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Most Heartbreaking Games In BYU/Utah History By Season Implications

Nov 21, 2018, 5:44 PM
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes rushes against defensive...
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Travis Wilson #7 of the Utah Utes rushes against defensive back Kai Nacua #12 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah won 35-28. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Though this year’s edition of the Utah-BYU game will have little bearing on how either team’s season will be remembered in the big picture, they have met before with a lot on the line.

Here’s some of the most important and heart-breaking games based on season implications in the rivalry’s history:

1979: BYU 27, Utah 0

Utah had a chance to make some noise in the WAC standings going into the matchup with BYU. The Utes finished the season with a 5-2 record in conference play, while the Cougars finished a perfect 8-0. A win would have created a tie at the top of the standings. Instead, Utah laid an egg on the road against the Cougars.

The Utes were held to just 226 yards on offense, compared to 496 by BYU. Cougar wide receiver Lloyd Jones had a big game with 134 yards on six catches. Utah picked up just 59 yards through the air.

BYU would finish the season with a 11-1 record, the WAC title and an appearance in the Holiday against Indiana. They finished No. 13 in the AP poll.

Utah finished with a 5-5-1 record.

1981: BYU 56, Utah 28

Both teams were having terrific seasons when they met for a game that would decide the WAC championship. BYU and Utah had strong records in conference play, the Cougars with a 6-1 record, Utah with a 4-0-1 record. But much like 1979, Utah came up way short at Cougar Stadium.

Jim McMahon finished with four touchdowns and 565 yards through the air to lead BYU to the win. Del Rogers gained 173 yards on the ground and found the end zone three times for the Utes.

The Cougars again went to Holiday Bowl where they narrowly defeated Washington State 38-36. They were ranked No. 13 in the final AP Poll.

Utah finished with a 8-2-1 record but missed out on a bowl game.

1994: Utah 34, BYU 31

Utah denied BYU from tying Colorado State for the WAC title with a big win at Rice Stadium. In the end both the Cougars and Utes finished tied for second place with a 6-2 record in conference play.

In a back and forth game, BYU took a fourth quarter lead thanks to a 27-yard touchdown reception by Mike Johnston from John Walsh. Unfortunately for the Cougars, Mike McCoy found Charlie Brown for a 20-yard score to retake the lead and give Utah its 9th win of the season.

The Cougars went on the Copper Bowl, where they crushed Oklahoma 31-6. With a 10-3 final record, BYU was ranked 18th in the final polls.

Utah finished what was then the best year in program history with a 10-2 season. The Utes beat Arizona in the Freedom Bowl to finish with a No. 10 ranking in the polls.

1995: Utah 34, BYU 17

Again, the two rivals met with the conference championship on the line. This time, Utah picked up what was then a rare win at Cougar Stadium to create a three-way tie with the Utes, Cougars and Colorado State at the top of the WAC standings with all three programs having a 6-2 record in conference play. Had BYU won, the Cougars would have been the outright conference champs.

The Utes dominated the first three quarters, building a 27-3 lead going into the final period. BYU responded with two touchdown passes by Steve Sarkisian in the fourth, but by then the damage was done. Utah running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala finished with a game high 114 yards gained on the ground with a pair of touchdowns to lead the Utes.

Both teams finished with similar 7-4 records and missed out on a bowl game that season.

1999: Utah 20, BYU 17

In the first season of the Mountain West Conference’s existence, the rivals met again in a game that decided the conference championship. A win over Utah would have given BYU the outright conference champion. However, the Cougars lost at home to the Utes to force a three-way tie with Utah and Colorado State for the title.

After a slow first half that ended with Utah holding a 6-3 edge, both teams traded big plays by their quarterbacks in the second half. Kevin Feterik connected with Margin Hooks for a 77-yard TD to take the lead. Not to be outdone, TD Croshew found Cliff Russell on a 70-yard score to retake the lead. After another touchdown by both teams in the fourth, the lead that Utah built in the first half proved to be the difference in the win.

BYU went on to be bounced by Marshall in the Motor City Bowl. The Cougars finished with an 8-4 record.

Utah played in the Las Vegas Bowl where they narrowly beat Fresno State 17-16.

2004: Utah 52, BYU 21

The Utes came into the rivalry matchup with a perfect 10-0 record and a chance to break into the Bowl Championship Series. BYU, on the other hand, needed a win just to become bowl eligible. In the end, the Utes won and were headed to the Fiesta Bowl, while BYU’s season ended unceremoniously.

The Utes were led by Heisman Trophy-finalist Alex Smith, who only threw for one touchdown and surrendered two interceptions against the Cougars. Steve Savoy, however, had a big day with three touchdowns scored to push Utah past BYU.

BYU ended the season with a 5-6 record and fired its head coach, Gary Crowton that offseason.

Utah went on to the Fiesta Bowl where they defeated Pittsburgh 35-7 and secured a No. 4 ranking in the final polls.

2008: Utah 48, BYU 24

Much like 2004, the Utes came into the rivalry game undefeated. This time BYU had more at stake than just to play spoiler for Utah’s perfect season. A loss by Utah would have created a three-way tie for the Mountain West Conference title with BYU and TCU. Utah, however, would not be denied as they rolled past the Cougars to continue a magical season.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was brilliant in the game, throwing for four touchdowns and 303 yards. Two of his TD passes were to receiver Brent Castell. Max Hall had a game to forget as he was forced into five interceptions on the night.

BYU wrapped up a strong season with a Las Vegas Bowl appearance, a 10-3 record and No. 25 ranking in the AP Poll.

The Utes went on to Sugar Bowl glory as they finished a perfect 13-0 season with a victory over heavily-favored Alabama. They were also ranked No. 2 in the country at the year’s end.

2015: Utah 35, BYU 28

It was the first and so far, only time that the two teams met for a bowl game when they butted heads in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl.

Utah scored all its points in the first quarter, thanks to a few costly turnovers by the Cougars. BYU would battle back and score 28 straight points to make a game of it, but couldn’t get it done in the final minutes as Utah held on for the season-ending win.

Utah managed just 197 yards of offense compared to 386 by BYU. The Cougars, however, were doomed by turnovers as they lost the ball five times in Vegas. Tevin Carter and Dominique Hatfield both had first-quarter interception returns to build Utah’s early lead.

The loss was the final game in the Bronco Mendenhall era for BYU.  The Cougars finished the year with a 9-4 record as an independent.

The win capped off another 10-win season for Utah as they finished 10-3 on the season.

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Most Heartbreaking Games In BYU/Utah History By Season Implications