BYU, Utes football: String of memorable BYU-Utah games began 20 years ago with unlikely kick

Published: Thursday, Sept. 19 2013 6:44 p.m. MDT

Mark A. Philbrick/BYU

SALT LAKE CITY — Few — if any — rivalries in college football have produced more memorable games over the past two decades than the BYU-Utah rivalry.

Let’s see, there were the two 34-31 games, the Kaneshiro doink, LaVell’s last miracle, the late-game Staley TD runs, Ronnie Mac’s final game victory, the 3-0 snow bowl, an unlikely Utah overtime win in Provo, Beck-to-Harline, Hall-to-George (and "I hate Utah"), the Burton block, and last year's dual do-overs before the Stephenson doink.

“Almost every year it seems it comes down to the last play or last series of plays,’’ said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.”It’s uncanny how many games in the last 20 years have gone right down to the wire. You’d be hard-pressed to find any rivalry that has had the amount of exciting finishes this one has had.’’

Up until the past two decades, the Utah-BYU game was nothing special. If fact, you could hardly call it a rivalry for 70 years or so.

It was a given that Utah was the superior team for most of four decades as the Utes won year after year. In the first 16 official years of the series starting in the 1920s, the Utes won 15 times (the other was a 0-0 tie) and outscored the Cougars by an astounding 465-39 total.

The dominance continued until the mid-1960s, as the Cougars won a grand total of two games in the series while the Utes won contests by margins such as 35-6, 38-0, 34-6 and 41-6.

The schools were pretty even for six or seven years, before the worm turned in the early 1970s when LaVell Edwards took over at BYU. The Cougars immediately started beating up the Utes like the Utes had done to them for decades. Scores of 38-8, 51-20, 27-0, 55-7 and 56-6 were among the beatings the Cougars laid on the Utes.

But everything changed on a cold, sunny afternoon in Provo 20 years ago with one amazing kick.

The rivalry has never been the same since.

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Cottonwood Heights, UT

This is one of my greatest memories of the rivalry. I was sitting in the BYU section at the time with a fellow Ute fan and two other friends that were BYU fans. I sat quietly all game long but when comments started being directed to the two guys in red previous to the kick, I couldn't resist turning around and telling the fans that Yergensen had nothing to lose and they were about to feel extremely stupid when Yergensen nailed the kick ... a lot of laughing and yelling ensued right up until the ball sailed through the uprights. I've gotta say, there's nothing better than a simultaneous serving of humble pie to 65,000 Cougar fans. The silence in that stadium was the greatest non-sound I've ever experienced.
And to think, it's now been what, 13 of the last 20 for the Utes? Thank you Ronnie McBride!

The Solution
Dayton, OH

For most BYU fans the rivalry didn't become a rivalry until after McBride was fired and Urban Meyer was hired in 2003. Before for the most part the game wasn't so hostile. Then Urban came and ruined everything by turning the rivalry into hatred, putting BYU stickers in the urnals, and a BYU jersey as a floormat, with game targeted on the calendars. He's responsible for rallying the fanbase and threatened people if they didn't wear red. He probably had a hand in creating the modern MUSS.

While these things have certainly helped bring Utah where it is today, the feelings between these schools will never be the same. We BYU fans now take the rivalry very personally, which is why all these losses have become excruciating to bear. The arrogance from U fans is becoming less and less tolerable. That is why this break for two years will be good, but it won't dispel all the hard feelings.

Here's to the rematch in San Francisco.

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