Holy War (Utah vs. BYU)
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The Holy War is the name given to the BYU–Utah football rivalry. It is an American college football rivalry game played by the University of Utah Utes and Brigham Young University Cougars. The game is part of the larger Utah–BYU rivalry. In this rivalry context, the term "Holy War" refers to the fact that BYU is owned and administered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and the University of Utah is a public university owned and administered by the State of Utah. Although many Utah fans are LDS members, the term "Holy War" also refers to the stark cultural differences of the respective fan bases. The proximity of the two schools, the athletic successes of the two teams, and the longevity of the series also contribute to the rivalry.
|Sport||American college football|
|First meeting||April 6, 1896|
Utah 12, BYU 4
|Latest meeting||September 9, 2017|
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Utah 19, BYU 13
|Next meeting||November 24, 2018|
Salt Lake City
|All-time series||Utah leads, 60–34–4|
|Largest victory||Utah: 49–0 (1922)|
BYU: 56–6 (1980)
|Longest win streak||Utah: 9 (1929–1937)|
BYU: 9 (1979–1987)
|Current win streak||Utah, 7 (2010–present)|
Both teams played in the same conference from 1922 to 2010 and the Holy War game often decided the conference title. Despite Utah moving to the Pac-12 Conference in 2011 and BYU becoming an independent that same year, the two universities agreed to play between 2011 and 2013 prior to a brief interruption in the series for 2014 and 2015 – the first since 1943 to 1945, when BYU did not field a team due to World War II. Games between 2016 and 2020 were also subsequently booked, which might precede another break in the series.
The two-year hiatus of 2014–2015 was unexpectedly cut short when the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl pitted BYU against Utah, creating the "Holy War in Sin City" in the postseason.
There are a number of components that make the Holy War particularly fierce. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University are the two biggest colleges in the state of Utah. There is a stark contrast between the campuses and student bodies, as one is a religious institution while the other is a public university. As the name of the rivalry implies, religion is a large component to the rivalry. Brigham Young University is owned by the LDS church, and thus imposes religious restrictions upon its students. The long length of rivalry is also a major element.
The University of Utah is the flagship university of the state of Utah, while Brigham Young University is the flagship university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The matchup has been described as taking on religious, or "church vs. state" undertones. Utah fans may drink alcohol or swear around BYU fans, both of which are known to be forbidden by the Church Educational System Honor Code, which all BYU students and faculty are required to maintain. In 2013, two Utah football players videotaped a mock baptism in their practice facility tub that some BYU fans believed was mocking the LDS ordinance of baptism.
The two schools disagree on when the first game was played. Utah claims that the first game was played in 1896 against Brigham Young Academy. BYU's athletic website shows their schedule dating back to 1922, but no earlier. Utah claims a lead of 60–34–4, while BYU claims Utah leads 57–31–4. BYU does not count the six games between Utah and Brigham Young Academy in its records.
Utah has a large lead in the overall series and has dominated the rivalry both prior to 1972 (41–8–4). From 1972 to 1992 BYU dominated the series with a record of 19–2 versus Utah. Since 1983, when BYU won 55–7, the largest point spread is 44 points, which occurred in 2011 when Utah won 54–10 in Provo.
BYU, which is in Provo, Utah, and the University of Utah, which is in Salt Lake City, are about 50 miles (80 km) apart and approximately an hour's drive away on Interstate 15. Consequently, the two teams compete for recruits and fan support. It is not uncommon for friends, neighbors, and even family members to have opposite allegiances.
While the two teams have not necessarily been strong at the same time, the two teams had the most conference championships in the Mountain West Conference (MW) before both left the MW in 2011. Each team has had four conference championships since the creation of the MW in 1999. Including championships of other conferences, Utah has 24 conference championships in its history, while BYU has 23. Both of these numbers are well ahead of the current MW member with the most conference championships, Colorado State, who has 15. Other than the 2011 meeting, the recent games in the Holy War have tended to be close, with the final score of fifteen of the last nineteen games being within a touchdown (seven points, including a successful conversion kick) or less.
