Remember when you were a kid at Christmas, and an aunt or an uncle you never knew you had would show up bearing gifts, and you'd tear through the wrapping paper as if something really cool was inside, like a toy truck or an Etch A Sketch ... and it would be the dreaded clothes?
In the most highly anticipated MAACO Bowl Las Vegas ever played, Boise State beat Utah 26-3 in a showdown of Bowl Championship Series wannabes at damp but dry Sam Boyd Stadium on Wednesday night. It was a pretty lousy football game, unless you made the trip from Lewiston or Coeur d'Alene or Sun Valley with a Styrofoam potato on your head.
Instead of a trophy, MAACO Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy should have presented the Broncos with a V-neck sweater and a pair of socks.
Instead of gold, an announced sellout crowd of 41,923 got a lump of frankincense and myrrh. Whatever that is.
Too bad Kunzer-Murphy made the rain stop about an hour before kickoff. Had she not, at least there would have been an excuse for the fumbles and the dropped passes and the missed and blocked field-goal attempts and the touchdowns nullified by holding penalties and the botched flea-flickers that looked as if they were designed by Larry Dior, Christian's underachieving brother.
"I would say a little bit of bowl game (jitters)," said Boise State coach Chris Petersen, whose 10th-ranked Broncos (12-1) came oh-so-close to achieving another BCS berth this season.
I, on the other hand, would say a lot of bowl game jitters.
"You lose your rhythm, not playing for a while," Petersen said. "... It's frustrating, because you can predict some of those things, and you try to take steps to make that not happen. Again, I can't say enough about our defense."
Hey, Coach, no changing the subject.
For me, the game's quintessential play, the one by which all future MAACO Bowl Las Vegas futility will be measured, occurred early in the third quarter after Boise State had taken a 16-3 lead by being the team to commit slightly fewer mistakes in the first half.
Kellen Moore, the Boise State quarterback who supposedly can walk on water and threw the football pretty well on a field saturated by it, connected on a short pass to speedy wide receiver Austin Pettis, who sprinted down the middle of the field toward an apparent touchdown ... before Utah safety Brian Blechen sprinted just as hard across the field and knocked the ball from his hands.
The fumble barely skittered out of the end zone before another Bronco could fall on it -- and, of course, there was a lengthy discussion among guys in striped shirts before any of this was decided.
New life for the Utes?
Nope. Quarterback Terrance Cain was sacked on the next play. In a remarkable development, he didn't fumble.
This is when, if you are a fan of the college football Cinderellas, you wish Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit had stayed home and ESPN sent Dr. Jerry Punch and Jesse Palmer instead.
"In order to win a football game like this, we had to be opportunistic, we had to make plays, and we weren't able to do that," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose team committed three of the seven turnovers but most of the crazy penalties. "We got some great position in the first half and came away with three points."
Then Whittingham started rattling off the same blunders I did, adding that the 20th-ranked Utes (10-3) also were dreadful on third down, converting just 2 of 13.
"Against a team like Boise State," Whittingham said, "you've got to play much better than we did tonight."
Whereas Mountain West-bound Boise State will have plenty of opportunity for redemption on the Sam Boyd ersatz turf, this might been the last time we'll see the Utes, headed for the Pac-12, for a while.
From Alex Smith to Jordan Gross to Urban Meyer to Lee Grosscup, creator of the shovel pass (something for you old-timers), the Utes brought a certain panache, a certain swagger, a certain degree of respectability that won't easily be replaced.
Of course, it's possible that if Utah can step up its recruiting, build some facilities and learn to play in the rain, we could bear witness to a lot more of these Boise State-Utah matchups in the MAACO Bowl, which gets the Mountain West champion and the fourth- or fifth-place team in the Pac-12, at least when Stanford isn't good and messes up the pecking order.
I'm still hoping to trade in these socks and sweater for an Etch A Sketch.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352.