Ute Insiders Dirk Facer, Brad Rock and Mike Sorensen have witnessed many of the most memorable games in the storied Utah-BYU football history. They step into the past to highlight the stars, the key moments and how the fans reacted. No matter when the rivalry game is played — and the Ute Insiders weigh in on that as well — relive some of the best U. wins in the Utah-BYU rivalry.
The following is a transcript of the episode. It's been edited for clarity.
Dirk Facer: All right, welcome to a special edition of Deseret News Ute Insiders podcast. Today we're going to talk about the big games in the rivalry with BYU. I'm joined today by a couple veterans, Brad Rock and Mike Sorensen. Guys, glad to have you with us.
Brad Rock: Great to be here for another rivalry.
DF: Rivalry week is here. This year, a little unique, it's at the end of the season. A first time since Utah has been in the Pac-12 that such a game has taken place so late in the season. Do you guys like that? Brad, what do you think?
BR: You know to me I would rather see the game played earlier in the season. I think that there's enough on the line, conference-wise, for Utah. Bowl ramifications for both teams. I'd rather see them just get it done early.
DF: How about you, Mike, does it just feel natural to be at the end of the season? Or would you like to see it earlier as well now that they're no longer in the same conference?
Mike Sorensen: A couple years ago, I thought I'd never say that, to have it at the end of the year. But I'm like Brad, I like it at the beginning of the year now because they're not in the same conference. When they were it was a very natural thing. And it was great to have it. But now it's almost like an afterthought. Because Utah will done with their conference season. And they'll say, Oh, you know, we got one more game. And it's not that big of a deal. But it's always a big deal, the rivalry game, but it's not quite the same. Just the fact that they're not in the same conference.
DF: Right. And, you know, maybe one good thing about it being a late is we didn't have to spend all summer hyping up the season opener with BYU, right? Well, let's look back on the biggest games in the rivalry, or at least the most memorable games. The rivalry goes back a long ways, obviously. And you know, we're old guys, but we're not that old. We don't go too far back. So we apologize to our older friends who might remember some classic games back in the day. I still like to think that games that were played in the '70s and '80s are back in the day as well. But that kind of shows our age. Mike, is there a game that comes to memory to you. That was special between the Utes and the Cougars? They've had some really close games obviously last couple years.
MS: Well, probably the one the Brad's going to do, back when we were in college together back in 1978. That was a memorable game. And I'm sure Brad can give you some details. But that was a big one because of what had happened the year before. You know, I was down at that game in Provo in '77. Mark Wilson set an NCAA record — 571 yards, something like that. At the end of the game he was still in there and BYU was ahead 27-0 and Wayne Howard was so upset by that. That's when he did his famous hate speech after the game, said, "We hate BYU, and we're going to drill them sometime." And so anyway, they came back the next year and won 23-22 on Randy Gomez's fourth-down pass, was it? To Frank Henry and won 23-22, scored with two minutes to go. That was Jim McMahon, he actually outplayed Jim McMahon, who was a freshman at the time. So anyway, that was a big game.
BR: Yeah, I wasn't far enough up the food chain to even cover that game. But I remember being in a shopping mall or something when the game was there, I was with my wife and the clerk was weeping. And I said, "What's the matter?" Utah beat BYU. I didn't know, I still don't know to this day if she was upset, or she was weeping with joy. I didn't get a chance to cover that game. But I agree with you, Mike. Especially on the tail of Wayne Howard's comment that the hatred would continue forever. The next year, he comes back and beats them.
DF: Let me jump ahead 10 years, guys. When I was at the (Daily) Chronicle the big game, obviously, was when Utah defeated BYU, I think 57-28, in what was affectionately known at the time as the Rice Bowl and that was a big-time game. What do you remember about that, Mike, I know you have fond memories of that game.
MS: I have memories because I was not covering it. I was actually in the stands with another fellow sportswriter and we were watching the game just for the interest of the game. And it was just shocking. I actually was picking football scores at the time. I remember that I picked 31-28 for Utah, just kind of on a whim and I got BYU's score right but I was off by 26 points on Utah's score. It was a shocker to win 57 points to 28 for BYU. But you know Scott Mitchell had a terrific game, Eddie Johnson had four touchdowns, Sam Tausinga had that 17-yard interception return, so it was a quite the game.
