Utah Ready To Face BYU In Holy War Rivalry Battle
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The University of Utah is ready to face rival Brigham Young University in another edition of the ‘Holy War’ battle at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Both teams are bowl eligible but the Utes don’t have as much on the line as BYU does. Utah will play in their first Pac-12 Championship game on November 30 against either Washington State or Washington. The Cougars are fighting for a good bowl game while also looking to snap an 7-game losing streak against the Utes.
Utes To Play Starters
In what some might think that with Utah locking up a berth in the conference championship game, that they don’t have anything to play for against BYU besides pride. Even to the point that they would rest their key players against BYU to stay rested for the Pac-12 title game.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t want any part of that speculation.
“Our guys are warriors. They are born to compete and they want to play and go to battle with each other,” he added. “I don’t know how you sell the players that we are going to sit everybody and not let the seniors finish the season,” Whittingham said.
Having to play without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley, Utah has looked to redshirt freshman Jason Shelley. Through the season, he has thrown for 582 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. In his two starts in wins over Oregon and Colorado, Shelley had over 200 passing yards in both games with 262 yards against the Ducks and 221 versus the Buffaloes.
The Utes have had to play without their star running back Zack Moss who suffered a season-ending injury on November 7. Junior running back Armand Shyne has filled in for Moss nicely. He has racked up 395 rushing yards on 80 carries to go with three touchdowns this season.
Utah’s elite defense has statistics that stack up well with the rest of the country. They are No. 1 in the nation in red zone defense at 59.4 percent, No. 5 in rushing defense with 95.5 yards per game. They are first in the Pac-12 in tackles-for-loss per game (8.1), total defense (312.1), and opponent third-down conversion percentage (32.5).
Head coach Kyle Whittingham has 14 seniors playing their last game at Rice-Eccles Stadium that include starters Chase Hansen and Cody Barton. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky and kicker Matt Gay. Offensive lineman Jackson Barton, Jordan Agasiva and Lo Falemaka. Safety duo Corrion Ballard and Marquise Blair. Other seniors include offensive linemen Aaron Amaama and Alani Havili-Katoa. Defensive back Anthony Armstrong, and wide receivers Jameson Field and Derrick Vickers.
“There is a lot special of this group. This is the smallest senior class since I have been at Utah,” said Kyle Whittingham. “They have been phenomenal with their leadership and taken control of the team. Really good teams are player driven and these guys have done that,” he added.
With their win over New Mexico State last week, BYU became bowl eligible after missing last season with a 4-9 record. The players have a lot more to play for as they look to snap a long seven-game losing streak as the Cougars haven’t been able to beat the Utes since they joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
Head coach Kalani Sitake, this isn’t just a regular game.
“It’s really competitive. I think there’s a lot of people who care about it. We definitely do. This is an important game to me, an important game to our coaches, our administration, (and) our fans especially. Our players are excited for his game,” said Sitake.
BYU true freshman and lifelong Utah fan Zach Wilson will make his first start against the Utes on Saturday. He has thrown for 1,057 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Wilson has rushed for 125 and two touchdowns on the ground.
Kyle Whittingham had some nice things to say about Wilson.
“He has done a nice job. He has a strong arm and good mobility. For a true freshman to take over midseason, I think he has done a good job,” Whittingham said.
Running back Lopini Katoa leads the team in rushing with 423 yards and 8 touchdowns. He had four touchdowns last week against New Mexico State.
Katoa’s running back mate Matt Hadley has racked up 319 yards and four touchdowns.
Linebacker Sione Takitaki is the leader of the Cougars defense with 88 tackles including 8 tackles-for-loss to go with two sacks and a forced fumble.
Holy War Series History
Both schools have not been able to agree on how many times the two schools have faced each other in the rivalry history. According to Utah, the two teams will play their 99th meeting against each other. While BYU says that it is the 93rd meeting.
The series history according to BYU has the Cougars with a 31-57-4 record against the Utes, with a 15-20-1 in Provo and 16-36-3 record in Salt Lake City. They are 0-1 at neutral sites, which was the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl.
According to Utah, they hold a 60-34-4 record overall in the series history, with a 39-17-3 record in Salt Lake City and a 20-17-1 mark in Provo as well as 1-0 at neutral sites.
BYU and Utah will kickoff on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Rice Eccles Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FS1 and can be heard on KSL News Radio.