During the era of the now-defunct Bowl Championship Series (1998–2013), Utah played in two BCS bowls: the 2005 Fiesta Bowl (a 35–7 victory over Pitt) and the 2009 Sugar Bowl (a 31–17 victory over Alabama). For these BCS bowl victories, Utah finished ranked in the AP Poll #4 and #2, respectively. Many sports media members and observers, including ESPN's Rick Reilly, argued that Utah (the nation's lone undefeated FBS team) should have been awarded the AP National Championship and should have been selected to play Florida in the BCS title game. In 2018, the NCAA recognized that Utah had been chosen as the number 1 football team by three national selectors. Utah is now listed as a National Champion for 2008 in NCAA record books.
Fan base comparisonsEdit
In 2011 the New York Times polled fans of all current FBS schools to rank them according to the size of their respective fan bases. BYU was ranked #43 nationally with 709,864 people self-identifying as BYU fans while Utah was ranked #67 with 351,939 people self-identifying as fans.
In 2017 Utah saw an average of 45,913 fans attend home games and 52,489 fans on the road (including a bowl game). Rice-Eccles Stadium holds a maximum of 45,807 meaning that the stadium was always over capacity and utilized standing-room-only areas. BYU averaged 56,267 fans at home and 35,019 at away games. LaVell Edwards Stadium has a capacity of 63,470.
The Brigham Young Academy yearsEdit
Before 1903, BYU was known as Brigham Young Academy (BYA). During the 1890s, Utah and BYA played six times in football. The two schools split the series 3–3. The first meeting was an unusual April contest that Utah won 12–4.
BYA stopped playing football in 1900, following a player death, and did not start again until 1922, after it had become Brigham Young University (BYU). BYU does not recognize these first six meetings as it only recognizes football games played from 1922 onward.
Utah's early dominanceEdit
After twenty-three years of not having a team, BYU resumed play for the 1922 season. Utah began its early dominance over BYU with a 49–0 victory on October 14, 1922. BYU would not get another win in the series until 1942, when the Cougars shocked the Utes 12–7 at Utah. The rivalry then took a hiatus from 1943 to 1945 because BYU did not field a team due to World War II. When the rivalry continued in 1946, the Utes continued their domination over the Cougars, winning or tying the next twelve contests. Save for a three-year BYU winning streak from 1965–1967, the rivalry continued this trend through the 1971 season, at which point Utah had amassed a 41–8–4 (.811) record against BYU.
The LaVell Edwards eraEdit
In 1972, the rivalry shifted in favor of BYU. The Cougars had hired LaVell Edwards and in his first season, BYU beat Utah 16–7 for BYU's first victory over Utah in four years. The win signaled the beginning of BYU's dominance against Utah. From 1972 to 1992, BYU went 19–2 (.905) against Utah.
During those years, Utah went through a series of coaches that all ended with losing records against LaVell Edwards and BYU. Bill Meek's Utes went 0–2 against Edwards during Meek's last two years (1972–1973). Tom Lovat (1974–1976) was 0–3. Wayne Howard (1977–1981) was 1–4. Chuck Stobart (1982–1984) was 0–3. Jim Fassel was 1–4. Finally, Utah found some success when it hired Ron McBride in 1990. McBride would finish with a 5–6 record against LaVell Edwards, but he started with three consecutive losses to Edwards.
1977–1981: Edwards versus HowardEdit
Wayne Howard's CrusadeEdit
During the 1977 meeting, BYU was on the way to winning in a 38–8 blowout. Nonetheless, LaVell Edwards put starting quarterback Marc Wilson back into the game so Wilson could set an NCAA record for passing yards. Wilson succeeded in setting the record (subsequently broken) and finished the game with 571 passing yards. The incident infuriated Utah head coach Wayne Howard. After the game, he said, "This today will be inspiring. The hatred between BYU and Utah is nothing compared to what it will be. It will be a crusade to beat BYU from now on. This is a prediction: in the next two years Utah will drill BYU someday, but we won’t run up the score even if we could set an NCAA record against them." The next year, Wayne Howard made good on his promise. The Utes came from behind to upset the Cougars 23–22. The 1978 win was Utah's first against a LaVell Edwards coached BYU team.
