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Brand helps Utah get past Trojans

January 02, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

When the University of Utah defeated USC 10-6 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Day, much was said about the Utah defense, which held USC to 1 yard rushing.

While the defense was impressive, one of the parts of the Utes' game that was almost overlooked was the special teams.

The special teams accounted for four points on a field goal and an extra point and pinned the Trojans deep in their own territory with punt coverage.

The long snapper for the Utes' was El Centro native Ryan Brand. The 5-foot-11, 216-pound Brand, a 1998 graduate of Southwest High School in El Centro, finished the game with eight perfect snaps, six on punts, and had a tackle on punt coverage.


"That was a lot of fun playing in that game. There was no other place I would have rather been. I mean, we were on national TV, the only game on and everybody was watching," said the 22-year-old Brand, a junior. "For myself, I thought I had a pretty good game. I would've liked to have made more tackles, but overall I thought I played well."

If winning the Las Vegas Bowl wasn't enough motivation for Brand and his teammates, the actions of the Trojans added to their desire.

"The way they were acting and talking, it just seemed like they looked down on us," said Brand, a transfer from Mount San Antonio College. "We were at a (banquet) and some of their players were getting on stage, taking off their shirts and flexing their muscles at us. It just seemed like they were looking at us like they were better than us. So all that they were doing just gave us more motivation."

Brand said Utah special teams coach Gary Andersen prepared the punt team for USC's punt rush team, one of the better units in the nation.

After studying the Trojans' punt rush team, Brand had some worries. But despite what he said were some close calls, he was pleased with the unit's performance.

After only about a week off, Brand will start preparing for next year as the Utes begin practice Thursday.

"I thought this was a great experience for me. I learned a lot and really grew as a player and person," said Brand. "I think of all the teams I've ever been on, this is the best, as far as everyone really getting along with one another.

"Now I just have to go back and start getting ready for next year. We only got a week off, but the off-season program is where it all starts," Brand said. "Overall it was a great season. Now I get to do it all over again."

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