BYU/Utah Rivalry: Top Performances Of The 1980s

Nov 19, 2018, 4:11 PM | Updated: 5:56 pm
Brigham Young University quarterback Jim McMahon overlooks the University of Utah defense during a ...
Brigham Young University quarterback Jim McMahon overlooks the University of Utah defense during a November 22, 1980, game at Rice Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Cougars defeated the Utes 56-6. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/ Brigham Young/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Philbrick/ Brigham Young/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In the long and storied history of the BYU-Utah football game there have been many amazing individual performances. KSL Sports looked at the top performers from both sides in every game since during the 1980s.

It was the decade that gave us Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Boscoe and a National Championship for BYU. Not to be undone, the Utes produced future NFL quarterback Scott Mitchell.

1980: Jim McMahon, Junior QB

Honorable mention: Utah defensive back Anthony Reed

BYU quarterback Jim McMahon was sensational in the Cougars’ win with the largest margin of victory in the rivalry’s history. Known for being one of the most polarizing figures in Cougar football history, McMahon threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another score. His 76-yard completion to Clay Brown was especially thrilling as No. 13 BYU trounced Utah at Rice Stadium.

Though they were severely outplayed as a unit, Utah defensive back Anthony Reed had a solid game with 14 combined tackles, including six solo takedowns with a pass breakup in the loss.

The Cougars beat Utah 56-6 at Rice Stadium.

They went on to play in the famous Holiday Bowl, where they famously beat Southern Methodist with one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA history. BYU had a 27-point fourth quarter, as McMahon connected with tight end Clay Brown for a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown with time expiring.

BYU ended the season 12-1, and were voted as the 12th best team in the country in the final AP Poll.

Despite ending their season 5-5-1, the Utes sent three players to the NFL draft: guard Dean Miraldi (Philadelphia), defensive back Jeff Griffin (St. Louis Cardinals), and tight end Steve Folsom (Miami Dolphins).

1981: Jim McMahon, Senior QB

Honorable mention: Utah running back Del Rodgers

For the second straight year, BYU put 50-plus points up on the Utes, led by McMahon. He turned in a masterful performance in his final game in Provo, throwing for 565 yards and four touchdowns, two of which were hauled in by receiver Gordon Hudson in the victory.

Utah’s Del Rodgers helped make the game more competitive with three touchdowns on the ground. He also racked up a total of 173 yards with a long run of 87 yards. His 87-yard scamper got Utah off to a 7-0 start before the Cougars took over.

BYU beat Utah 56-28 at Cougar Stadium.

The Cougars finished the season with a narrow 38-36 win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl to end the year with an 11-2 record and a No. 13 national ranking.

The BYU game was the end of a solid season by Utah, who didn’t go to a bowl game despite finishing with a strong 8-2-1 record.

1982: Todd Shell, Senior LB

Honorable mention: Utah running backs Carl Monroe & Hilria Johnson

While a quarterback named Steve Young manned the BYU offense to a narrow victory over the Utes, linebacker Todd Shell led the defense with 14 combined tackles, three of which were unassisted in the win for BYU.

The one-two punch of Carl Monroe and Hilria Johnson gave Shell and the Cougar defense all they could handle as they combined for nearly 300 yards on the ground. Monroe finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns while Johnson turned in 145 yards with a long run of 62 yards.

BYU beat Utah, 17-12.

The Cougars went on to the Holiday Bowl again, where they were blown out by Ohio State 47-17. They finished the season unranked with an 8-4 record.

Utah again missed out on a bowl game with a 5-6 final record.

1983: Steve Young, Senior QB

Honorable mention: Utah linebacker Mark Blosch

Young, in his Heisman Trophy finalist campaign, turned one of the greatest touchdown-scoring games in BYU history in a huge win over the Utes. Young found the end zone six times in the victory and picked up 268 yards on 22 of 25 passing for the No. 8 Cougars. He found Adam Haysbert for a 46 yards for the play of the game.

It was another tough day for the Utah offense, but linebacker Mark Blosch worked hard on defense, picking up 13 tackles, including nine solo takedowns in the loss.

BYU crushed Utah 55-7.

The Cougars again traveled to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, where they bested Missouri 21-17 to finish with a 11-1 record and a No. 7 ranking in the final AP Poll.

Utah again finished 5-6 but sent tight end Andy Parker to the Oakland Raiders as he was selected by the team in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.

