John Beck’s account of the final 2006 drive.
I got a text from Quinn asking me if I would write a little bit about 2006’s final drive. Detailing my thougts and feelings on the final drive. I think for the rest of my life whenever it is the BYU vs Utah week I will always be reminded of that game in 2006. Even as I sit here typing, I have above me on a shelf the ball I took the final knee with. I wanted the ball that Johnny caught, but I don’t know if anybody knows where that ball currently resides. I just held on to the next best thing.
Well where do I begin.
When Dan Coats caught the touchdown on the goal line off of the play action I really thought that was the go ahead TD that would seal the game. Although Utah had a good amount of time left on the clock with the ball in their hands I believed our defense would hold the Utah offense and we would be back out on the field to run the clock out.
Yet, because of past games in my career I hesitated for a moment because there are so many crummy variables that every game is filled with. I knew that the offense needed to keep their heads in the game. Understand that our last TD wasn’t close to being the final play of the game. If we had to go out there and get a first down to seal the game or put another drive together we needed to be ready. I remember I was walking the sideline and I found Jake Kuresa and told him that we needed to make sure everyone was mentally prepared for whatever could happen.
After refocusing the offense I turned my attention to the defense.
There was a play where Aaron Wagner almost intercepted a pass to end it. I remember it played out in slow motion to my eyes because I knew that could have sealed the deal. When it wasn’t caught I had a feeling that Utah kind of got a second life. At that point I knew the offense was going to need to be ready. When Utah started getting some plays in big chunks my first thought was, “you’ve got to be kidding me. There’s no way it can end like this.” We had been in games over those last few years that had ended so crazy and somehow we ended up losing. To that point there had only been a few games where we had come from behind to win, but for many of us we remembered games like Stanford in 03, Boise St., UNLV and NM in 04, TCU, Utah and Cal in 05, and Arizona and BC in 06. Games where we fought so hard to get right there to win and in some cases even scored what we thought was the game winning score, but somehow still fell short.
When they continued to move the field I went back to the offense and said it looked like we are going to have to get ready to go into our two-minute offense and we would probably need to score. The best thing about that moment was nobody looked at me like “you think so” or “really”, they just nodded and said OK.
Moments later Utah hit that screen play for the TD and the stadium erupted. Looking back I’m glad that we got together as an offense before they scored because in our minds we were already prepared for what we needed to do. When Utah scored there was no quick rally needed. From that point until we took the field no words where needed, we were simply focused on the task at hand. Each person in their own way had already mentally prepared themselves for the final drive.
The last Thought I had was, ” I’m not going home with the game ending like this.”
Before games Matt Allen and I used to joke around and say “let’s just go out there, win this one, go home happy and kiss our wives.” At that point in the game , for whatever reason, that phrase was also what was being repeated in my head. I wanted to make sure I went home with the game ending with us on top. So after Curtis Brown returned the kick Coach Anae got the offense together on the side and basically said. “it was a two minute situation and we needed a touchdown to win.” I can remember glancing at the clock knowing we had over a minute and just running through all our two minute rules. No sacks, if you need to use a time out, get out of bounds to stop the clock, when do we take time outs and when do we want to spike it, than we took the field.
There are certain plays in that drive that stick out to me as key plays.
First was the catch by Bryce Mahuika. Bryce did a great job of avoiding a tackler and picking up an extra 5 yards and in 2 minute offense, every yard is crucial. There was also a play where I checked down to CB and he made a few guys miss to get out of bounds. That “fight” in Curtis to shed those tacklers is what gave us the few extra seconds we needed at the end.
On the fourth down to Johnny I could tell that the Utah student section had come down on the field thinking that they were going to rush the field when the play ended. I just kept my mind on my reads and knew if they rushed two or three men I wouldn’t have to force anything and I would be able to move defenders with my eyes and feet and make a play to keep the drive going.
As it turned out they only rush a three, so I had the time to move defenders and it opened up Johnny in the middle for the fourth down conversion.
The big play to McKay Jacobsen was really what set us up for the final completion. When we lined up for that play I knew I would have to squeeze the ball in a tight window, but if I could hold the nickel defender with my eyes, using Johnny to pull him towards the middle, McKay could push the defense vertical, break his route of sharpe and we would be able to pick up the yardage we needed.
McKay did a great job of feeling the hole and settling and the play worked, just as I had imagined.
The next play I took a shot to Johnny on a fade, because Johnny had man to man coverage. He had been winning all night and they left him matched up on another defender besides Weddle. I thought it would be a sure thing. The defender made a great play so we were down to 3 seconds and the last play.
We called a timeout and went to the sideline to discuss what we wanted to do. When they had played man-to-man the play before Zac Collie and been open in the back of the end zone. We thought if they went with the same coverage Zac could get open again for the score. If Zac wasn’t open, or they went to a different coverage we would just read out the three receiver side and find the open man.