Jim McMahon says, "Scoreboard."Edit
During the 1980 Holy War, BYU quarterback Jim McMahon helped engineer a blowout. Most of the game he was heckled by a contingent of Utah fans at Rice Stadium. After throwing for another touchdown late in the 56–6 win, he simply pointed at the scoreboard to quiet the hecklers. The game was in the midst of a 12–1 BYU season. It was also their second consecutive win against Utah and their eighth win out of the last nine games against Utah. The fifty point margin of victory is the largest for either team in the series.
1982–1984: Edwards versus StobartEdit
On November 17, 1984, BYU entered the Holy War 10–0 and ranked #3 in the AP Poll. BYU overcame several turnovers to win 24–14. BYU would finish the season 13–0 and the only undefeated team in Division I-A (now the Football Bowl Subdivision). They were voted number one in the final AP Poll as well as the Coaches' Poll to become consensus national champions. This was the last time a team outside the current Power Five conferences won a national championship; the next most recent was Army in 1945.
1985–1989: Edwards versus FasselEdit
The Rice BowlEdit
In 1988, Utah had not beaten BYU since 1978 and entered the Holy War as 11-point underdogs. Utah had a mediocre 5–5 record while BYU was 8–2 and had already accepted an invitation to the Freedom Bowl. BYU looked ready to humiliate the Utes again. Instead Utah and quarterback Scott Mitchell jumped on BYU early and took a 21–0 lead on the way to winning 57–28. The 1988 team set a series record for points scored against BYU—a record that stands today. The game came to be known locally as "the Rice Bowl" because the game was played at Utah's Rice Stadium.
— BYU running back Fred Whittingham
The next year, in 1989, BYU got their revenge. They set a series record by scoring 70 against Utah. BYU jumped to a 49–0 lead before Utah scored its first touchdown just before halftime. Behind quarterback Ty Detmer, BYU would score eight touchdowns on its first eight possessions and amass over 750 yards of total offense during the 70–31 win. Utah would score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against BYU's reserves. The 101 points the two teams scored is still a series record.
The modern rivalryEdit
By the mid-1990s, the Cougars' success leveled off from the years of the 1970s and '80s. Around this time, the Utes also improved significantly, and the rivalry became much more competitive.
1990–2000: Edwards versus McBrideEdit
The rivalry began to change in 1993, during Ron McBride's fourth season as head coach, the Utes won their first game in Provo in twenty-two seasons and their first since LaVell Edwards became BYU head coach. Late in the fourth quarter, Utah's kicker Chris Yergensen, who had already missed two out of three field goals on the day, attempted to break the 31–31 tie. This time, Yergensen did not miss and kicked the game-winning 55-yard field goal, the longest of his career, with less than a minute remaining.
— BYU nose guard Lenny Gomes on Utah and its fans, 1993
After the win, Utah fans and players attempted to tear down the north end zone goalpost at what was then Cougar Stadium. Cougar players returned to the field to protect the goalpost from being torn down. About the incident, Lenny Gomes, a BYU nose guard, said, "Typical Utah bullshit. All those guys think that's all there is to life. But when I'm making $50–60,000 a year, they'll be pumping my gas. They're low-class losers." The remark is still remembered in rivalry history today.
The 1994 season was McBride's best, as he led the Utes to a 10–2 record and a top-10 finish in national rankings. The Utes and Cougars also staged one of the best matchups in the rivalry's history, meeting for the first time as top-25 ranked teams. The Utes won the game 34–31, which was coincidentally the same score of their meeting a year before. Utah ran its rivalry winning streak up to three games a year later, with a 34–17 win at BYU. The Utes and Cougars would trade wins and losses the next couple of years, before the 2000 season.
The Kaneshiro DoinkEdit
In 1998, the first Holy War was played at the newly renovated Rice-Eccles Stadium. BYU entered the game with an 8–3 (6–1 WAC) record and was playing for a berth in the WAC Championship game. Utah entered the game with a 7–3 (5–2 WAC) record and was hoping to land a bowl game and spoil BYU's WAC Championship hopes. BYU took a 26–17 lead when Owen Pochman connected on a 47-yard field goal with 2:41 left to play in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Utah's Daniel Jones returned the ball 95 yards to cut the lead to 26–24. Utah's defense held BYU and forced them to punt. Utah moved the ball to the 15-yard line where Ryan Kaneshiro attempted a 32-yard field goal. The attempt bounced off the right upright, which preserved the win for BYU and caused the goalpost to shake from the "doink".
