The book has been closed on another regular season of college football action.
For the three FBS teams in the state of Utah, it was a year full of bumps and bruises, yet there have been moments of brilliance for BYU, Utah and Utah State.
Those moments of hope can serve as a catalyst to drive for greater success in the future, whether in the upcoming bowl season or in the 2014 season.
Here's a look at the best and the worst moments for the Cougars, Utes and Aggies in 2013.
Facing arguably its toughest season in school history, BYU encountered plenty of uphill climbs in 2013. Some were expected — Wisconsin and Notre Dame looked formidable heading into the season. Other challenges and triumphs weren't as foreseeable — storms soaked and delayed BYU's first two games, but one turned in favor of the Cougars. And BYU found itself a pair of formidable runners.
Here are 10 of the best and worst moments of the season.
Things looked grim for BYU after its disheartening 19-16 loss to Virginia, and many fans felt pessimistic about the Cougars’ chances against the No. 15 Longhorns.
They were pleasantly surprised.
Quarterback Taysom Hill had a breakout game against Texas as he racked up 259 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Running back Jamaal Williams had a solid day of his own with 182 yards rushing. The Longhorn defense didn’t know what hit it as Texas lost 40-21.
This rout was so convincing, Texas head coach Mack Brown fired defense coordinator Manny Diaz as a result.
This was the high point of BYU’s regular season. BYU would have plenty of opportunities to beat ranked opponents, but Texas was the only one the Cougars could beat in 2013.
For much of the past few years, many wondered if the BYU offense would ever look like it did in the days of LaVell Edwards or even in more recent days of Max Hall. It seemed that BYU wouldn’t be able to win with its offense.
That is, until the Cougars traveled to Houston.
The BYU offense exploded for 681 yards of offense. While far from a flawless game, the Cougars in blue were able to finally win a high-scoring contest, beating the Cougars in scarlet 47-46.
It reminded many longtime BYU fans of the old wild WAC days, and that was a good thing.
It was great to see Cody Hoffman break his way into the BYU record books.
Hoffman passed Dennis Pitta’s career reception record against Houston, Austin Collie’s career touchdown record against Boise State and Collie’s career receiving yards record against Wisconsin. He now has the bowl game to add to his career 248 receptions for 3,445 yards and 33 touchdowns.
It’s particularly remarkable when you think about how many amazing receivers have come to BYU. Furthermore, Hoffman had several quarterbacks throwing to him instead of one big star for all four years. Hoffman caught passes from Jake Heaps, Riley Nelson and even James Lark for two games. He now has Taysom Hill.
Imagine what he might have done if he had Ty Detmer throwing to him.
Up until this game, BYU fans had serious questions about Taysom Hill’s passing game. He went the entire month of September without a passing touchdown.
All of that came to an end when BYU traveled to Logan.
Hill threw three touchdown passes against the solid Aggie secondary. No, it wasn’t performance worthy of a Steve Young or Ty Detmer, but it was the first time that Hill showed that he can beat teams with his arm and not just his legs.
Plus, BYU had one of its most solid games of the season against a team with a winning record against Utah State, starting with Kyle Van Noy’s pick-six on USU’s first play from scrimmage.
After starting 1-2, BYU rolled out five solid wins before traveling to Wisconsin. The Cougars beat Middle Tennessee State, Utah State, Georgia Tech, Houston and Boise State. All of those teams are on their way to bowl games this postseason.
And speaking of bowl games, BYU earned its invitation to the Fight Hunger Bowl after its win over Boise State. Bronco Mendenhall has never missed a bowl game as head coach of the Cougars. That’s a streak that goes back to 2005.
BYU just found out that it will face Washington in the postseason.
Robert Anae’s “go fast, go hard” offense started the season with a thud against Virginia. BYU’s first five drives of the season ended with punts.
In the end, the Cougars managed only 362 yards of total offense and 16 points. However, BYU seemed to get into a rhythm before the weather forced a two-hour rain delay.
BYU held a 16-12 lead with less than four minutes to go in the game when Taysom Hill threw a pick to Virginia’s Anthony Harris, who lateraled the ball to Henry Coley. Coley was stopped at the BYU 13-yard line, and Kevin Parks scored the go-ahead touchdown with just 2:36 left in the game. BYU would lose this game 19-16.
This was BYU’s worst loss of the season as the Cavaliers beat just one other team in 2013: Virginia Military Institute of the FCS.
Riding high after demolishing Texas, BYU had a bye week to prepare for its biggest rival. This game was extra special because the Cougars won’t play the Utes again until 2016.
Utah broke BYU’s heart at LaVell Edwards Stadium as it scored 13 unanswered points in the first half. The BYU defense held Utah to just one more touchdown, but the BYU offense only managed 13 points. Despite outgaining Utah 443-402, BYU failed to score touchdowns in the “blue zone.”