When we took the field CB was the first to ask me what I wanted him to do. I just said if I don’t get the ball off quick just try to get open somewhere in the end zone. When we got closer to the line Johnny asked the same thing, I told him to “run a fade again, but if the fade isn’t there find a way to get open when I’m scrambling.”
When I got to the line I surveyed the defense and recognized that there was no way they could play man coverage in their presnap alignments. I knew they were going to drop 9 or 10 into coverage.
That is when my thoughts took me back to the quarterback meeting room in November of 2005. I know all of those close losses -which I mentioned earlier- were tough for a lot of BYU fans, but I also know that there’s no way anyone had a harder time swallowing them than I did.
I hated losing! I couldn’t take another lose… and I wouldn’t.
After the 05 loss to Utah I decided I would sit down at the computer in the QB room with a pad of paper and the game film and make a list of all the things I could have done differently to insure our team wins that game in overtime. Especially on the last play. I remember closing my eyes with my hands on the remote thinking of every possible scenario, decision, even steps that I could have made to win that game.
I don’t even remember how long I was in that room but when I walked out with a sheet full of ways to win. I felt that if I was presented with a similar scenario, I knew exactly what I needed to do.
As I stood on the 15 yard line and glanced up at the clock, then back down to the defense and my teammates, I took a deep breath and had a feeling like I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew from their alignment they were only going to rush a couple -it was just like the year before. I knew I would just buy as much time as I could with my feet and throw the ball only when I found an open guy.
When I was shuffling left pointing, I knew I would eventually find an open receiver because they were working so hard to get open. My receivers where running all over and the Utah defenders where stationary, I knew we had them.
After the snap when Johnny and Zac were covered, it turned into a school yard play. Where you tell everyone to “get open and I’ll find you”.
When they brought the LB to put more pressure it forced me right and I felt everyone move right. I knew I was going to need to locate the initial rusher to determine how much time I was going to have before I needed to throw it.
It was than that I saw this one white jersey cutting through the flow. I knew if he could get through the clutter he would be open. I took a few more steps to my rigth, as I saw him clear the last defender, I let it loose.
As I jumped to throw it I knew it was going to be a touchdown. When I was on my back looking through my legs I saw Johnny go to his knees -and for a second I thought, what if the throw wasn’t long enough and he’s on his knees out of the endzone!!
But when there was a huge roar and I saw Johnny get up to he’s feet in celebration I knew we had done it. I ran straight to my line and jumped up on Travis Bright. It was pandemonium. BYU fans, reporters, cameras were all in the mix, I was wondering how so many BYU fans got the field so quickly?
There was a moment during that celebration where I was hoisted on my teammates shoulders and I got to hold my helmet up towards our fans -kind of sounds like that part from Nacho Libre when he says ” do you remember when I ripped my blouse. That’s a moment I will always remember because of the effort that went into the performance.
I grew up on an old tape called “Greatest Moments In BYU Football History”. I would gather the neighborhood kids and have them watch the beginning of the tape to fire them up before we played pick up games in the street in front of my house. I actually brought that tape into the locker room at BYU and we would watch it on the TV’s.
Guys laughed because I knew the narrator’s part word for word. BYU’s tradition meant so much to me and at that moment when I held up my helmet and was on my teammates shoulders I felt lucky to be apart of another great BYU moment.
I get asked all the time about that Utah game and when did I see Johnny and how did it feel. That one play was definitely a great moment and one I will always remember, but to be honest it was a culmination of many things, of years of work, that made that game and that play so special to me. In that game there was a group of guys on our team, on both sides of the ball that had been through so much adversity. Through all the adversity we never lost the belief that we could do it. The road to get to that opportunity was a difficult road to travel. The thing that made it so special was that everyone was prepared. Everyone wanted it so bad because we wanted to overcome the hardships that we had been through and just go out there and win it…and we did!
On a side note:
I also get asked what Weddle and I were talking about when we were walking down the field together before I took the knee to end the game. Earlier that year, during the summer, a couple of my buddies and I were fishing at Fish Creek down by Scofield Reservoir. One of my friends was also friends with Weddle and had told Eric that he was going fishing with me that weekend. I guess Eric likes to fish also and wanted to come. I told my friend to tell him No… that I couldn’t fish with him until after the season, I wasn’t going to fish with a Ute that I was going to be playing later that year.
As Eric and I were walking towards the ball we were joking about our future fishing expedition to Scofield Reservoir and the fish we would catch.
Like all of you I hope BYU can get it done this weekend. I believe they will and I think they believe they will. Sounds to me like this one could be. . .another great moment in BYU football history!