Utah cheerleader pummels an aggressive fanEdit
During the 1999 edition of the Holy War, Utah recorded its fourth consecutive win in Provo. Early in the fourth quarter, Utah scored a touchdown when quarterback T.D. Crowshaw completed a four-yard-pass to Donny Utu to put Utah up 20–10. In celebration, Utah cheerleader Billy Priddis ran along the visitor's sideline with a large "U" flag. A BYU fan who was later banned from the BYU campus, ran onto the sideline and tackled Priddis from behind. Priddis turned around and started punching the fan. He landed seven or eight punches before security separated them. About the incident, Priddis said, ""There's 65,000 fans here, does he think I'm not going to retaliate?"
— BYU Athletic Director Val Hale, 1999
From the Utah sideline, receiver Steve Smith taunted BYU fans and yelled, "Even our cheerleaders are kicking your butt." BYU's athletic director Val Hale purported to have chastised Priddis and the rest of the Utah cheerleaders. After the game, he said, "I told them from now on we're going to leave our flags at home and they should do the same. All it does is initiate the fans to throw things out of the stands."
Edwards' last gameEdit
Entering the 2000 season, legendary head coach LaVell Edwards announced that he was retiring. His final game as Cougars head coach came against the Utes in Salt Lake City, where BYU won 34–27 with an exciting last-minute drive that ended on a touchdown with little time remaining on the clock.
2001 and 2002: Crowton versus McBrideEdit
In 2001, under new head coach Gary Crowton, BYU entered their game against Utah undefeated and looking to become the first team from outside the BCS to play in a BCS bowl game. A tight game ended with a comeback by BYU. BYU running back Luke Staley raced down the sideline with 1:16 left to play to make it 24–21 and BYU DB Jenaro Gilford intercepted a pass on the ensuing Ute drive to seal the victory. The win gave the Cougars consecutive wins against the Utes for the first time in nearly ten years. The Cougs, however, failed to bust the BCS, losing to Hawaiʻi in their final game.
McBride, who had guided Utah to six bowl games and three bowl wins, entered the 2002 rivalry game in danger of being fired. The Utes had struggled all season long and even with their 13–6 victory against BYU, Utah finished with their second losing season in three years. The 5–6 finish sealed McBride's fate and he was fired in 2002; Weber State University hired him in December 2004.
2003 and 2004: Crowton versus MeyerEdit
Urban Meyer was hired to replace Ron McBride. Under Meyer, Utah players were not allowed to use the name BYU and began referring rather to the Team Down South or TDS (BYU being about 50 miles south of the University of Utah), imitating Ohio State coach Woody Hayes practice of referring to Michigan as "that team up north." This reference has become a tradition among some Utah fans.
Scoring streak endsEdit
In Meyer's first season, the Utes won the Mountain West Conference and finished 10–2, which was their best record since the 1994 season. The last game of the regular season, Utah beat BYU for the second straight year with a 3–0 victory. The victory snapped BYU's NCAA record for scoring in 361 straight games—BYU's first shutout since a 20–0 loss to Arizona State on September 25, 1975.
In 2004 Utah would have its best season up to that point, going 12–0 and becoming the first team from outside the BCS to play in a BCS bowl game. They went on to win their matchup against Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. The Utes final regular season game, a 52–21 victory over BYU, clinched the invitation to a BCS bowl. Urban Meyer then left Utah for Florida. After the 2004 season, Gary Crowton resigned after finishing with his third consecutive losing season.
2005–2015: Mendenhall versus WhittinghamEdit
In 2005, Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham started as head coaches at their respective programs. Whittingham was offered the job at BYU before turning it down and accepting the position at Utah. This has added to the rivalry between the two coaches. Whittingham won the overall series against Mendenhall with a tally of 7–3. Eight of the ten games were decided by a touchdown or less. In a December 17, 2009 column, writer Stewart Mandel called the coaching rivalry the best coaching rivalry of that decade.