BR: Yeah and you know I do remember the fall out of that thing was such a big deal, people ran on the field, they pulled down the goalpost and then they split the goalpost up into little tiny pieces, sold them as key chains with the score written on those key chains. So yeah, that's how epic it was, is they actually memorialized that with key chains.
DF: I apologize to my friends at the Grove Deli, who I visit as often as I can, but I believe a section of that goalpost sits behind the counter there where they make the sandwiches too. So if you want to see a piece of that. It's either that or another win over BYU, and I apologize if I don't get it correctly. But that was it. You know, I have fond memories, too, of that game because I was at the Chronicle. And we sent out Christmas cards that year. And we had a picture of the goalposts coming down and it just said, may your Christmas be as special as was Nov. 19. And we had the scoreboard on there and stuff and got a little grief from our Institute friends and a few people that didn't really like that. But that was a big win. And that kind of broke up a really big run for BYU in that series.
MS: Yeah, when Brad said that it reminds me I have one of those pieces of the goalpost. My BYU relatives gave it to me for Christmas that year. A piece of that goalpost on a trophy somewhere in my house. I don't display it prominently. But I did get a piece of that goalpost, that little ring.
DF: Now let me apologize to Utah fans, I gotta bring this up, but I was the editor of the Chronicle the next year and of course, the game shifted to Provo and there was a guy named Ty Detmer quarterbacking BYU and if I remember right, BYU scored touchdowns. They were a little mad from the game the year before, but they scored, I believe, on their first seven possessions. They scored touchdowns and Ty Detmer was just drilling it down there. BYU win that game 70-31 and I remember that game because there's a tradition that the sports editor of The Chronicle and the sports editor of The Daily Universe swap columns that week and I'm all you know Utah just beat BYU and I wrote this cocky little thing and I was pretty meek when the game was over. But you know now the modern era, Utah's bounced back, but I just remember that game real well because Ty Detmer and the Cougars just came out the next year. They were angry and it showed.
BR: Yeah, they were winning, Utah was winning every 10 years at that point. And then it started to turn around in the '90s. And I have one of those games on my list.
DF: Mike do you remember that 70-31 game?
MS: I do because it was 49-0 at halftime for BYU and they could have probably won 100-0.
DF: Weren't they like 7 for 7 in touchdown drives?
MS: It was unbelievable. Ty Detmer was a sophomore at the time, I think, and Scott Mitchell had gotten hurt the week before so he wasn't even playing and the backup was there. And they were just totally outclassed. I mean, BYU just kind of let them play the second half. That's how they got 31 points. But they totally dominated that game.
DF: Well, they're fun memories. I remember at the Chronicle we did a special section, we used to back in the day for the Utah-BYU game. And we weren't sure if Scott Mitchell was going to play or not. But we had him on the cover of our special section. And I finally had to peel off the original headline and put "Scott Mitchell, will he play?" That was what became the title. Because remember that week, there was a lot of speculation, Utah wasn't saying whether Mitchell was going to play or not. I don't think it would have mattered, the way BYU came out and won that game. But you put that timetable in front of us now, let's kind of move in, what's the next game that comes to your mind, Brad?
BR: It came to my mind, and I wasn't even there. But the reason it stands out is I was with the Jazz, I was in New York, and the Jazz were playing the night of the Utah-BYU game in 93, when Chris Yergensen came and kicked his 55-yard field goal. And they won the first of the two 34-31 games, everybody else was back here. But I was sort of removed. I was back in New York, I walked down to the hotel, and I was going to go to Madison Square Garden, and Tom Chambers, that had played basketball at Utah, and he was down there and he was playing for the Jazz. And as I walked down in the lobby goes, "Hey, did you hear?" And I said, What? And he goes, "Utah beat BYU?" And I just said, No, they didn't. I said, you're kidding me. "No, no, Utah beat BYU." And then he went over. And he was telling "the Mailman," he was telling Stockton, and the Jazz players were pretty excited about that. I guess they'd worked out a lot at the U, had some connections to the U and they were pretty excited. But yeah, so that was a game I didn't see anything about but I learned about it from Tom Chambers in New York.
