Rivalry week is one of the best weeks of the year. The nervous anticipation coursing through my veins is just another reminder of the deep devotion I have for the Cougs, and the unending desire I have for them to beat our stumpy little brothers to the north.
Rivalry week is also a time to relive the classic BYU/Utah games that have taken place through the ages. Some are deliriously exciting, some are devastating, and others are totally satisfying. Here is a quick guide to all the rivalry n00bs out there.
1990: Heisman trophy winner Ty Detmer led BYU to a 45-22 victory with 451 yards and 5 TDs on 28-50 passing. Utah was still emerging as a football school.
1991: Detmer again picked apart the Utes, who led 17-14 after the first quarter, but never scored again in the game. BYU won 48-17.
1992: BYU rode Jamal Willis to their third straight win over Utah, 31-22. Willis rushed 28 times for 157 yards and 1 TD. Utah scored all 22 of their points in the fourth quarter.
1993: Future NFL bust John Walsh couldn't get it done on BYU's home field against the Utes, as Utah and coach Ron McBride scored a 34-31 win over the Cougars.
1994: Walsh got his second chance at the Utes, but a 20-yard Utah TD pass with 50 seconds left in the game broke the Cougars hearts once again and locked up another 34-31 win for the Utes.
1995: BYU never got on track in this game, and Utah bruiser Chris Fuamatu Ma'afala ran all over the Cougs. Utah grabs their third straight win over BYU, 34-17.
1996: *My favorite year ever* BYU was 12-1 heading into a highly anticipated showdown with the Utes, and was expected to tear Utah apart with their potent offense. BYU did most of their damage on the ground, racking up 366 rushing yards between tailbacks Brian McKenzie and Ronnie Jenkins. I still remember watching this game as a 12-year old, screaming at the TV in my BYU shirt and PJs.
1997: BYU's latest QB to face the Utes, Kevin Feterik, had a solid game through three quarters, but BYU couldn't hold on to the lead in the fourth quarter when Utah scored 10 unanswered points to beat BYU 20-14.
1998: The Doink. Utah Kicker Ryan Kaneshiro had a chance to put the Cougs away with a game-winning field goal, but bounced the ball off the uprights to give BYU a 26-24 win. The final play perpetuated a rumor that Kaneshiro committed suicide after the game because of his grief.
1999: BYU's brand new colors and uniforms weren't enough to push the Cougs past the Utes in '99. The scoring was even, but an extra field goal in the second quarter by the Utes turned out to be the difference: Utah 20, BYU 17.
2000: Last Miracle for LaVell. Trying to salvage a once-promising season, third string QB Brandon Doman faced a grim 4th down and 13. He threw up a prayer and connected with WR Jonathan Pittman, and then ran in for the winning score a few plays later.
2001: The undefeated and nationally ranked Cougars welcomed Utah into the newly christened LaVell Edwards Stadium, where the Utes quickly took control of the game. It took a 14-point fourth quarter, including Luke Staley's famous gallop down the sideline, and a clutch interception from Jernaro Gilford to ice the Utes for good, 24-21. And yes, I was there.
2002: I remember this game vividly. Not because I was there, but only because I could hear the crowd from the MTC. I didn't find out until weeks later that Utah won 13-6.
2003: What's worse than Utah beating BYU? Utah shutting out BYU on BYU's home field while you're companions with a dirty Ute fan on your mission. I still remember the high-pitched cheers...
2004: How was I welcomed home for my two years of selflessly serving the Lord? By watching BYU, which was suffering a huge identity crisis at the time, get thumped by Utah 52-21. I didn't even recognize my team. Utah went on to win the Fiesta Bowl; BYU went on to fire its coach.
2005: Back in its traditional uniforms, and trying to shake off a nasty habit of losing, BYU and Utah met for a classic rivalry game. Utah was all over BYU early, taking a 24-3 lead into halftime, but BYU came back strong in the second half to force the game into overtime. In OT, backup Ute QB Brett Ratliff connected with some Ute jerk, and Cougar QB John Beck couldn't answer. Beck threw up a prayer (that was almost caught by Michael Reed), but it fell harmlessly to the ground. I still say BYU would have won that game if Harline would have made a key catch in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter to put BYU in FG range.
2006: The answered prayer. BYU controlled the game early, but Utah stormed back to take the lead. The teams battled until Utah scored a go-ahead TD with 1:19 left in the game. John Beck, as cool as a Canadian fisherman, led BYU down the field with ease. With 3 seconds left and BYU on Utah's ten yard line, John Beck shuffled, shuffled, shuffled, ran and heaved the ball across his body to a wide open Jonny Harline. Harline caught the ball, humbly, on his knees and BYU snapped a four-game Utah rivalry winning streak. "Caught for the Touchdown!! Caught for the Touchdown!!"
2007: Collie 4: 18. Two evenly matched teams, along with some key BYU miscues, produced a very low-scoring affair. BYU held on to a 9-3 lead in the fourth quarter before Utah QB Brian Johnson led a slow, methodical, unstoppable Utah drive which ended in a Darrell Mack Touchdown. With BYU down 10-9 and facing 4th and 18 with about 1:30 left in the game, a Utah win looked inevitable. That's when Max Hall sidestepped a tackle, hurled the ball into space and found a wide open Austin Collie on the sideline for a 40 yard gain on 4th and 18. A few plays later Harvey Unga barrelled into the end zone and Collie grabbed the two point conversion to give BYU a 17-10 win.
(A quick side note, from 1980 to 1989, BYU won 9 out of 10 games.)
Writing about these games brings back a lot of memories. There have been some pretty amazing outcomes at the ends of these rivalry weeks--upsets, drama, thrillers, blowouts, doinks, miracles and the like.
I am physically sick with anticipation to see how the latest chapter of this saga unfolds.
Information gathered from CougarStats.com