I love the BYU/Utah rivalry. It's the flambe on the Baked Alaska that is the College Football season.
Since I've been a BYU fan my whole life, I've got a lot of memories of the Holy War. Some are good, some not so good. And if you don't mind, I'd like to reminisce for a little bit.
1996: This was the year of my conversion. I'd always been pro-BYU, but in 1996 I became a Cougar fanatic. When BYU played Utah in '96, we were ranked No. 8 in the country. We were led by Steve Sarkisian and Shay Muirbrook. This is my favorite BYU team ever, and we ran over, around and through Utah as I watched from home in my PJs.
1998: An eighth grader, I was dragged to the Provo Towne Centre to do some shopping with my mom. I knew the game was on so I grabbed a seat in the food court and watched with delight when Utah kicker Ryan Kaneshiro doinked the would-be winning field goal off the uprights to seal a 26-24 BYU victory.
2001: My senior year of high school and the night of the "Bargain Ball" dance. My date, Hannah Porter, took me to the BYU/Utah game before the dance, and I suffered in agony until Luke Staley turned on his afterburners for the famous "Gallop down the sideline," one of the most electrifying football plays I've ever seen in my life. I remember vividly Utah marching down the field for one last attempt, but then Jernaro Gilford intercepted a Utah pass and sealed the win. And we danced the night away.
2002: I was in the MTC this time and I found it odd that no one even mentioned the game. Turns out BYU lost.
2003: Just over the hump on my mission, I was living and serving in Brunswick, Maine. My companion was a huge Ute fan, of course, and we were both on pins and needles all day wondering who won. When we got back my companion called a sports score line and his voice rang loud and clear: Utah: 3, BYU: 0.
2004: I had just returned from serving my mission when a good friend of mine, Brett, picked me up to go watch the BYU/Utah game at Legends Grille on BYU campus. I didn't know a lot about BYU or Utah that year, only that Utah was undefeated. It wasn't pretty. BYU got blown out, but I did get my first glimpse of Austin Collie. I've had a crush on him ever since.
2005: Me and my college buddies, the Cougar Crazies, were in the south end zone cheering our guts out. BYU dug themselves a huge hole in the first half, but then tied it up in the second. On their way to a game-winning field goal, BYU just needed one more catch to put them in FG range. On fourth down John Beck fired it to Jonny Harline running across the middle, a catch he usually makes in his sleep. The pass was a little behind Harline and he dropped it. The game goes to Overtime where Utah scores and BYU doesn't. And it all happened right in front of our faces.
2006: A few members of my family and I decided to make the trip up to Rice Eccles for, if you can believe it, my first visit. I was totally in awe. The Utah crowd was pretty awesome. I remember flags waving, fans screaming and an electric atmosphere. It was another close game ending, of course, with a miracle TD throw to Jonny Harline as the clock ran out. In that moment, when Harline caught the winning TD, the world stopped. Everything was completely silent for a split second. Then when he stood up with his arms in the air the world erupted. It was as if a ray of pure joy fell upon me, and I'll never forget how sweet that moment was. After the game we started back to our car and some Ute fans were actually fighting with each other. I laughed at that. Others gave us their best and wished us good luck for the bowl game, which I thought was pretty classy.
2007: Hopeless and defeated after a long Utah drive that ate up most of the clock and put the Utes in the lead, I was barely watching as BYU faced a fourth and 18 situation. But then the ball sailed down field into the arms of a waiting Austin Collie. Immediately the crowd convulsed into a giant dogpile with me at the bottom. It was so sweet. Again, pure joy. I rushed the field and applauded Austin Collie's "Magic Happens" quote.
2008: Again, I made the trip up north to Rice-Eccles Stadium to watch the game in person. Bad idea. This was a different atmosphere than 2006. Utah fans were nasty from the get-go. From the walk up to the stadium (where one Utah fan said "F--- You" and "God hates you" to me repeatedly), to the walk back to our car (in which we were showered with garbage and more verbal abuses), the whole night was miserable. One person in our group was even accosted in the bathroom. I mean come on guys, you don't mess with another man in the bathroom. That's guy code. Anyway, the game was horrible, but the atmosphere was the reason why I'm not going back this year.
2009: My first rivalry game as a non-student. My seats were (and are) up in the North endzone, so it was difficult to rush the field. But you better believe I did anyway. After Max Hall's magnificent TD throw and George's sprint to the goal line? Who wouldn't?
Like I said in an earlier post, I love this rivalry. I hope we see many more amazing games.