DF: Now that score was repeated the next year, Mike. And Mike probably knows more about the history of University of Utah sports of anyone I know. Mike, remember those back to back 34-31s that obviously led to some commercials on TV with Mac and LaVell Edwards? It's kind of a fun way to jab Cougar fans as far as Ute fans were concerned at the time.
MS: Yeah, it really was. And I was actually the beat writer back in '94 covering Utah. And I still remember that game because Utah had lost two games — they had their best season up to that point. And in fact, Brad and I were in New Mexico a couple weeks before that. And they lost this horrible game and they lost to Air Force, and so their season went to pot but they had this one last game against BYU to get back into some you know, positive things. I still remember they were down, they fell behind 31-27 and Utah was driving down the field and there was this chant in the crowd 34-31 because they'd won that the year before and then that actually didn't look like they were going to do it until Cal Beck, you know, had this 67-yard kickoff return in the final minute to put them in position and then Mike McCoy hit Charlie Brown with that 20-yard pass to win it 34-31. And it came out that same score. But it was amazing to have two consecutive years the same score and Utah came back to win both games.
DF: And ironically Utah had that score three years in a row because the next year Utah won with 34 points but BYU didn't deliver on their end that year. I think scoring went 34-17, right, in Provo.
So let's just keep moving forward guys. Anybody have a game that takes them beyond there that first comes to mind?
BR: Well you know for me obviously when you jump in quite a ways ahead but then you go to the Fiesta Bowl game, the game that got them in the Fiesta Bowl in 2004. And you know, that was a you know a really well-played game. I think was 52-21 for Utah and I remember that was the first time I felt endangered in a crowd, went on a field, they jumped the walls, jumped on the field, and if you remember, Mike, you know they did pull down a goal post then and they were pushing people against the wall and I remember that south wall. I remember there was some people up there I thought might get crushed up against the wall, it was so crazy. But yeah, great game and put them in a different place. And when you want to talk about BYU-Utah games being important, Utah was carrying the weight of all the mid-major schools and they won that big.
DF: Game day was their, remember, I think Alex Smith and others were wearing sombreros after the game. I mean the chips were flying, Fiesta Bowl bid was locked up. Do you remember that game, Mike?
MS: I remember people were throwing tacos or tortillas onto the field, whatever, and wearing sombrero hats because they were anticipating the Fiesta Bowl if they want the game, I guess. Would they have gone any way? but Utah was a big favorite that year, that was one of Gary Crowton's last years and Utah won by 31 points. And it was just kind of a rout after a good, well-played game in the first half, but it was a big game for Utah.
DF: To jump back just a little bit, the 2003 game is very memorable to me. I've never been that cold in my life, getting out of my car. I remember that was freezing cold down in Provo; Utah won 3-0 and that was a great game. I mean it keeps you on pins and needles and I was never more grateful to be able to watch a game inside in my life. But that really quote-unquote heated things up for the Utes, because that propelled them into the next season, obviously, where are good things happened Fiesta Bowl-wise.
BR: And if I remember right, Dirk. Coach (Kyle) Whittingham, I think that's the one he said beautiful game. This is beautiful. 3-0, he's good with that, the defensive coach of all time.
DF: Urban (Meyer) didn't agree with him. But you know I remember the field goal was made in the frigid temperatures and it was Casey Evans that picked off a pass toward end of the game. That was the first time in years, I think, that BYU'd been shut out too. And to have it happen at home on a cold day. ... if you're a Utah fan you probably took great joy in watching the boys in blue freezing and going home without any points.
MS: I just remember I was sitting in my living room and enjoying it in the comfort of the fire next to me. So I didn't have to worry about that. But it sure looked miserable, because it was snow and cold, wasn't it?
DF: It's such a short walk from the parking lot to the stadium, but boy it was cold. Those two games are obviously memorable. We've talked about many that have been great. Then they went in this stretch when Bronco and Kyle Whittingham were coaching that there are some games that literally went down to the last play and a lot of things that were decided.
Of all those tight, close games. And I think Utah won most of them, if not all of them. What comes to mind? Obviously there's the (Johnny) Harline one in the end zone that didn't work out so well for the U. But I do remember how classy Eric Weddle was after that game, you know, and he and John Beck walking off the field together and that. You know, sometimes in this rivalry guys, I think people forget it's just a game. It's not anything more than that. I think they'd be surprised that the coaches are, for the most part, friends. A lot of the players are friends. Yeah it's fun to get into it and all that, but it's just a game and there's been some good ones. Which of these tight ones in the last decade or so come to mind for you, Brad?
