Until recently, college football fans have had a hard time envisioning much of a rivalry between Brigham Young University and Colorado State University.
Since the two teams started their Western Athletic Conference competition in 1969, the series has been relatively lopsided. Cougar head coach LaVell Edwards holds a 16-4-1 record against the Rams, and annual outcomes have BYU scoring 40-plus points and CSU somewhere in the teens.But conference-title contention heats up a rivalry. CSU helped halt BYU's string of 11 straight WAC crowns in 1986, and the Cougars edged the Rams by a half-game for top spot in the conference standings in 1990.
Last year, CSU won its first WAC football title - thanks in part to another victory at Cougar Stadium - while BYU finished tied for second. Ever since, Cougar and Ram fans have been eyeing Saturday's showdown at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo., as having significant WAC-championship implications.
Despite the predominantly lopsided results during the past 20 years, the BYU-CSU pairing has produced records and unusual twists - one game temporarily suspended because of lightning, another relocated 9,000 miles away.
Perhaps the most memorable BYU-CSU matchup came in Fort Collins on Oct. 6, 1974. The Cougars enjoyed a seemingly safe lead 33-20 lead with six minutes to play, only to see the Rams tie - or win? - the contest.
With just six seconds left, BYU had a 33-27 lead and the football on its own 16-yard line, with quarterback Gary Sheide expected to take the snap and fall on the ball to end the game. But the Cougars fumbled the snap, giving the Rams possession - and one last hope - with three seconds remaining.
As time expired, CSU quarterback Mark Driscoll found flanker Willie Miller in the end zone, with the TD toss tying the game at 33-all. Driscoll and Miller were mobbed in the end zone, and the Rams were flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
With no ensuing kickoff, the penalty was assessed on the point-after kick. CSU's Clark Kemble - who had nailed a stadium-record 59-yard field goal earlier in the game - tried the PAT from the 25-yard line.
Kemble hooked the ball to the left, with two officials signaling the failed attempt. Seconds later, two officials raised their arms as if signaling a successful PAT kick. The remaining Rams fans cheered as the scoreboard read CSU 34, BYU 33.
Pandemonium reigned on the field, but official word reached the pressbox 20 minutes later - the kick was no good and the game ended in a tie. By then, the stadium was empty and no one saw the 33-33 score displayed on the scoreboard.
With players, coaches and school officials still confused, a press conference was held an hour after the game. Referee Bill Moyer explained that the kick wasn't even close - as properly signaled first by the officials.
Next came the signal for the end of the game, which is done by the referee holding the football high over his head, with both arms outstretched. But the ball was unavailable, having been kicked away in the PAT attempt.
"I didn't have a ball, so I raised my arms without the ball," Moyer said. "In no way did I intend to signal to mean the kick was good."
Other WAC games of note during the BYU-CSU series:
- 1969 - BYU 22, CSU 20: In the first WAC meeting between the two schools, Cougar kicker Joe Liljenquist sets school records for most field goals and most points kicking . Both records still stand.
- 1975 - CSU 21, BYU 17: The host Rams rally from a 17-6 deficit in the third quarter, with fullback Jim McKenzie scoring from 1 yard out with less than five minutes in the game. Certainly no one imagines that the CSU will go the next two decades without a home victory against BYU.
- 1976 - BYU 42, CSU 18: It's a record day for Cougars John VanderWouden and Tony Hernandez. VanderWouden catches four TD passes (since equaled but not broken), while Hernandez ties a Y. record with three interceptions in the game.
- 1977 - BYU 63, CSU 17: With Heisman-hopeful Gifford Nielsen sidelined for the season, Cougar fans wonder how unproven backup QB Marc Wilson will fare. Wilson's initiation comes on the against the 5-0 and nationally-ranked Rams. Wilson dashes all worries, accounting for a BYU-record eight touchdowns - throwing for seven TDs (also a record) and rushing for another score.
- 1981 - BYU 63, CSU 14: Jim McMahon betters Wilson's performance against the Rams, equaling the seven TD passes and the eight TDs accounted for. But the records don't end there - McMahon's passing marks include 44 completions, 65 attempts and 538 yards (the yardage mark has since been broken).
- 1986 - CSU 24, BYU 20: In a Friday night game at Cougar Stadium, Steve Bartalo becomes the WAC's all-time leading rusher in what the Ram media guide labels as "one of the greatest victories in school history." Bartalo's 1-yard TD run with :46 left caps CSU's final 80-yard, 11-play drive. The Cougars fail to win at least a share of the league title for the first time in 11 seasons.
- 1987 - BYU 30, CSU 26: The series goes "Down Under" - promoters move the Cougar-Ram contest to Melbourne, Australia, and dub it the "Gridiron Bowl." Before a crowd of less than 8,000, BYU wins - but injuries sustained in the game prove costly in the All-American Bowl two weeks later.
- 1994 - CSU 28, BYU 21: With Edwards set to claim his 200th coaching victory, the visiting Rams put the Cougars' celebration plans on ice. With the win, CSU enters the national rankings for the first time in 17 years - the last time the Rams had been ranked was in 1977, going into the BYU-CSU game.
BYU vs. CSU: the WAC wars
Year Site Result
1994 Provo CSU, 28-21
1993 Fort Collins BYU, 27-22
1991 Fort Collins BYU, 40-17
1990 Provo BYU, 52-9
1989 Fort Collins BYU, 45-16
1988 Provo BYU, 42-7
1987 Melbourne BYU, 30-26
1986 Provo CSU, 24-20
1985 Fort Collins BYU, 42-7
1984 Fort Collins BYU, 52-9
1983 Provo BYU, 24-6
1982 Provo BYU, 34-18
1981 Fort Collins BYU, 63-14
1980 Provo BYU, 45-14
1979 Fort Collins BYU, 30-7
1978 Provo BYU, 32-6
1977 Fort Collins BYU, 63-17
1976 Provo BYU, 42-18
1975 Fort Collins CSU, 21-17
1974 Fort Collins tie, 33-33
1973 Provo CSU, 21-13
1972 Fort Collins BYU, 44-8
1971 Provo BYU, 54-14
1970 Fort Collins CSU, 26-9
1969 Provo BYU, 22-20
The BYU-CSU football series started in 1922; BYU leads the series, 29-24-3.