Utah won 20-13 and claimed its fourth-straight victory over the Cougars. This was a dark day indeed for BYU, particularly as it will have to wait three years for a chance for redemption.
One of the key players that’s missed most of the season is LB Spencer Hadley. Hadley was suspended five games due to a BYU Honor Code violation just before the Utah game. However, Hadley was allowed to return after missing just three games.
Unfortunately, Hadley’s season came to an abrupt end after suffering a shoulder injury against Wisconsin, and he has not returned to the field since.
BYU lost to Wisconsin and Notre Dame by just 10 points in each game, and just one or two key plays were the difference in both games. BYU gave up a critical touchdown against the Badgers with just 14 seconds to go in the first half to give Wisconsin a 17-3 lead.
BYU failed to convert key possessions in the “blue zone” against the Fighting Irish. The Cougars turned the ball over on downs on the Notre Dame 29, settled for field goals two drives that sputtered on the Notre Dame 12 and 10 yard lines and had a field goal blocked after reaching the Notre Dame 4-yard line.
BYU could have had a big-time road win in 2013, but it just couldn’t capitalize on key plays and drives.
Injuries are just a part of football, but this one was odd to say the least. BYU wide receiver and punt returner JD Falslev broke his hand during a team-building activity. Falslev had surgery to fix his hand.
It's bad enough when these kind of injuries happen on the field, but when they happen off the field at a team activity, it's extra frustrating.
Falslev missed games against Wisconsin and Idaho State, but he did return and caught touchdowns against Notre Dame and Nevada.
As everyone knows by this point, the Utes were disappointed with their season. They missed some opportunities and were heartbreakingly close to Pac-12 success even though the record doesn't show it.
Here are 10 of the best and worst moments of the season.
After barely dropping its previous two home games, on Oct. 13 Utah hosted the Stanford Cardinal. Although most counted the Utes out before the game even began, they showed moments of pure brilliance as they took down the No. 5 team in the country.
The Cardinal needed a touchdown in the final minutes to send the game into overtime and they worked the ball all the way down to Utah's 6-yard line. But the Utes defense held strong and forced Stanford to turn it over on downs. Utah took a knee and ran out the clock, taking an awe-inspiring 27-21 victory. Even Stanford coach David Shaw admitted he was aware of the danger that playing in Rice-Eccles Stadium posed.
“First of all, I want to say that we knew we were coming into a hornets nest here,” he said in a press conference. “UCLA came in here a week ago and barely squeaked out. We knew it would be a battle and we didn’t play well enough.”
Ute captain Trevor Reilly just finished an outstanding senior season. It was truly remarkable to see him recover fully from an ACL tear that occurred in 2012 and lead the Utes with 100 total tackles, 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
He nearly doubled his numbers from last season and was such a key leader on the team, but his stellar performance on the field isn't what most people will remember.
In August, Reilly revealed his daughter Shayn (nearly a year old now) was battling kidney cancer. The Utah community will always remember his strength, love and dedication to his family. And Shayn's bright, courageous smile as she sat atop her father's shoulders during senior night introductions will forever remind people that life is bigger than sports, bigger than football.
Utah made it clear this year that BYU was not going to get in its way. The Utes played a clean, complete game when they defeated BYU 20-13. Although the score doesn't justify a blowout per say, the Cougars really never threatened Utah's lead.
A rivalry win is always a season highlight, but this one was special for Utah. It marked the fourth straight win against the Cougars, and due to the two-year hiatus, it meant all the seniors, juniors and sophomores would never lose to BYU.
Travis Wilson shined in the victory, completing 24-of-35 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. His performance earned him Pac-12 and Athlon Player of the Week honors.
“As long as he continues to do the things he’s done for us in the first four ballgames, we’re going to have a chance every week,” coach Kyle Whittingham said following the win. And as long as Wilson stayed healthy, he gave the Utes plenty of chances early on in the season.
In Utah's 2013 Pac-12 opener, the Utes gave a valiant effort and came up just short in a 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State. Despite losing in the end, the Utes overcame a 17-point deficit to regain the lead late in the fourth quarter. This rally was quite remarkable and one that had an impact on Utah's confidence as it began Pac-12 play.
“I think our team showed a lot of heart,” Travis Wilson said. “We battled all the way to the end.”
Only a minute into the third quarter, Wilson threw an interception that the Beavers' Sean Martin returned 27 yards for a touchdown. Wilson did what he does best, though, and put that mistake behind him instantly. Less than two minutes later, Wilson returned the favor with a 35-yard touchdown run of his own.