BR: Was it 2010, Brandon Burton blocked the kick at the end of the game? Yeah, 2010. And we were down on the field — I think all of us were down there and we're on the sidelines right there and you could just see Brandon Burton line up on the edge right there in front of you. And then as the play is snapped, I look at it and I go there's not anybody going to touch this guy. It was a dead sprint. And he just laid out and laid out and blocked the kick. So that was the first one. And I'll give up the time so you can talk about the 2012 game that had several different finishes. And we were on a midnight deadline, if I remember, right. Tell me. Mike, What do you remember about that?
MS: Well, I was actually going to mention what probably one of the best performances of that 2011 game in between. That was the largest victory Utah had had since back when Dirk was a kid, back in 1922, when they won 49-0, but they won 54 to 10. But you know what's amazing about that game is, you know, people think that was the biggest rout ever, but Utah was actually losing that game, 10-7 in the middle of the second quarter. And all of a sudden, they scored in the final 30 seconds and they scored 47 straight points. And it just, you know, that's a game that BYU fans will never get over, because it was such a rout. But you know, it wasn't, it was a rout, but it's funny that people don't realize it was actually a close game for nearly a half. And then Utah just poured it on the second half, had 40 points. And it was, you know, I could say the second biggest victory ever.
DF: Oh, that was a great game, I think we mentioned a bunch of them. But yeah, there were games, like you said, that one, that kept going back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth to have several different endings. I think, was it three times they brought the teams back on the field to revisit that? That was the game in help me on the year, guys, where the finish was.
BR: The fans rushed the field. Yeah, they thought they thought the game was over. BYU got stopped on a third down, I think it was, they thought the game was over, they rushed the field, called it back. Yeah. 2012.
MS: Yeah. And Utah was up like 24-7. And then BYU caught up. And then Utah had the game in the bag. And they just kept blowing it at the end. You know, with those, you know, the fans came on the field, they moved them up 15 yards. And then the guy hit it off the goalposts.
BR: It wouldn't get blocked, I'm trying to remember — did one field goal get blocked, and then the second one hit the goalpost. Or do you remember?
DF: That's what I love about this rivalry. We remember bits and pieces then you know what? Who's gonna check up on us?
BR: I'd have to check that.
DF: Jump ahead just the last couple years, any of the games come to mind before we talk about this year's game a little bit?
MS: The 2015 game was, I mean, that was the most amazing first quarter I've ever seen in my life. The bowl game in Las Vegas. I thought they were going to win 70-0. They're up 35-0. And it's still what, three minutes to go in the first quarter. And then Utah just kind of took the foot off the gas or whatever, fell asleep, and BYU came back and had a chance to tie the game in the last quarter. And Utah won by 7. So that was a memorable game, just for the fact that it was the opposite of the other game — it was a rout, and then it became close.
DF: And who would have ever thought, the forefathers of this rivalry, that the rivalry would actually get played on the sacred ground of Las Vegas, Nevada.
BR: Didn't you mix it up a little bit with somebody from there?
DF: Then the rivalry was renewed, obviously, after that, the last couple years. I think Utah won 20-19 in 2016, 19-13 last season. Even though Utah and BYU are in different places right now, the games continue to be close. Do you anticipate that's going to be the case again this time?
BR: Yeah I think so, Dirk. I think that they'll manage. Utah has certainly get those injuries. I think one of the big factors in that game is going to be the fact that how healthy BYU is. We know how healthy Utah is at this point. And that's not very good. I think if you line up Utah's second-string guys against BYU's second-string guys it's not going to be that close.
DF: All right, Mike, any final thoughts?4 comments on this story
MS: I think the same thing, you always have close games and no matter who's favored by a lot of points, somehow it's always going to be a close game. So I wouldn't expect anything less this year.
DF: A (Ryan) Kaneshiro kick or a Brandon Burton block — we don't know what to expect. But one good thing is it'll probably keep us all in our seats till the end.
Thanks for joining us for this special edition of Deseret News Ute Insiders podcast.