Kyle Whittingham takes on his 100th game as Utah head coach this Saturday against Washington State, so we're looking back at the best (and most heartbreaking) moments in Utah Utes football over the past eight years. If you think we missed a game that deserved a spot in this list, leave a comment with your favorite memories from that game.
Utah began its first Pac-12 season struggling in conference play by losing their first four games. The Utes then rattled off four straight wins and found themselves in the middle of the Pac-12 South title race. In fact, all that stood in their way of winning the South and possibly going to the conference championship game was lowly Colorado.
The Utes had home field advantage, but they started off slow and gave Colorado a quick touchdown. The Buffs later added a field goal before Utah could even manage to get a first down on offense.
Utes kicker Coleman Petersen missed his opportunities to help his team to a Pac-12 winning record, including a painful 48-yard miss with two seconds remaining.
This left Kyle Whittingham's Utes speechless and brokenhearted as they allowed the worst team in the South division, a team that had previously lost 23 consecutive road games, to rob them of Pac-12 success.
This was the largest margin of victory in a rivalry game since 1922 when Utah won 49-0. The annual game, usually played in late November with the Mountain West Conference title on the line, had a lot less riding on it that year. In mid-September, after both teams had left the MWC, the two teams took the field.
Although all signs pointed to the rivalry being over, fans on both sides would not let it die. BYU led Utah 10-7 late in the second quarter, but then Utah rolled off 47 unanswered points. Running back John White, who was having a career season, rattled off 183 yards and three touchdowns by himself.
BYU's turnovers destroyed them, as Utah recovered six fumbles and had one interception. Although it was not the typical nail-biter, Utah had a blowout victory for the books.
Utah was expected to be one of No. 22 Boise State's toughest opponents in 2006, but the Broncos pushed through the game with ease to a 33-3 victory. Kyle Whittingham said his team did not do anything well, and were outplayed by a team that was better than his Utes.
Boise State held Utah to 178 total yards to their own 398 yards. The Bronco's quarterback Jared Zabransky had an easy day as he completed 15 of 21 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown.
The Broncos scored 33 straight points and Utah had no answer. The utes were also careless with the ball, finishing with five turnovers. This loss was an embarrassing one because it was the Utes worst home loss in 17 years.
Although former BYU quarterback Max Hall's infamy with Ute fans stems from his “I hate Utah” post game comments in 2009, the year before he was loved in Rice-Eccles stadium for throwing five interceptions in the 2008 Rivalry game.
Approaching this game, Utah was on track to an undefeated perfect season and one team was left to down before they were guaranteed perfection. That team was their rival BYU who wanted more than anything to disturb the undefeated Utes. But, that November 22 turned out to be just what Utah ordered, a victory.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Utah was up only 27-24. Then quarterback Brian Johnson blew the game open by leading the Utes to three unanswered touchdowns and helped his team secure the Mountain West Conference title from BYU who was playing for a share.
No. 16 Utah visited No. 4 TCU in an attempt to spoil the Horned Frogs' perfect 9-0 record. An overflowing stadium and the national hype surrounding the game with the attendance of ESPN College Gameday gave the Utes a tough task.
Unfortunately, Utah hardly gave themselves a chance with arguably the worst second quarter of football that Kyle Whittingham had ever coached. TCU rolled off three touchdowns over a two-and-a-half-minute span early in the second quarter.
Suddenly, Utah was down four touchdowns and the game was out of reach. TCU, whose last loss was a last-second defeat to Utah the year before, had their revenge.
Speaking of TCU, one year before that terrible blowout loss in Texas, the Utes had one of the most memorable come-from-behind victories at Rice-Eccles Stadium. With a perfect season and BCS bowl hopes teetering, Utah hosted the near-perfect Horned Frogs. With the crowd covered in black and exceptionally cool temperatures, something special lingered in the air.
TCU racked up ten points before the Utes could even get their footing. But Utah had way too much on the line to give up. After TCU kicker Ross Evans missed two of his field goal attempts in the final quarter, the last one bouncing off the left upright, Utah was left with 2:48 on the clock and choice but to find the end zone.
Quarterback Brian Johnson put together a drama-filled drive, completing 7 of 9 passes including a fourth-down conversion. He eventually found Freddie Brown for the touchdown with 48 seconds remaining, and the Utes kept their perfect season alive.
As this game is still fresh in the minds of Ute fans (despite efforts to forget it), it goes down as one of Whittingham's worst. The Utes were talking a big game heading into their conference opener, but no one on either side would have predicted a 37-7 final result. It left the Utes stunned.
"We got whipped tonight, soundly. They're a better football team than we are," Whittingham said following the blowout loss. "They had control of the game from start to finish. We really didn't do much in the way of positives."
By end of the first half, Utah was down 31-7 and were in a hole too big to climb their way out. Senior running back John White was not a leader for the Utes and was completely ineffective. Utah's highly touted defense looked like it was run over by a bus, as they could not stop the Sun Devils in any facet of the game. Utah's one scoring drive happened in the second quarter, but they failed to ignite any sort of offensive rhythm.
The 2005 Fiesta Bowl is among Whittingham's best, not because of the game itself, but because it served as the cap to a perfect season by Utah. Though they were disappointed at drawing No. 19 Pittsburgh as opponents, Utah handled the Panthers easily.
This was Whittingham's first career game as a head coach, as he was designated co-head coach alongside Urban Meyer, who was about to depart for Florida. This game is also among the best victories for Utah because of the significance it had on the college football world.
Utah was the first BCS buster in history and in large part forced the Bowl Championship Series to make a rule change to be more inclusive. Utah could not be ignored that year, and this end to their perfect season proved to an entire nation of doubters that they deserved to be there.
The phrase "Harline is still open" rings through the ears of Ute fans to this day. BYU will never let Utah forget this game, and probably for good reason. Utah was given every opportunity to win and blew it.
Utah led 24-14 after three quarters and let BYU back into the game. But the Utes thought they had sealed their fifth consecutive victory against their rivals when Brett Ratliff threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brent Casteel with 1:19 left to play.
The Cougars didn't let it end there, though. They used the clock wisely and marched their way back down to Utah territory. With 3.2 seconds remaining, BYU quarterback John Beck scrambled and eventually found a wide-open Jonny Harline in the end zone as time expired.
Losses to BYU always sting for Utah, but Ute fans will never completely erase the image of Harline bringing in that final catch to determine the sad fate of the game.
The Fiesta Bowl victory was sweet for the Utes...but there was nothing sweeter for Kyle Whittingham and Utah football history than capping an undefeated season with a dominant victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The No. 6 Utes had fended off hungry opponents the entire season and managed to preserve their pursuit of perfection. Then they drew one of the most prestigious bowl games in the BCS against No. 4 Alabama. If there was ever a time to prove that they belonged in a higher conference, it was now.
Utah attempted to put doubters, who predicted Alabama to win by a long shot, in their place as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Alabama cut the lead to within four points, but Utah never let them closer than that as they went on to win 31-17. Current offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was named the Sugar Bowl's most outstanding player — an undoubtedly deserving honor.
With this perfect ending to a perfect season, many still believe Whittingham's Utes were unbeatable that season and deserved a shot at the National Championship.
Related: See the 5 best wins and 5 worst losses of Bronco Mendenhall's BYU career