Dave Martin / Associated Press
Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 | 12:11 p.m.
It has been five days since Utah upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but the excitement in junior linebacker Stevenson Sylvester's voice was as if he was still chasing Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson around the Louisiana Superdome.
Sylvester, a Valley High graduate, was one of the stars of Utah's defense that limited Alabama to 208 yards and forced three turnovers. He led the Utes with seven tackles.
He recorded three of their nine sacks in the 31-17 victory that sparked arguments that mid-major conference Utah, the lone undefeated team in college football, should be national champions regardless of who wins Thursday's Bowl Champion Series title game between Florida and Oklahoma.
The final Associated Press poll, which is voted on by reporters nationwide and separate from the BCS, will be released at the end of the week. Utah, because it plays in a non-BCS conference, is considered a long shot to receive enough votes to win.
"To be in national championship consideration is just great," Sylvester said Wednesday morning from his home in Las Vegas. "I would love for there to be another game but that is beyond our control. There is nothing more we can do.
"But I'm not going to hate. Playing in the Sugar Bowl was a great experience. It was an awesome way to close the year."
The Sugar Bowl wasn't the lone game in which Utah and Sylvester made a splash.
The Utes opened the season with a victory at nationally respected Michigan in front of more than 100,000 fans and went on to beat Oregon State one week after it knocked off top-ranked Southern California.
Add in clinching the Mountain West Conference title with a win against in-state rival BYU and a tough victory against TCU on national television, and it's been a storied year.
The Sugar Bowl was icing on the cake.
"Oh my God, it was just so electrifying to be part of this," Sylvester said. "It was just so crazy, so unreal. We started the season at the (Michigan) Big House, which is one of college football's treasures, and ended it with one of the greatest victories ever for Utah football."
Sylvester, like his team, had a long road to glory.
He was a virtual unknown during his senior year at Valley before one of his defensive coaches convinced Utah's Las Vegas recruiter to attend a game while Utah was in town playing UNLV.
Utah offered him a scholarship after the game, and one year later, he started as a true freshman. The same enthusiasm Sylvester showed during the Sugar Bowl has helped him make a name for himself. He led Utah in tackles in five of its 13 games this season.
"Everybody always wonders why I have so much energy," said Sylvester, who was a second-team all Mountain West selection. "I'm just happy to play and give it my all. I love playing this game. That's all I want is the chance to play."
Like his team, Sylvester has made the most of that chance.
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].