First overtime gameEdit
The 2005 season saw some striking parallels between the two programs. Both had replaced their former head coaches, struggled through parts of their seasons, and would finish the regular season with 6–5 records. When the two met in Provo in November 2005, BYU was looking for its first win against the Utes in three seasons. Utah was looking for a winning record and a shot at a bowl game. BYU entered as the favorite because Utah would be playing without its starting quarterback and its best wide receiver, who had been injured in their previous game. The Utes were starting JC transfer Brett Ratliff who had taken just three snaps the week before. Ratliff surprised the Cougars by completing 17 of 32 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns, and rushing for 112 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. He was responsible for all five Utah touchdowns. The Utes won 41–34.
Beck to HarlineEdit
When the two teams met again in November 2006, this time in Salt Lake City, BYU jumped out to an early lead, then fell behind and trailed for much of the game, but finally won it 33–31 with an impressive last-minute drive, capped by a touchdown pass from John Beck to Jonny Harline with no time on the clock. The win gave BYU an undefeated record of 8–0 in Mountain West Conference play. Harline caught the pass on his knees in the end zone with no Utah defender near him. The play led to BYU fans creating and wearing T-shirts reading "Harline's still open."
In 2007, the teams clashed on November 24, in what was a mostly defensive game. The game's first 12 points were only field goals, BYU's Mitch Payne scoring 9 points. Utah then scored the first touchdown, taking the lead 10–9. In the fourth quarter, BYU came back with a late-game drive that included a 4th and 18 from its own 12-yard line. Four plays later, freshman running back Harvey Unga bulled into the endzone to win it 17–10. Austin Collie, who caught the Max Hall pass to convert the 4th and 18 to a first down said about the play, "I wouldn't say it was lucky. We executed the play well. We should have had another one. Obviously, when you're doing what's right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part in it. Magic happens." The comment further fueled the religious animosity between the two teams.
BCS busting... againEdit
Only four years removed from shocking the college football world in 2004 and becoming the first team from outside the BCS to bust into the BCS, Utah returned to the national stage by going undefeated throughout the year. The game was fairly even until Utah scored a touchdown with 15 seconds left in the half to put the Utes up by 10. In the second half, BYU cut the lead to three by the end of the third quarter but couldn't keep Utah out of the endzone in the fourth quarter. Utah would score three times in the final quarter to win 48–24.
Second overtime gameEdit
In 2009, in the second overtime game in series history, BYU defeated Utah 26–23. BYU held a 20–6 lead entering the fourth quarter. Utah scored 14 fourth-quarter points to force overtime, but their comeback fell short. Utah managed a field goal in overtime to take a 23–20 lead, but on BYU's possession, Max Hall connected to tight end Andrew George for a 25-yard touchdown reception and the victory. The game was dubbed "George is still running" by BYU fans.
During the postgame press conference, Hall was asked if he felt he had redeemed himself for his performance in the previous year's game in which he had five interceptions and one fumble. Hall responded, "A little bit, yeah. I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything. So, it feels good to send those guys home. They didn't deserve it. It was our time and it was our time to win. We deserved it. We played as hard as we could tonight, and it felt really good to send them home and to get them out of here, so it is a game I'll always remember." When asked for a clarification and whether he really hated Utah, Hall said, "I think the whole university and their fans and organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and did a whole bunch of nasty things. I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."
The next day, Hall issued an apology for his "remarks". He alleged that his "family was spit on, had beer dumped on them and were physically assaulted on several occasions" during the previous year's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Max Hall made similar accusations following a loss against the University of Arizona, back when he was a student at Arizona St. There are no beer sales at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
For 2010, the game was played at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. It was the last game for the two teams as conference rivals. BYU entered the game with a 6–5 while Utah came in at 9–2. In a low scoring affair, BYU scored two field goals, one in each of the first two quarters, to lead 6–0 at halftime. In the third quarter, the Cougars got a touchdown on a 21-yard pass play from Jake Heaps to McKay Jacobson, to take a 13–0 lead. The fourth quarter began with Utah scoring a 40-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 13–3, and then after Utah recovered a BYU fumble, Utah capitalized with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Wynn to DeVonte Christopher to make the score 13–10. The Cougars responded with a field goal, to make it 16–10.
