Yes, the Holy War is back. Or, at least it will be in some form in 2024. BYU and Utah will be in the same conference once again, after a 13-year hiatus. One of the sport’s most historic and frankly vitriolic rivalries returns to its proper in-conference form.
While that is (and should) get most of the publicity, let’s not forget that BYU has plenty of history with the other two newcomers in Arizona and Arizona State.
BYU, Arizona State, and Arizona all were part of the original WAC that began in 1962. The trio were conference rivals from 1962 to 1977, until both Arizona schools jumped ship for the PAC-10 in 1978.
The Cougars played both Arizona and Arizona State on nearly a yearly basis for almost two decades.
Let’s review a brief history of BYU against these two former WAC rivals.
In BYU’s first ever conference championship season in 1965, they beat both Arizona and Arizona State. The Cougars won in Tucson 20-3 late in the season. Kent Oborn returned a punt 94 yards for a key touchdown.
In 1971, the Wildcats came to Provo and handed BYU a 27-14 home loss that bumped BYU to fourth place and Arizona to third in the conference.
Arizona shared the conference title with rival Arizona State in 1973. They beat BYU 24-10 in Provo along the journey.
BYU got their revenge in 1974. The Cougars traveled to Tucson to face a Wildcats squad ranked 16th in the country. The Cougars were just 2-3-1. Arizona was ranked as highly as No. 9 that season before meeting BYU.
On the arm of QB Gary Sheide, who threw five touchdowns, BYU rallied for an upset win. John Betham caught three of those scores, totaling 144 yards on the day. The Cougars built a 28-7 lead at halftime and never relinquished it.
The Cougars rode that momentum to the conference title, finishing 6-0-1 in the WAC.
Arizona came to Provo the next season ranked 17th and beat BYU on their way to a 9-2 season.
After the WAC days, Arizona and BYU did not meet until 2006. The Wildcats also beat BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl.
With BYU’s victory over Arizona in Las Vegas in 2021, they knotted up the all-time series at 12-12-1.
As mentioned, BYU won their first conference title in school history in 1965. Cougars head coach Tommy Hudspeth led the team to a 4-1 conference record, which included beating Arizona State in Week 1 in Tempe. That ended up being the tiebreaker, as Arizona State also finished 6-4 and BYU was their only conference loss.
That ended ASU’s 12-game home winning streak. BYU’s dual threat QB Virgil Carter guided the offense to the upset win, setting up a conference championship season.
1969 began a streak of five straight seasons where Arizona State won at least a share of the conference title.
1974 is where BYU started to wrestle the conference away from the Sun Devils. Sitting at 4-3-1, BYU welcomed No. 16-ranked ASU to Provo for a key WAC clash. BYU QB Gary Sheide found Tim Mahoney in the endzone for the go ahead score, putting BYU up 21-18.
That victory spring boarded BYU to their second WAC championship and set up a date with Oklahoma State in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl.
Arizona State ran roughshod through the conference in 1975, with a perfect 12-0 season. They were the lone undefeated team in college football, but the national title was awarded to Oklahoma.
BYU shared the conference title with Wyoming in 1976. The Cougars beat ASU 43-21 on their way to the title.
In 1977, ASU’s final year as a member of the WAC, the Sun Devils and Cougars shared the conference title. ASU beat BYU that season, as Marc Wilson threw three interceptions in the matchup. However, BYU finished with a better overall record at 9-2.
After sharing the title in 1977, BYU and ASU did not play each other again until 1994.
1998 is another key part of this “rivalry,” even though they were in different conferences. The Cougars opened that season with a close loss in Tuscaloosa to Alabama. BYU then welcomed the Sun Devils, who came in ranked No. 14. They were coming off of a 9-3 season and just a season removed from a trip to the Rose Bowl in 1996. They started the 1998 season ranked No. 8.
Ronney Jenkins ran up, around, and through the Sun Devils all game to the tune of 178 rushing yards, 43 receiving yards, and a touchdown. Kevin Feterik also connected with Ben Horton for a 74-yard touchdown pass to give BYU an early 10-0 lead. The Sun Devils got a fourth quarter touchdown to avoid an embarrassing shutout, but fell 26-6.
In the nine seasons between 1969 and 1977, the WAC was either won by Arizona State or BYU (or both) every year.
Overall, they have met 28 times, with ASU holding a 20-8 advantage. However, the Cougars have won three straight.