It all started on October 14, 1922. Well, according to BYU, anyway. Utah claims the first meeting between the schools was on April 6, 1896, when BYU was still Brigham Young Academy.
It’s just one of many things the two schools don’t agree on. The Academy played Utah six times between 1896 and 1898, before Provo could officially boast its own full-fledged university. Each team won three games.
The Cougars and the Utes have built a strong tradition of intense competition in the 83 years of the rivalry. With the exception of the war years from 1943-45, the two schools have faced each other every year since 1922.
The Utes dominated the series early on, avoiding defeat until 1942, when the Cougars finally won, 12-7, in Salt Lake City behind Coach Floyd Millet. The success was short-lived, however, as it took BYU another 16 years to win another contest, 14-7, again in Salt Lake City in 1958. In all, Utah won 34 of the first 40 contests, four of which were ties.
In 1965, the momentum began to turn in BYU’s favor. The Cougars took three in a row from the Utes from 1965-67, and although Utah won the next four, the competition had become much more interesting.
In 1972, the series took on an entirely different feeling with the arrival of LaVell Edwards as BYU’s new head coach. He took on a program that had gone 5-38-4 (.149) against its fiercest rival and proceeded to post a 22-7 (.757) record against Utah in 29 years, including wins in 15 of his first 16 meetings with the Utes. In the Edwards era, the Cougars outscored the Utes an average of 34.9 to 20.9 per contest. Coach Edwards’ career included winning streaks of nine (1979-87) and six (1972-77) games against Utah.
The annual showdown generates considerable interest throughout the state, making it a virtual certainty that whatever stadium the teams play in will be sold out well in advance. In all, seven of Utah’s top ten home crowds before the expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium were for games against BYU.
Meanwhile, 45 miles south in Provo, the grudge match has accounted for five of the 20 largest crowds in the history of LaVell Edwards Stadium.
One of the more memorable moments in the rivalry was the 1989 contest in which the Cougars pasted the Utes, 70-31, in Provo. It was a game in which the home team scored touchdowns in each of its first seven possessions and in all eight with Ty Detmer as quarterback. In a move of mercy, Detmer was replaced by backup Sean Covey late in the second quarter.
Then there were the infamous back-to-back, 34-31, losses at the hands of the Utes in 1993 and 1994, giving rebirth to a rivalry that had become ridiculously lopsided in the 80s and early 90s. In all, the Utes won three in a row (1993-95) under coach Ron McBride.
The Cougars responded to the new aggression in 1996 with a dominating, 37-17, victory in Salt Lake City. BYU employed an extremely unconventional approach, gaining 376 yards in 63 attempts on the ground and attempting only 12 passes.
In 1998, a well-placed ESPN microphone picked up an audible “clank” as the potential game-winning kick bounced off the right goal post and BYU escaped with a, 26-24 victory. BYU let the Utes back into the game after having seemingly put the game away in the fourth quarter, allowing Utah to set up a 32-yard field goal to win the game. Mysteriously, the short chip shot hooked right at the last possible moment, giving the Cougars reason to celebrate.
The home field advantage seems to have become less of a factor. The Utes won three straight at Edwards Stadium (1995, ‘97, ‘99) and the Cougars won three in a row in Salt Lake City (1996, 1998, 2000).
In 2001, BYU changed the trend in a miraculous, come-from-behind victory in Provo. With less than four minutes left in the game and down 11 points, BYU’s hopes for a perfect season seemed dim. But Luke Staley scored two touchdowns in just over two minutes to erase the deficit and give the Cougars the 24-21 victory. The game was far from over after Staley’s 30-yard touchdown. Lance Rice led Utah on a final drive in the last minute. Rice converted a key fourth-and-10 with a trick play, advancing the ball to the BYU 30-yard line. But on the very next play, Jernaro Gilford stepped in front of a Rice pass and intercepted the ball to seal the game.
In 2003 BYU held Utah to just three points on a snowy day in Provo. Only problem was, BYU was without offensive threat Reynaldo Brathwaite and its top three quarterbacks. BYU’s offense sputtered and the Utes gave BYU its first shutout since 1975 (Ending an NCAA record 361 consecutive games without a shutout). Meanwhile the win also gave Utah its first outright league championship since 1957. In 2005 BYU erased a 21-point halftime deficit and forced the game into overtime only to come up just short. John Beck’s fourth down pass just missed the fingertips of Michael Reed as BYU fell 41-34 in OT.
The contest in 2006 may have been one of the greatest games in the history of the rivalry. With the lead switching hands several times in the final minutes, BYU drove 75 yards in 10 plays in the last 1:19 to win the game, responding to a nine-play, 83-yard Utah drive. All-American John Beck connected with wide open tight end Jonny Harline in the end zone on the game’s final play in what has been deemed “the 13-second miracle” for Cougar fans. The 33-31 victory sealed a perfect league record for BYU and their first victory over Utah since 2001. View Game Slideshow.
In 2007 both teams brought seven-game winning streaks into the matchup, causing temperatures to be at an all-time high. Reminiscent of its last-second victory against Utah in the 2006 season, No. 23 BYU defeated its archrival on the final drive to take a 17-10 win in front of a sellout crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Austin Collie caught five balls for 126 yards, including a game-saving 49-yard reception on a fourth-and-18 situation during the Cougars’ final drive. With the win the Cougars became the outright Mountain West Conference Champions for the second season in a row. The win also allowed Mendenhall’s club to move ahead in the national polls to No. 19. Harvey Unga surpassed 1,000 yards on the season after rushing for 144 yards on 23 carries again the Utes, becoming the first freshman at BYU to reach the mark. View Game Slideshow.
Last season the two teams added another classic to the books. Utah went on a late run to send the game into overtime, but BYU came out on top after quarterback Max Hall split two Ute defenders and found senior tight end Andrew George for the game-ending touchdown, giving BYU a 26-23 win.
In 2007-08 BYU and the University of Utah formally began a rivalry series named the Deseret First Duel presented by Deseret First Credit Union. The rivalry series includes competition in the 12 sports the two universities compete head-to-head during regular-season play. The Deseret First Duel uses a system that awards points to the winner of each head-to-head competition. Points won by the individual sports will count toward each school’s overall total. At the conclusion of each school year, a granite traveling trophy is awarded to the overall rivalry series champion. In the first year of the competition BYU took home the bragging rights with a 34-30 victory. In 2008-09 Utah claimed the title with a 39.5-24.5 victory while BYU again brought back the overall trophy in 2009-10 with a resounding 45.5-15.5 win.