Utah responded to a series of turnovers with a Matt Asiata touchdown on a 3-yard run to make it 17–16 with 4:24 remaining. BYU then drove down the field to Utah's 22-yard line, to set up Mitch Payne for a game-winning field goal with 4 seconds remaining. However, Utah cornerback Brandon Burton raced from the outside to block the kick and secure a 17–16 Utah victory.
Shock and aweEdit
With Utah having left for the Pac-12 and BYU declaring conference independence, the 2011 BYU home game against Utah was the rivalry's first non-conference game since 1898. BYU suffered a rough start on its opening drive, when on its third play, the ball was snapped over quarterback Jake Heaps' head and recovered for a touchdown by Utah DE Derrick Shelby. The remainder of the 1st quarter held similar luck for BYU, with Running back JJ Di'Luigi fumbling on 1st and Goal from the Utah 6-yard line. The 2nd quarter proved more competitive with BYU completing a 32-yard TD pass to WR Ross Apo. Utah answered with 30-yard TD pass from QB Jordan Wynn to freshman TE Jake Murphy, just two minutes before the half. Utah led at halftime 14–10.
After a first half that seemed to promise the typical nail-biter game that the last decade of the rivalry had shown, it was anything but. The Utes scored 40 unanswered points in the 2nd half (a total of 47 unanswered). Turnovers continued to plague BYU, who would finish with 7, including JD Falslev's mishandled kickoff return at their own 6-yard line, QB Jake Heaps fumble at their own 6-yard line, and QB Riley Nelson's (substituted in for Heaps in the 4th quarter) fumble after being sacked, returned 57 yards for a TD by freshman LB V.J. Fehoko.
The final result of 54–10 was the largest margin of victory for either team in the Holy War since a 55–7 BYU victory in 1983, and Utah's second-largest margin of victory ever in the Holy War. Utah's 54 points were the second most the Utes had ever scored against BYU.
The 2012 incarnation of the Holy War ended in dramatic and odd fashion. Utah went into the 4th quarter up 17 points, but the BYU offense brought it within 3. With less than 30 seconds remaining, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson successfully drove into Utah territory on 4th and long with a 40-yard pass to wide receiver, Cody Hoffman. On what was thought to be the final play of the game, Nelson's deflected pass fell incomplete as time seemingly expired and the Utah fans rushed the field. The pass, however, was shown to hit the ground with one second left, giving BYU an opportunity to kick a field goal from 51 yards (once the fans had been cleared from the field of play). On the attempt, the kick was blocked, the ball recovered by BYU, and the runner subsequently tackled. However, Utah fans again rushed the field, this time before the play was over, thus earning a penalty that gave BYU another chance at a field goal, this one from only 36 yards. That attempt was unsuccessful, however, when the kick hit the left upright and went awry, leading Utah fans to rush the field for a third and final time. Utah won the game 24–21.
Twenty-Thirteen in 2013Edit
Not conference mates any longer, Utah and BYU played the 2013 game with the understanding it would be the final contest until 2016 – a fact that served as motivation for both teams to avoid having to endure a defeat for three calendar years.
Utah dominated the first half 13–0 and quieted the raucous crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium. BYU didn't score their first points, a field goal, until 11:39 remaining in the third quarter and the Cougars tacked on another exactly six minutes later. Utah, though, responded with a 79-yard touchdown drive to extend its lead to 20–6 with 12:44 remaining in regulation.
BYU didn't score its first touchdown, a one-yard run by running back Michael Alisa, until 5:44 left in the game to close the gap to seven points. After holding and false start penalties forced a three-and-out on Utah's next possession, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was intercepted on the Cougars' next drive with a little more than 90 seconds remaining – appearing to seal the win for Utah.
