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What you need to know: BYU vs. Utah

With the 94th (or 88th) meeting between BYU and Utah facing off on Saturday night, one last game will be played before a short hiatus will be taken until 2016. Very few players on the current team have experienced a win against the Utes so the goal is to send their seniors off with a win that will carry through 2 years.

Hoffman pulls in a pass against Utah in 2012
Hoffman pulls in a pass against Utah in 2012
George Frey

The History

The history between the schools is quite unique as even the schools do not agree on the win-loss record. According to the University of Utah, the teams started playing in 1896 when BYU was still Brigham Young Academy. If we count these games the record stands at 56-34-4 for Utah. According to BYU the first game was in 1922 which would put the series at 53-31-4 for Utah. Regardless of the actual number, the series has been a long standing tradition in the state of Utah. The Utes dominated the series early by winning 41 of the first 53 games. Next came the Lavell glory years from 1972-1992 where BYU won 19 of the 21 meetings. Since 1993 the Utes have taken back control of the series by winning 13 to the Cougars 7 with a 3 game win streak going into Saturday's game. The largest margin of victory for the teams is only separated by one point. In 1922 the Utes beat the Cougars by 49 with a score of 49-0 and in 1980 the Cougars beat the Utes by 50 with a score of 56-6. Here are a few of the highlight games that have taken place:

Cougar Stadium- Provo, Utah 1989

In 1989 BYU was trying to forget the beating Utah handed to them in the 1988 win 57-28. With Ty Detmer leading the charge, the Cougars scored the first 49 points of the game in the first half of play. Just before halftime the Utes scored their first touchdown. By the end of the game the Cougars had racked up over 750 yards of offense in route to a 70-31 final. The totals could be much worse but Lavell put in the reserves which gave up three fourth quarter touchdowns. The combined total still stands as a record with 101 points.

Rice-Eccles Stadium-Salt Lake CIty, Utah 2000

In a game that will be remembered as Lavell Edwards last game, the Cougars travelled up to Salt Lake needing a win to prevent a losing season. The Cougars were led by quarterback Brandon Doman but managed to get off to a very slow start. With his first pass of the game being intercepted, and returned for a touchdown, the Cougars were down early. BYU managed to put the pick behind them and held the Utes to a field goal for the rest of the half. With 13 points in the first quarter and 6 more in the second, the Cougars held a 19-10 lead at the break.

After a Doman to Mike Rigell 36 yard touchdown, BYU led 26-10. The Utes owned the fourth quarter as they scored 17 unanswered points to take the lead with just over two minutes left in the game. At this point Doman took over the game. Facing a fourth and 13 from inside their own 20, Doman scrambled and found Jonathan Pittman for a 34 yard bomb and the first down. On the next play, Doman found Pittman again for a 36 yard gain. Two plays later Doman found his way into the endzone for a four-yard rush that put the Cougars up by two. After converting the two-point conversion, the final score was reached at 34-27. In a ceremony before the game, Utah coach Ron McBride showed his respect and friendship for Edwards by presenting gifts from the University of Utah to Lavell recognizing his retirement.

Lavell Edwards Stadium- Provo, Utah 2011

In a game that was messy from the first play of the game, the Cougars couldn't overcome seven turnovers, with most leading to Utah points. On BYU's first possession of the game, a bad snap was recovered by the Utah in the endzone for a 7-0 lead. The Cougars would take their first lead of the game with just over six minutes left in the half when Jake Heaps connected with Ross Apo for a 32-yard touchdown. Leading 10-7 the Cougar defense gave up a 30-yard pass from Jordan Wynn to Jake Murphy to put the Utes up at the half 14-10.

The second half was all Utah as they started off their first possession of the half with a 59 yard touchdown from Wynn to Dres Anderson. As the defense began to tire, and the offense continued to give the ball up, the Utes continued to put up the points. When the game was over the Utes ended up scoring the final 47 points of the game in a 54-10 dismantling of the Cougars.

