OGDEN -- He came, he buzzed in, he conquered.
Ken Jennings -- the former Utah resident who in 2004 won 74 games of TV's "Jeopardy!" -- thoroughly trounced three Weber State students who challenged him Wednesday to a "Jeopardy!"-like quiz competition.
Jennings, 36, and now an Edmonds, Wash., resident, was back in Utah to talk to students and the general public as part of what he called his "Watson Apology Tour."
Watson is the name of an IBM supercomputer Jennings lost to in February "Jeopardy!" stunt broadcasts.
"I felt like a Detroit auto worker seeing a robot take away my job," said Jennings, adding he felt bad that he let down his fellow carbon-based life forms. "Then again, Watson answered a question on major U.S. cities with 'Toronto.' "
Jennings, whose Brigham Young University major was computer science, talked about the talents of the human brain versus computer intelligence, saying computers might be faster at simple facts, but humans are superior in making value and judgment calls and in answering high-concept questions.
"It's a miraculous lump of tissue we have between our ears," Jennings said. "Sometimes we forget that."
Jennings was a speaker in the university's convocation lecture series.
During a question-and-answer period, he told one student how to apply for the show (through the "Jeopardy!" website, www.jeopardy.com, which offers contestant quizzes a few times a year).
But Jennings warned: If you do the applications-to-openings math, you'll learn it is 10 times harder to get onto "Jeopardy!" than into Harvard.
And for those contestants smart and lucky enough to be chosen, the winner will be determined by who handles the buzzer best, waits for the show host to finish asking the question, then hits the buzzer before fellow contestants.
People who buzz too soon are penalized. "The buzzer is everything," Jennings said.
Students to match wits and buzzer skills against Jennings were Ogden residents Andrew Browning, 21, a physics and astronomy major; Julie Ikeda, 19, a political science and business major; and Ian Dalton, 20, a philosophy major.
Questions ranged from the year a Def Leppard drummer lost his arm (it was Rick Allen, in 1984) to the nature of a famous scientific discovery on the Indonesian island of Flores ("The fossil of a little Hobbit dude," Jennings answered, "correctly," although the fossil remains were actually that of Homo floresiensis, a small hominin species closely related to modern humans).
After Jennings, Browning correctly answered the most questions.
"He was smarter than I thought," Browning said. "I had problems with anything not about science."
"It was lots of fun," Dalton said. "And it is all about the buzzer."
Jennings revealed that, in all of his college appearances, he has been beaten only once. "It was at Stanford. It was a dark day for me. I still have flashbacks."
Jennings said he always enjoys university appearances because it allows him to meet young "Jeopardy!" fans.
"Usually, fans are from an older generation," he said. "If you've watch the show, you will see the ads are for Depends and that kind of product. That's who mauls me at Costco."
Pleasant View residents Ron and Maria Bingham, members of that more mature generation, made a special trip to Weber State to hear Jennings speak.
"We watched him win all those shows, and we watched him compete with Watson," said Ron Bingham, 84. "He doesn't look a bit different in person."
Maria Bingham was impressed by Jennings' mastery of trivia. "He has knowledge in so many different areas, it's amazing. And he's a lot more jovial than I thought he would be."
Watch Ken Jennings play Jeopardy at WSU