When I first saw this game on the schedule, I knew I wanted to go. When I saw it was on a Monday night, I initially dismissed the idea of making the trip. Our first big game of the year, first road test, I was pretty bummed that I wouldn’t be attending. However, before I knew it, after a little bit of convincing from Handsome Kyle, I had a flight booked to Salt Lake.
Handsome Kyle and Showlan arrived Sunday afternoon, and enjoyed a full day in Salt Lake exploring the campus. I had a prior commitment, so I wasn’t able to make it out until late Sunday night. I called for an Uber to pick me up from the airport and take me to the hotel. Being my first time in Salt Lake City, I asked my driver some places he would recommend I go see, or the best places to eat in town. His suggestion: Applebee’s or Olive Garden. I politely told him I’d keep that in mind, but I was immediately skeptical if those were the best places in town.
Morning came and we were able to find a good spot for breakfast, Park Café. Delicious breakfast and good location, right across the street from Liberty Park, which reminded me a bit of Balboa Park. It was right in the middle of town and had a few museums to check out. The food we got was delicious, and the owner of the restaurant is a San Diego State Alumn, so we got a nice discount. After breakfast we ubered back to campus to check out the bookstore, and our driver was hilarious.
We immediately got off on a good note with him due to our mutual hatred of BYU. He told us that BYU recently put turf in their football stadium, in an effort to keep the cheerleaders from grazing. BYU hate just brings out the best in college sports fans. We stopped into the bookstore where, not gonna lie, they had some awesome gear. They had real replica football jerseys (not some lame knockoff brand), complete with all of the patches, at a very reasonable price. (take notes SDSU bookstore) We walked outside, and Showlan got to see snow fall for the first time. Definitely not something any of us were used to seeing, so it was pretty neat. I was pretty surprised how empty the campus was. For the entire time spent on campus, I saw no more than 15 people at one time. Which was strange with it being a Monday. Would never be that empty in the middle of Campanile Walkway. We continued our self-guided tour onto Rice Eccles Stadium. (It’s worth noting that 95% of all buildings on the campus of The University of Utah are named after either Eccles, Huntsman, or Marriot.) Showlan noticed a gate that was just slightly opened, so we decided why not, and walked right in. Not wanting to get kicked out, we had to be stealthy to sneak past workers, and soon enough we were on the field taking pictures in the end zone. Handsome Kyle showed off his 7 inch vertical, throwing one down on the field goal post. We have to get that guy a scholly. The venue itself was very nice, and had just about everything you’d want in an on campus stadium.
Awesome views of the mountains in the distance, didn’t seem like there would really be a bad seat in the house to watch a football game.
We continued on and walked past where we’d be later that night, the Huntsman Center, and we once again found an open door. I always thought it was neat to see an arena completely empty like that. Other than a few ESPN guys setting up, it was just us. I walked over to where the media would be sitting, and managed to get the press wifi login info. Next we checked out their 5 story basketball practice facility. Unfortunately, this time the door was locked. As we were walking away, I hit the handicap button
and, you guessed it, the door swung right open. Seemingly every building on campus that should have been locked, we made it in to. This place was pretty neat, we didn’t get to see much of it, but from what we did see, it was nice.
Banners of former Ute greats hung from the ceiling. Offices with glass walls overlooking the campus, just a wonderful looking facility. Overall, I thought the campus was gorgeous with the mountain views and the numerous trees with colorful leaves throughout.
With a few hours to kill before game time, we thought we’d check out Downtown Salt Lake. It was by no means a bad Downtown district, but there just didn’t seem like there was much to do. But to be fair, we were only in the city for about 24 hours, so I’m sure we didn’t get to experience all it had to offer. We saw the State Capital Building, walked down their main street, and really that was about it for Downtown Salt Lake. We grabbed dinner at R&R BBQ, which was delicious. If someone were to ask me, I’d definitely suggest that over an Olive Garden or Applebee’s, but that’s just me.
Game time came and we headed on towards the arena, but not before taking our standard show on the road picture on the U statue in the middle of campus.
They didn’t have a statue of a Ute, because they clearly don’t know what a Ute is based on their mascot running around. Inside the arena during shoot around, we met a very nice couple of Utah fans, and they informed us of 4 open seats a few rows behind them. Definitely an upgrade from where we would have been. I can’t stress enough how nice their fans were to us. I didn’t hear a single rude thing directed towards us. That said, I’ll take our crowd over theirs any day of the week. The Huntsman Center seats 15,000, there was maybe 10,000. A bit disappointing, and not what I had expected from the #16 team in the country.
There were times when they got loud (mostly towards the end) but being as objective as possible, the atmosphere at Viejas is light years ahead of Utah’s home court. The student section, The MUSS, was ‘meh’ at best. They weren’t particularly bad, but they certainly did nothing that really made them stand out. They aren’t located in the best place in the arena. They’re off center behind one of the baskets, not even in the line of sight of a free throw shooter. Overall a decent home crowd; but really nothing special.
By now everyone knows how the game turned out, but despite the loss, I’m encouraged by the way the team played. Our offense is clearly better than a season ago, but we’ll need to adjust to how the game is being called. I like to think of this as the Arizona game from the ’13-’14 season. Two good teams going at it, a hard fought battle where we came up just short, but I think it will benefit us in the long run as the season goes on. Wish we had gotten the W, but we proved that we’re a good team, and we belong with the best of ‘em. After the game, we met the team by the bus. They were obviously disappointed, but appreciative that we had made the trip.
We love our Aztecs. Period.
As they drove off, we headed to one of the 4 places in Salt Lake where you can grab a beer before calling it a night.
We caught an early flight back to San Diego, where there were maybe 30 people aboard. Roomiest flight of all time.
I enjoyed my short stay in Salt Lake, but I can’t really see myself spending an extended amount of time in the city. I was definitely ready to be back in America’s Finest. Like I said before, wish we had gotten the W, but I’m real glad I made the trip. I feel like we learned a lot about this team and the potential we have. We’re in for another great season folks.
Until next time,