'Everyone's thinking Fiesta Bowl'
Editor's Note: Darryl Poston might only be 21 years old, but he's already experienced a lifetime of college football. He's played for two schools, redshirted, fought back from multiple injuries, participated in a bowl game and even played against the school he now plays for.
The running back from Huntington Beach, Calif., began his career with USC in 2001, but transferred to Utah this May. An LCL injury ended 2004 his season, so Poston will not suit up for the Utes' regular season finale against archrival BYU on Saturday. However, he will be on the sidelines for the game and will provide ESPN.com with a unique inside look at the Utes' annual in-state battle with the Cougars.
Poston's look at the Utes' program begins with inside observations on Utah's season, coach Urban Meyer, QB Alex Smith and preparations for the BYU game. He will also take us through game day from a players' perspective and provide updates from the field from the time the Utes arrive through the final gun.
Utah 52, BYU 21 -- Unbelieveable
It's ridiculous. What a way to cap the night with defensive lineman Steve Fifita, all 6-feet, 311pounds of him, scoring the last touchdown. Funny thing is I played against him in high school and he was actually a running back then. The coaches just tried out Fifita in goal-line package in practice last week. It was funny. Guys were joking about it. We didn't know.
It's so exciting. Now, it's time to watch the fans take down the goal posts. The celebration is on. It's going to be fun tonight. I'm so happy for the team.
I'm sure we'll take a little bit of time to enjoy this, but not too much. Coach Meyer and the staff we'll start preparing will for the next game. Like we always do.
GameDay: It's Really Happening
7:45: We're up 45-21 with 10:34 left, the crowd's chanting "BCS ... BCS ... BCS." Everyone is fired up, everyone's thinking Fiesta Bowl. It's finally kicking in. Everyone is excited on the sideline, everyone is hugging and there are nothing but smiles in the stands. Some guy just even proposed on the JumboTron and the lady accepted.
Realistically, what are the chances somehting like this could happen, that a non-BCS team be on the verge of making it one of the big games? Like I said, it all goes back to the coaching, the hard work and the support we get in the community. There's no better place -- and this is coming from a guy who started at USC. This school teaches everything from core values to commitment to work ethics. Coming to Utah is a decision I'd never second-guess.
GameDay: A Good Start
7:15: "We've worked too hard." That's what Coach Meyer said at halftime. And he's right. We're the hardest working team in America and that is what was emphasized. After all that work in the summer and spring, we can't go halfway.
Maybe all we needed was that positive reinforcement at halftime. We look like a different team. Scoring the first 10 points after halftime is big. And you can bet we won't be the team that tires. Games are cake compared to our practices.
Our main motivator Scalley is back in the game now too. He's our heart and soul.
I plan on seeing a nice score at the end of the game.
GameDay: Feeling Better Already
6:30: That successful fake punt should liven us up. It already feels like we're back in the game. Sometimes it takes that kind of play to get things going. But don't think that it's lucky. We work on trick plays all the time. In fact, players often stay after practice to work on them. Trick plays are great, but you don't want them to blow up on you. Like everything else here, it's an example of how the execution and hard work can pay off.
It should be interesting to see what happens at halftime. This is a close game (Utah leading 21-14), which is something we're really not used to. I'm sure both the offensive and defensive coordinators will make some adjustments. Talk to you again during the third quarter.
GameDay: Closer The Expected
6:00: This is not what I expected. I'm kind of speechless. I didn't think it would be this close. We're waiting for our offense to wake up. Or warm up might be more appropriate. It's cold. Very cold. California guys like me are not used to this. Any way, our defense is playing well even with Scalley suffering from a concussion. Our offense just needs to find some confidence. Since this is such a big rivalry, the tight game probably shouldn't be a surprise.
GameDay: Waiting For Alex
5:15: When the game started, everyrbody here was just waiting for Alex to come up with a big play. It was surprising to all of us when it didn't happen in the first series. In fact, we were all kinda looking around and thinking "What's going on here ... we usually score the first time we have the ball?" But it's a big game and BYU plays a 3-3-5 defense, which is tough to play against. So we shouldn't have been too concerned.
We finally got things crankin' on that TD drive. The amazing thing about that was converting both the fourth-and-one and fourth-and-two to score. We have so much confidence in short-yardage and goal-line packages. Just watch, we'll go for it every time in that situation.
Next time we get the ball, look for Alex to make a big play.