1984: Glen Kozlowski, Junior WR

Honorable mention: Utah linebacker Mark Blosch

1984 was a magical year for BYU as the Cougars claimed their first national championship with a No. 1 ranking at the end of the season. In the Utah game that year, wide receiver Glen Kozlowski was force to be reckoned with. He combined with quarterback Robbie Bosco for 162 yards and a touchdown as the No. 3 Cougars held on for the win.

In the loss, Blosch had another terrific showing for the Utes, racking up 14 combined tackles, including four solo takedowns.

BYU outlasted Utah 24-14.

After beating Utah State 38-13 the next week and then Michigan 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl, the Cougars ended the year ranked No. 1 in the polls and were named National Champions.

Utah finished with a 6-5-1 record and did not send any players to the NFL that season.

1985: Lakei Heimuli, Junior RB

Honorable mention: Utah running back Eddie Lewis

The Cougars picked their seventh straight win in the series thanks to a big day by Lakei Heimuli. He picked up 171 yards on the ground and found the end zone three times with a long run of 83 yards to lead No. 11 to the victory.

Utah’s Eddie Lewis had a strong day of his own on the Ute side of the ball. He picked up 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground while also gaining 56 yards and another score receiving the pigskin.He took a screen pass from quarterback Larry Egger 64 yards to the house to bring the Utes within a score before BYU pulled away.

BYU won again, 38-28.

After winning the national championship the year before, BYU picked up its third loss of the season to Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl. They finished 16th in the AP Poll.

Under head coach Jim Fassel, the Utes finished 8-4. They also sent DB Erroll Tucker (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Filipo Mokofisi (New Orleans Saints) to the NFL.

1986: Lakei Heimuli, Senior RB

Honorable mention: Utah quarterback Larry Egger

Heimuli had another huge game against the Utes as he picked up 172 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars. It was the eighth straight win over Utah for BYU.

Utah quarterback Larry Egger threw for all three of Utah’s touchdowns while picking up 304 yards through the air in the loss.

BYU prevailed again over Utah, 35-21.

The Cougars finished 1-2 to end the season. They lost to UCLA 31-10 in the Freedom Bowl.

Utah ended a disappointing season with a 2-9 record.

1987: Matt Bellini, Junior WR

Honorable mention: Utah linebacker Sean Robertson

In the closest BYU-Utah game in quite some time, Cougar wide receiver Matt Bellini had a great day, hauling in 12 catches for 119 yards in the win.

Utah linebacker Sean Robertson had a team-high 12 tackles with a game-high nine solo tackles in the loss.

BYU just edged Utah, 21-18.

The Cougars went on to play in the All-American Bowl, where they narrowly lost to Virginia, 22-16.

Utah improved on their previous season by finishing with a 5-7 record.

1988: Eddie Johnson, Senior RB

Honorable mention: BYU wide receiver Matt Bellini

The Utes finally broke through and snapped a nine-game losing streak to BYU. In the loss, Bellini scored two rushing touchdowns and another through the air while picking up a total of 144 yards.

The Utes were led to victory by running back Eddie Johnson, who picked up 117 yards on ground with four TDs in the big win. Quarterback and future NFL star Scott Mitchell threw for three TDs in the victory.

The Utes won 57-28.

After losses to Utah and then Miami to finish the regular season, BYU went on to beat Colorado 20-17 in the Freedom Bowl.

The win over BYU was the final game of the season for Utah, who finished with a 6-5 record.

1988: Ty Detmer, Junior QB

Honorable mention: BYU quaterback Mike Richmond.

The Cougars got revenge for their loss to Utah the year before by steamrolling the Utes in 1989. BYU built a 49-7 halftime lead over Utah, the largest halftime lead in the history of the series. The No. 21 Cougars were led by the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, Ty Detmer, who threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns.

Despite the big loss, Utah quarterback Mike Richmond also had a strong game under center. He picked up 393 yards and threw for four touchdowns of his own in the loss.

BYU smashed Utah 70-31.

The Cougars went on to play in the Holiday Bowl, where they lost 50-39 against Penn State. They finished with a No. 21 ranking in the AP Poll.

Utah finished 4-8 and sent quarterback Scott Mitchell to the NFL, where he was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round.

Final record in the 1980s: BYU – 9 wins, Utah – 1 win




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BYU/Utah Rivalry: Top Performances Of The 1980s