SALT LAKE CITY — The last time I had the pleasure of calling a Utah vs. BYU football game was four years ago. It was the classic Beck-to-Harline game, one that will always be remembered by fans on both sides of the rivalry.
Well, four years later, I'm back in the booth calling Utah versus BYU and I'm given yet another classic. Though I've got to be completely honest, it sure didn't feel like a classic until the fourth quarter began.
When you broadcast enough games, you begin to get a feel for how games are going to go. Well, I've got to be honest, after covering and calling 10 Rivalry Games here in the state of Utah, I've just about given up trying to figure these games out.
My gut told me all week that the Utes were 10 to 14 points better than the Cougs. I thought that Utah had straightened out the offensive issues in the rain at San Diego and that the Utah defense would be able to limit Jake Heaps and the BYU offense. Well, I was correct on half of my theory.
To be very honest, this year's game had the feel of anything but a classic; it was pretty ugly football for the first three quarters. But then there was a funny bounce of the football on a shanked punt, then a beneficial instant replay review, and finally Jordan Wynn and the Utah offense found its form.
From trailing 13-0 to leading 17-16 in less than a quarter, things were beginning to get interesting and I was having flashbacks to 2006, as Jake Heaps was channeling his inner John Beck. Then as the clock ticked down to three seconds remaining and the ball sat at the Utah 25-yard line, it would once again come down to the final play of the game.
I've written in this space before about the Utah special teams unit, and I will mention once again here that I think that one of the unsung heroes of this year's 10-2 Utah squad is special teams coach Jay Hill.
Talking with Kyle Whittingham and Brandon Burton after the game on the postgame show, both gave credit to Hill for "The Block" (I'm now calling that play "The Block," let's see if it catches on).
Hill recognized a tendency on tape, then told Burton to block the kick. Whittingham also grabbed Burton on his way to the final play and told him he WOULD block the kick.
Moments later, Burton would make a play that will forever be remembered in Rivalry Game lore. Burton told me after the game he wasn't sure if he had blocked the kick or not. He felt a sting on his hands, but he had been feeling that all afternoon from the cold.
So the final Rivalry Game as conference foes has come and gone. Now the question on everyone's mind is how does this rivalry look moving forward?
I think the dynamic will change but the intensity will only increase as Utah heads to the Pac-12 and BYU goes off to independence. But I guess only time will tell.
I can't wait to see what the next chapter holds next September.
Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.
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