Throughout the fourth quarter, Utah chipped away at the Beavers' lead as the two teams exchanged scores back and forth. Finally with 4:25 remaining, Utah took the lead off another long touchdown run by Wilson. The Beavers countered, but left just over two minutes on the clock for Wilson to work his magic. The Utes put a stellar drive together and against all odds tied the game at 45-all with 25 seconds remaining, which pushed the game to overtime.
In 2012, the Utes set themselves up for disaster after losing to Utah State in their first road game. That didn't sit well with Utah, and this season the Utes turned the tables.
After a hard-fought season opener, the Utes beat the Aggies 30-26 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah quieted potent Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton in the second half while Travis Wilson did his part by throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah's new kicker made his first-ever college football appearance and blew people away with his effort. Andy Phillips made three field goals and three PATs. He was an essential part of the Utes' huge third-quarter momentum switch when he made a 45-yard field goal with ease. Then on the very next play, he kicked an onside kick that was successfully recovered by Utah. That gutsy call was one of the best and most impactful plays made by the Utes all season.
“Oh man, what a thriller. It’s just an honor being out there with these guys. These guys fight and they have a lot of faith in me,” Phillips told the Deseret News before leaving the field. “So that’s kind of what kept me going — knowing that these guys had my back no matter what happened.”
When neurological tests revealed a pre-existing intracranial artery injury to Travis Wilson, it had to be the most devastating moment of the already disappointing season. The Utes lost their starting quarterback who was a large part of the successes they accomplished in the season.
However, the struggles Utah faced on the field after Wilson was sidelined by this injury were not even the worst part. This condition was potentially life threatening and there is a chance Wilson will never play football again. That news above all else was so disheartening to everyone involved with the program.
“Despite what people think, football isn’t life,” tight end Jake Murphy said. “Travis is going to move on and get older — even if he can play again. We’ve just got to keep encouraging him, and that’s what we’ll do.”
In other bad Travis Wilson news, another low point in the season happened when the quarterback threw six interceptions in a close game versus UCLA.
"We just had way too many mental errors,'' Wilson said. "Some balls were deflected, but ultimately it was my fault.''
The first four interceptions came off of tipped balls and unpredictable circumstances; some of them were more the receiver's fault than anybody else. The fifth and sixth though came off of poorly thrown balls by Wilson and it killed Utah's chances of pulling off the upset. Ultimately there were just too many turnovers team-wide in a game that could have easily gone the Utes' way.
The Utes headed to Arizona on a total high. They had just taken down the No. 5 team in the country and won their first conference game of the season. Utah wanted to use that momentum to put another mark in the win column, but it just didn't go that way from the start.
The Utes were soft defensively and rattled on offense in the first half. Travis Wilson threw two first-half interceptions before leaving the game with a hand injury. His absence in the second half hurt the Utes, but his struggles due to his injury might have hurt them even more. Even Andy Phillips missed two 40-plus yard field goals in the game.
The bottom line was the Utes just didn't have what it took to win a Pac-12 game on the road this season, starting with this 35-24 loss to Arizona.
After the Utes beat Stanford and gained a huge confidence boost, most people were starting to believe they could make a splash in the Pac-12 this season. Following that huge win, though, Utah dropped five games in a row, four of which were conference road games.
Utah's best chance to win during this losing streak was at home against Arizona State, but the Utes dropped another "winnable" Pac-12 game. ASU eked out a 20-19 victory over Utah, which just couldn't find an offensive rhythm late in the game.
“Arizona State’s a good football team, give them a lot of credit,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “They made the plays down the stretch. We did not.”
The five-game losing streak finally came to an end when Utah beat Colorado at Rice-Eccles Stadium in its last game of the season.
The Utes were notably a terrible road team this season; their only away victory came against BYU. But the Utes could have made it to a bowl, and could have even finished with a winning record, if only they finished close games strong.
Could've. Should've. Would've.
It's all speculation at this point, but Utah lost to Oregon State by three points, UCLA by a touchdown and Arizona State by one point. In all of those games, Utah needed to win and was in a position to win, but couldn't get it done. That inability to win those Pac-12 games was a huge disappointment during the season.
Adversity in the form of injuries hit Utah State hard in the early part of the season, none bigger than the loss of Chuckie Keeton. But the team, behind a freshman quarterback, found its way close to another conference championship, and got rolling in the process.
Here are 10 of the best and worst moments of the season.
After losing to Boise State head-to-head, Utah State needed the Broncos to lose late in the season so the Aggies could win the division and play in the conference title game.
USU's prayers were answered as Boise State fell to San Diego State in overtime, giving the Aggies just the opportunity they needed. All that stood between Utah State and a division title now was Wyoming.
And the Aggies took care of the Cowboys in style.