Ric-Eccles Stadium- Salt Lake City, Utah 2006

In a game that holds the distinction of ending with the number one play in BYU history, as voted on by the fans and BYUtv, John Beck solidified his player of the year award in the Mountain West. The 21st ranked Cougars started early by marching 83 yards, ending with a Manase Tonga one-yard touchdown run, and then 83 yards which ended with a 36-yard pass from Beck to Jonny Harline.

In the second quarter the Utes scored after a fake punt at midfield led to a first down and then Eric Weddle entered to play quarterback and threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Brent Casteel. The Cougars would not score again in the half but the Utes would add a field goal as time expired.

The third quarter was all Utah as Brett Ratliff threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Wilson that gave the Utes their first lead. With the Cougars not scoring in the third quarter, and Utah passing for another touchdown, the Utah lead was 24-14 going into the fourth quarter.

Shortly into the fourth , BYU drove 79 yards that ended with a pass from Beck to a jumping Harline, who out-jumped Weddle for a touchdown. After a defensive stop with about ten minutes left in the game, BYU drove 90 yards that ended with a Beck to Daniel Coats two-yard touchdown. The drive took more than six minutes off the clock and put the Cougars in a good position to win the game. With Utah down 27-24 they converted on a fourth and two from their own 25 before a long pass play to Casteel set up the subsequent 19 yard screen play for the go-ahead touchdown. With little time left the Cougars had to drive most of the field for a chance to win. Beck to Harline was the storyline of the drive as the connected numerous times, including a fourth and four.

The last play of the game has been commonly referred to as "the answered prayer", and even has a children's book memorializing the game. Before you read on, you may want to brush up and see the play by clicking here. With three seconds on the game-clock, Beck hopped left across the field before sprinting right after being chased by a defender. As he ran right he noticed Harline had been left alone in the right side of the end zone. Beck turned back abruptly and threw the ball across his body to a sliding and kneeling Harline. As the stunned defenders, and fans, stood around in shock Bronco and his team celebrated an emotional win. Besides the ending play, one of the most memorable photos that came out of the game was John Beck with his arm resting on the helmet of Eric Weddle and Weddle draping his arm across Becks back. Even with the emotion of the game, there was room for congratulations and condolences.

The Outlook

The outlook for this game can be exciting and promising but is also nerve-wracking for the fans. For Cougar fans there is an extra incentive for winning this game as the Cougars have lost the last 3 games and this will be the last game between the teams until 2016. Going into a six year stretch of not beating the rival is almost unfathomable to the fans and could lead to dark and dreary days afterwards. With excitement for the game and hope for the future, this game can be broken down into many aspects. As always we will start with the positives.

The Positives

Coming off of a big win against Texas, the Cougars confidence should be flying high. Even though Texas isn't the quality of team everyone expected, there are a number of positives to be taken from the game.

As the defense has proven time and time again, they are a force to be reckoned with. The defensive line and linebackers made themselves at home in the backfield and caused nightmares for the Longhorns quarterbacks. Kyle Van Noy and Alani Fua put on a display than any defensive coach would be proud of. With the Cougars in the backfield, the quarterbacks ended up on the ground, running for their lives, or rushing a pass to the extent that no offensive continuity could be found. Another positive was announced on Thursday when the Depth for the secondary was bolstered with the announcement that redshirt freshman Chris Badger was granted a waver after transferring from Notre Dame. He will be eligable immeeditatly. For the full story click here.

As an offense the Cougars were able to gain confidence in the run game and ran the read option to perfection. Thanks to an inspired offensive line the runners were gifted with holes the size of Texas and as a result managed chunks of yardage. With the running game in turbo mode, the pass was not needed although Cody Hoffman was able to display his abilities with a couple of great catches.

The special teams continued to improve with Justin Sorensen converting on all his attempts while the kick coverage and kick returning teams continued to dictate field position.

The Negatives

With all the positives that came from the Texas game, a couple of negatives still crept up and could be a glaring problem if not addressed before future games. The most obvious concern is still the accuracy of Taysom Hill. When he was able to set his feet, a few of the passes looked great. The way the offense is set up, Hill is not in the pocket for the majority of his passes. If he can't make the throws out of the pocket or on the run, it could be a really long day for the Cougars offense.