GameDay: Senior Day
4:55: Just before the game when Coach Meyer was addressing the team, you could see that he was about to cry when he was mentioning the seniors. It's a group that is going to be hard to replace. They set the standard here and like Coach Meyer said, they're the best in the nation.
It's always tough when the seniors take the field for Senior Day. It's their last Mountain West conference game and it's funny how the rest of us stand out there and feel sad because we know it's about to end for them. The thing that everyone is going to remember about these guys is that they're team guys.
GameDay: The "Utah Experience"
4:30: The guys are still being rowdy on the field. That's usually good. I know I always tried to be rowdy in warmups. It's a great way to extinguish nervousness. All the yelling from the crowd only helps.
The cornerbacks are going through their backpedal and wrap drills. The running backs are executing swing patterns. At this point everything is done at about 75-80 percent. The guys will also go through a couple of plays which we will run in the first quarter.
Everything that started this summer with "Utah Experience" is about to reach the biggest game of the year. Coach Meyer brings former players and coaches to talk to us about the importance of the BYU game. In fact, one former player got us so fired up that I was ready to play right then. The guy next to me jumped up and shouted "I want to hit. I want to hit." That former player now has an open invitation to address us before games.
It will get more calm when we head to the locker room for some last words from the staff. A lot of our players our spiritual. Many will take the time to meditate or pray. It's usually good to settle down a little bit. If you are too hyped at the first of the game, it's easy to lose focus.
I expect to hear from senior free safety Morgan Scalley in the locker room. He is all about business and this is his final game here. Scalley was one of the players who really accepted Coach Meyer's philosophy. I expect him to fire us up. I'll let you know what happened a little later.
GameDay: Loosening up a little
4:15: The team seems to be loosening up a little bit. That usually happens when guys start to hit the field to warmup. The special teams units go out first. I'd be out there with them over in the corner catching kickoffs, if I wasn't injured. Next come the passing drills -- short, long and medium routes.
The rest of the team comes out at specific times. Everything is choreographed by the coaches, but it's a great time for the players. You start to get rowdy. If you were tight, things loosen up. Players fall into their routines.
You get out there and mess around, play catch and look at the crowd. It's always a great feeling. I'm amazed every time I hit the field. I'm just so happy to be there. Most of the other players feel the same way. You look around at the scene and just thank God.
GameDay: Serious stuff
3:15: My team has just filed into the locker room. It's amazing. I've never seen a team look so serious. Free safety Morgan Scalley just walked by and did he have a look on his face. I definitely wouldn't want to face him today. It's ridiculous how serious everyone is. The coaches have that look too. You know, just very focused.
This must be one great rivalry. Even when I was at USC, I never saw a team look like this before a game. I had no idea how intense the Utah-BYU rivalry was. Some of the looks in here border on hatred.
I saw the highlights of the fight between Detroit and Indiana last night and then some of the South Carolina-Clemson fight. Hopefully, everyone here will have enough class that it doesn't happen here. If it does, I guarantee that we won't be the ones to start it. The closer we get to the game, the more I wish I was playing. I'll check back with you in a little while.
GameDay: Life in the locker room
2:40 p.m.: Well, I've made it to the locker room here at Rice-Eccles Stadium. We're just in here listening to Snoop Dogg and dancing around. Basically having a good old time. It's not like USC where Snoop actually shows up. That kind of stuff goes down all the time in L.A.
Right now it's just the non-traveling squad in the locker room. These guys are suiting up for the game. The vibe is mellow. You can sense a little pregame nervousness. But that is not unique to this situation. That's just part of the normal routine for a football player. The walk-ons are the ones that don't seem nervous, probably because they know it's unlikely that they will hit the field. Those guys are full of energy and pumping everyone up.
Hopefully, we'll play the perfect game and blow BYU out. I really wish I could be in there today. I'll check back with you a little later. If you have any questions about what a player does on game day, send in a question to the GameDay Live chat. I'll be in there later to answer some of them.
Noon (Mountain time): I'm sitting here relaxing with my roommates before heading over to the stadium at around 2. It's started to snow here in Salt Lake City. People are probably wondering if that will effect the players. Well, our attitude is that it could be worse -- a lot worse. In fact, it was about two weeks ago during one of our practices. The temperature was only around 20 or 30 degrees and it was raining. We endured that during the entire two or three hour practice. Snow can be bad, but let me tell you that cold and rain is much worse. I'll check back in with you when I hit the stadium.