After another three-and-out for Utah, though, BYU received the ball near midfield with 39 seconds left and one final chance to tie the game. However, four straight incomplete passes by Hill – including a Hail Mary attempt to receiver Mitch Mathews as time expired, during which he committed offensive pass interference by pulling a Utah defensive back to the ground – punctuated Utah's fourth straight win over BYU and sent the Utes into the three-year hiatus on a resounding high.
2015 Las Vegas BowlEdit
The planned hiatus for 2014–2015 was unexpectedly cut short. On December 6, 2015, it was announced that BYU would play Utah on December 19, 2015 in the Las Vegas Bowl. It was the first time the teams met in the postseason and the first Holy War game to be played at a neutral site.
During the build-up to the game, the pot was stirred by Utah's two-time Ray Guy Award-winning Australian punter Tom Hackett. At a pregame event, Hackett called the Cougars "bastards", and finished by saying "this is Utah's world and BYU's living in it."
Less than eight minutes had passed before Utah took a 35–0 lead in the game. The Utes set a Las Vegas Bowl record for points in the first quarter, scoring five touchdowns off of five BYU turnovers. The Utes did not play as well over the remainder of the game, allowing BYU to score 28 unanswered points before holding on for a 35–28 win, ending Bronco Mendenhall's last game as BYU's head coach with a loss.
2016–present: Whittingham versus SitakeEdit
The first offensive play from scrimmage in the 2016 game resulted in a Utah pick-six. However, Utah turned the ball over several times, which led to two BYU fields goals and a touchdown late in the 2nd Quarter. Utah answered with a touchdown of their own and held a slim 14–13 lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime. After a field goal in the third quarter, Utah led 17–13 as it used most of the time in the fourth on a 19-play drive that eventually stalled inside the ten yard line of BYU. The choice to kick the field goal left BYU with one chance to overcome the 20–13 deficit with 2:47 to go. BYU drove for a touchdown with 18 seconds to play. Rather than kick the PAT to make it 20–20, BYU first year coach Kalani Sitake decided to go for the two point conversion and the win. Quarterback Taysom Hill ran the ball up the middle on a draw, but got nowhere as Utah defenders stuffed him at the three-yard line and preserved the Utah victory, 20–19.
On September 9, 2017, Utah headed to Provo looking to defeat BYU for the 7th consecutive time. Neither team was able to get into the endzone in the first half which ended with Utah leading 9–0. In the third quarter, Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, but BYU answered with a touchdown of their own 3 minutes later only to fail on the 2-point conversion. The Utes tacked on another field goal before the quarter ended to lead 19–6 going into the fourth quarter. There was no scoring in the fourth quarter until BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum put together an 11 play, 76 yard touchdown drive capped off by a 7-yard passing touchdown to Trey Dye with 2:38 remaining in the game. BYU's defense was able to come up with a stop and they took over the ball on their own 8-yard line with 1:38 remaining and one timeout. Utah's defense stood strong and BYU was unable to move the ball. Utah went on to beat BYU 19–13, marking the 7th straight win for the Utes over the Cougars.
BYU and Utah have agreed to continue the series between 2017 and 2022, but no games have been scheduled beyond that. The 2018 contest is set for November 24—both teams' final game of the year. Utah typically plays Colorado in the final week, but a scheduling anomaly in the Pac-12 facilitated the rivalry game being played the final week instead of September. In 2019 and 2020, the game will be the first of each season.
The interruption of the series in 2014 and 2015 sparked discontent in both fan bases – particularly among BYU fans, some of whom felt that the break was nothing more than a boastful dig at the Cougars' program. Utah AD Chris Hill acknowledged the topic in August 2015 and said a large number of Utah fans had expressed to him a desire to take a break from the rivalry.
"The message I have received loud and clear from Utah season ticket holders is that they support our decision to take a two-year hiatus from the BYU rivalry", Hill said.
Another break in the series may follow in the 2020s, as Utah has a scheduled series with the Baylor Bears in 2023 and 2024, filling a possible open slot on the schedule, as Michigan did during the hiatus of 2014–2015.
|BYU victories||Utah victories||Tie games|
*BYU was known as Brigham Young Academy (BYA) until 1903
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