So far this year the secondary has performed better than expected. There were a few times against Texas that the receivers found their way behind the corners for big plays. Thanks to the front seven these types of plays have been minimized. The secondary has looked good in the short game, but if a pass rush can't be generated, it could mean disaster against good receivers.

The Match-ups

Taysom Hill vs. Utah Secondary

This week, more than any week thus far, comes down to the passing abilities of Hill. All indications are that the Utes will make the Cougars win by relying on Hills accuracy in the passing game. If Hill can find his receivers and some touch on the ball, he could exploit a questionable secondary for Utah. With the current season output by Hill, even a weak secondary can expect to have a shot at an interception or two. At this point in his career Hill will never be mistaken for Ty Detmer but if he can channel some of his inner Ty for a game, the results could be spectacular.

BYU offensive line vs. Utah front seven

With a much improved performance by the offensive line against Texas, the running game was on display in full force. Now we need an encore performance when blocking for the run and a breakout performance with pass blocking. The success of the Cougar offense may come down to who wins the battle of the line of scrimmage. If the offensive line can limit the penetration of the strong Utah Defensive line, good thing will happen. If the Utah defensive line can push back and disrupt the timing, this will make up for some of the questions in the secondary.

Utah offensive line vs. BYU front seven

With the recent news coming out that senior linebacker Spencer Hadley being suspended indefinitely, this puts a higher emphasis on the defensive line and Van Noy. Hadley was the best cover inside linebacker and would have played a key part in defending the tight ends while Kyle found his way to the backfield. Now adjustments will have to be made to compensate from either a less aggressive Van Noy or requiring the other linebackers to cover for the lack of experience of Tyler Beck and Manoa Pikula. Either way the defensive line will need to exert more pressure than anticipated. If the Utah Offensive line can create time for Wilson then the receivers have found their way into the Cougars questionable secondary and might gain big chunks of yards.

The Keys to Watch

When BYU has the ball:

Watch for the offense to try and take advantage of the Ute secondary early. Establishing the run will always be a priority of an Anae offense but don't be surprised to see Hill look for Cody Hoffman when one on one with his man. The receivers will try and get space on their routes and if they can avoid being knocked off their timing at the line, this could open up the space needed for a higher completion rate. At this point the perceived weakness of the defense is the secondary and so they will be tested. Look for the defense to start off defending the run and forcing Hill to beat them with his arm. If his accuracy is off, the Utes can stack the box and attempt to take away the run while playing one on one with the receivers. Jamaal Williams will get his carries but it will be up to the offensive line to make sure they are productive.

When Utah has the ball watch for:

Watch for the Utes to utilize the athleticism of their biggest weapon, Travis Wilson. He is their running game and their passing game. He has the deceptive speed to run past a defender, the body to run over a defender, and the arm to throw over a defender. If Wilson is not pressured, he can pick apart a secondary. He is also shown that if a team can disguise their coverage, he can be confused and he is prone to work off his pre-snap reads. This leaves the door open for a defense to jump a route and take away the ball. The defense will take fewer chances in the secondary after being beat a few times against Texas but Dres Anderson is still a threat to go deep if Wilson has the time. Don't be surprised if Van Noy continues to get the green light to play as aggressive as ever and Alani Fua and Uani' Unga will try to make up for the loss of Hadley.

Interesting Tidbit

This year is one of the years that take on a "Family-Feud" environment as not only can fans claim to be pitted against members of the family, but there is a set of brothers that will be playing against each other. Trevor Reilly and Drew Reilly will play for the first and maybe last time, on opposite teams. Trevor is a defensive end/linebacker for the Utes, while Drew plays as a safety for the Cougars. Last year Drew sat out due to NCAA transfer rules after transferring from Colorado State. If you want the full breakdown on the brotherly duel, click here.

Next Meeting

9/10/2016 Rice-Eccles Stadium-Salt Lake City, Utah. It was also just announced that the series will continue for two more games in 2017 and 2018. Click here for details.

The Broadcasting Details

Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium Provo, Utah

When: 8:15 pm MDT


Internet: WatchESPN

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Radio(Utah): KALL 799 AM

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here

Comment below to let us know what you think may happen, can't happen, or will happen for BYU to come out with a win!