utah, 35, 36 years ago, where there wasn’t even a snowball’s chance that Utah would ever go to a Rose Bowl or ever play and compete against the Ohio State Buckeye,” Mitchell said. “It was interesting to see how my life changed and how the University of Utah’s life changed. I remember watching the players for Ohio State and a guy named Chris Spielman who was a middle linebacker. He was on a Wheaties box when he was in college. He was college football.

“Ohio State is college football, and I’m seeing all of these guys for the first time. I was so starstruck. I was so out of my element. I just said, ‘there’s no chance that we can win.’ We didn’t prepare to win. We had no shot. We had lost before we got there.”

Fast forward to 2021 and Utah is going to be sharing the field with the Buckeyes and are now more equal than ever. 

Mitchell describes how playing in that type of atmosphere and it prepared him for his NFL career that started by being drafted by the Miami Dolphins and lasted over a decade.

“I remember in my life just saying ‘because football was my life and I was just determined I’m going to do this and I’m going to figure this out, and I’m going to make it happen.’ Fortunately, I was drafted and I was able to play for 12 years in the NFL, and I had a really good career, and it was an amazing experience.”

This was a growing pains experience for the Utah program and propelled Mitchell to realize what he needed to do to make it to the next level and play football at a very elite level. 

Will Utah Get Respect From Ohio State Fans?

There will always be trash-talking in sports and the bluebloods will always think they are better than any team that is considered an upstart.

While Utah doesn’t have the same historical significance in college football, the Utes have made their mark in the sport.

Utah was the first team to crack the BCS back in 2004, plus win, have a Heisman finalist and No. 1 overall pick in Alex Smith, not only win the Sugar Bowl but soundly defeat Alabama in the 2008 season, and have gone to multiple Pac-12 title games and finally broken through.

Yet, there are some people who think the Utes are a ho-hum opponent and worthy of playing THE Ohio State University in the Rose Bowl.

We all know how the story has ended before when Utah has been left for dead or given no chance to win. That may not be the case this time but the Utes are a high-quality team nationally. The slow start and the name on the jersey might leave some to think less desirable of Utah from a Buckeyes perspective. 

It is true that it took Utah a few weeks to get rolling with a change at quarterback with Charlie Brewer being benched for Cam Rising, plus the offensive line and running backs didn’t find their stride until October.

This Utes team is peaking at the right time and the subset of Buckeye fans who are unhappy they are not playing in the College Football Playoffs or going up against a more traditional power. They will likely be in for a rude awakening when they watch this game between Utah and Ohio State.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-7 p .m. on 1280 The Zone and 97.5 FM or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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Utah’s 1986 Blowout Loss To Ohio State Was A Learning Experience For Scott Mitchell