Utah State scored five unanswered touchdowns to take a 35-0 lead going into the fourth quarter. Redshirt freshman Nick Vigil had a career day with 3.5 sacks. Wyoming managed to get on the board with a long touchdown pass, but USU came away with the 35-7 win, the division title and a bid to the MWC title game.
With Chuckie Keeton out for the season with an ACL and MCL tear in his left knee, USU's backup quarterbacks needed to step up.
And Darell Garretson did just that.
Garretson set a new freshman passing record at Utah State with 370 yards passing in a single game. He also threw three touchdowns to just one interception that day.
Granted, all of this was against Hawaii, and the Warriors would finish 1-11 on the year, but still ...
Chuckie Keeton showed how versatile he can be as a quarterback as he put on a clinic against Air Force. Keeton finished the day with 360 yards and five touchdowns passing with 77 additional yards rushing.
The poor Falcons didn't know what hit them as they fell 52-20.
While Air Force won just two games this season, this game showed what USU could do with Keeton under center. Too bad the Aggies couldn't keep him on the field all season long.
Utah State's season easily could have spiraled out of control after losing Chuckie Keeton against BYU. While the Aggies suffered another setback against Boise State, they went on a five-game winning streak that saved their season from the jaws of defeat.
And for the first time in Utah State history, the Aggies are going to their third-consecutive bowl game.
Utah State found out Sunday it will face No. 23 Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. While facing Jordan Lynch and the Huskies will certainly challenge the Aggies, the simple fact that they held on to make it to this bowl game speaks volumes on how far this program has come.
After beating MWC bottom-dwellers Hawaii and New Mexico, Utah State faced its first big post-Boise State challenge at UNLV. After all, this year's Rebels are going to a bowl game.
And they put up quite a fight against the Aggies.
Utah State and UNLV traded scores all game long. USU wide receivers Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen had solid performances with 129 and 112 yards receiving, respectively.
This game came down to who scored last, and fortunately for Aggie fans it was Utah State. Bruce Natson scored the go-ahead touchdown with just 3:56 left in the game and gave USU the 28-24 victory.
After watching BYU lose to Virginia and Utah, Aggie fans were licking their chops for a chance to defeat the Cougars as well. After all, the last time BYU traveled to Logan, USU routed the Cougars 31-16.
This time, however, the game ended in disaster.
BYU's Kyle Van Noy intercepted Chuckie Keeton's first pass of the game and returned it for a touchdown. Worse, Keeton's season came to a sudden end as he tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee.
It also didn't help when BYU quarterback Taysom Hill suddenly found his passing game after not throwing a touchdown pass in the entire month of September. Hill scored three touchdowns that day through the air, and BYU won 31-14.
Out of all the games USU played in 2013, this will be the game fans will try the hardest to forget.
Utah State made an incredible rally to make it to the Mountain West Conference Championship Game despite all the setbacks and injuries it had suffered that year. The Aggies had a shot of winning their first MWC title in their first year in the conference against Fresno State.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
The Bulldogs scored the first 17 points of the game and held a commanding 24-7 lead over the Aggies to begin the fourth quarter. However, USU scored 10 unanswered points to pull within seven with nine minutes to go. Utah State drove all the way to the Fresno State 39-yard line before Craig Harrison threw a pick with just 58 seconds left in the game.
While Utah State gave the Utes almost all they could handle, Utah State just couldn't repeat last year's win over Utah.
Chuckie Keeton did his part with 314 yards passing, 85 yards rushing and three total touchdowns. However, Utah managed to score two field goals with less than seven minutes to go to take a 30-26 lead.
USU had a chance to prove it was a true threat to its biggest in-state rivals, but once again it went 0-2 against Utah FBS teams.
Utah State had a golden opportunity to capture a win on the road against a Pac-12 program. Lane Kiffin was desperately trying to hang onto his job — a fight he would ultimately lose — and the Trojan offense was in shambles.
However, the USC defense did a phenomenal job in containing Chuckie Keeton. The Trojans didn't let Keeton out of the pocket and held him to just 179 yards passing and minus-15 yards rushing.
The Aggies were in striking distance all game long as they were tied with the Trojans in the third quarter and USC took a slim three-point lead early in the fourth quarter. However, they just couldn't find a way to score and let this chance at a quality win slip away.
Losing to BYU hurts, particularly in Logan. Losing to BYU, having a bye week and then losing to Boise State is simply aggravating.
While still adjusting to life without Chuckie Keeton, the USU defense had its worst game of the season as it surrendered 447 yards and 34 points to the Broncos. Meanwhile, the offense struggled without Keeton as Darell Garretson and Craig Harrison took turns under center.
They would finish the day with a combined 221 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions.
This loss gave Boise State the head-to-head advantage in the division. Prospects for even winning the division looked grim until the Broncos fell in overtime Nov. 23 against San Diego State.