Friday -- Classes and Meetings
Friday's before the game always start with classes in the morning. That part is really hard, though, especially before the BYU game, because the players are so focused. After taking care of that business, the players head over to the football center about 2:30. We have meetings, make sure substitutions are correct and sound, participate in run-throughs, walk-throughs and clap drills.
Clap drills are basically substitution procedures. Like if someone gets hurt, we make sure we know who will take his place. Then, we will walk-through our first 15 plays, which are scripted for us.
We also have tests during our meetings. We get a play and a coach will call on a player who has to call out his assignment. For example, a running back will quizzed about blocking assignments. If the Mike or Sam linebacker comes, you identify who picks him up. It's very important and we go through players from every position. The linemen are in the front, then the quarterback and backs. The quarterback will set the cadence and then a player will be called on.
Then it's off to the hotel for more meetings and a lot of eating. Coach (Matt) Balis, the strength and conditioning coach, comes around to make sure everyone is hydrated. Next comes the highlight film from the previous game to get us all hyped up. This week we'll see the highlight film from the Wyoming game. That was a strange game with the delay because of the power failure. No one really complained about the delay. However, when the guys came back, they did complain about the cold. Nobody wants to go back there any time soon.
Light's out is usually around 10 p.m. I won't be going to the hotel this time, since I'm injured. I'll meet back up with the team at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 2:45 p.m and frequently update you with day's events from that point on. They will have been through more clap drills and, of course, more food in the morning before arriving at the stadium.
When injuries ended my career at USC, I decided to investigate transfer opportunities. With the help of my high school coach, my list was narrowed to five schools. USC coach Norm Chow, who I really respect, suggested that I check out Utah. When I came out to Salt Lake City, I was totally surprised by the senior leadership and the work ethic. One of the main reasons I decided to come to Utah was that I wanted to play to the best of my ability. After my visit, I knew that this was the place where the coaches, conditioning and the school would not only help me be the best player I could be, but also the person I could be.
When I was a freshman at USC, we played against Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl and they totally tore us apart. We thought we were just going to run all over them, but that wasn't the case at all. It's kind of crazy to think about now. I still see guys around here wearing T-shirts from that game.
This year has been incredible. The players and the team are excited. A non-BCS team is on the verge of making a BCS game. I'm sitting here trying to figure out when our movie is coming out. Personally it's a little different. I'm kind of outside looking in. I go to team meetings and support the team, but it's sad that I can't support the team with my play on the field.
However, the team does a great job including me in everything. I'm excited for the team and love the fact that the Fiesta Bowl is a real possibility. It's exciting. I'm happy for the coaches because they deserve it. Coach Urban Meyer is just great.
It's funny. OK, confession time -- at first I didn't buy into his whole mentality. He's so serious and he gets onto players for the smallest things. But then you realize that those small things really count during a game. Practices are harder than games here. It's ridiculous.
Here's an example. I got yelled at every day in practice because my discipline was not what it should have been. During a kickoff, I was running down my lane, but I was a yard off. One yard. Coach Meyer came up to me and screamed at me. I looked at him and was thinking a yard is not going to make that much difference.
At the end of practice called me in front of everyone and explained to the team how much it matters to be a yard off. It made me realize how important it is. And I didn't want to get called out anymore. After that, I was digging in at the start to make sure. It's those small little things. It's frustrating at times, but you see exactly why he is doing this. He really cares about us. That's the thing. Is it possible to care about us too much? Sometimes I believe so.
But then you see his mentality is playing a big role with this team. He loves all of us and wants us to succeed to the best of our ability. He believes that's the only way. Let's be honest. Our team is not the most talented group you've ever seen. However, we work hard. That's the mentality he brought to us.
In the weight room during the spring, coaches are screaming in people's ears. Players have quit. I hear stories about when coach first got here and talented guys left. He didn't care. He wanted guys that really wanted to be on the team and really wanted to work hard.
It took me a while to realize that. You can have talented players, but when it comes down to it you need guys that will work hard. One of his favorite says is "pick up the rifle" when someone goes down. That's what our team is. We have hard workers who are team oriented.
Look at Alex Smith. He is a Heisman candidate and would never be able to tell. He's the most humble guy that I've ever met. There's a lot of guys on this team that just love each other. It's all about the team.