GAME NOTES: No. 21 BYU to Play Rival Utah

BYU looks to run the table in the Mountain West Conference as the Cougars take on Utah this week. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- After winning the outright Mountain West Conference championship and receiving an invitation to the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl, No. 21 BYU will finish the season in Salt Lake City in its annual rivalry game against Utah. The Cougars will be looking for their first undefeated MWC season since 2001, which is also the last year BYU beat Utah.

LAST WEEK RECAP

No. 23 BYU (9-2, 7-0) completed its season-long, home-field dominance the best way it possibly could--a 42-17 victory over New Mexico (5-6, 3-4) to clinch the outright 2006 Mountain West Conference championship. Not only did the win give the Cougars its 22nd overall conference championship, it marked BYU's first undefeated home season since 2001.

"I just want to say one thing to the fans who have stuck with us through the hard times," BYU quarterback John Beck said during the MWC championship trophy ceremony that followed the game, "It feels good doesn't it? It feels great to be the conference champs."

SERIES INFORMATION

The BYU vs. Utah rivalry has become one of the most-heated and most anticipated matchups in the nation. The Utes and the Cougars have met 81 times since 1922. Utah dominated the rivalry until 1965 when the Cougars began to hold the advantage over the Utes. Sice 1965, BYU is 26-14 against the Utes. Except for 2004, the last seven meetings in this rivalry have been decided by seven points or less including two last-minute comebacks by BYU in 2000 and 2001.

"I think people from the South and from he Midwest ought to see this. This is a big-time football rivalry," said current ESPN college football analyst and former Alabama coach Bill Curry.

IN THE TOP-25

Following a decisive 42-17 victory on Saturday over New Mexico, clinching the outright Mountain West Conference Championship, BYU climbed to No. 21 in the Associated Press top-25 poll and No. 23 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. The Cougars also moved up to No. 21 in the Harris Interactive poll and now sit at No. 23 in this week's BCS rankings.

The Cougars racked up a season-high 653 yards of total offense against the Lobos, handing New Mexico its worst loss since December 24, 2003. BYU quarterback John Beck threw for 464 yards and four touchdowns, passing the 10,000-yard mark for his career. By halftime, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Davey O'Brien Award candidate had compiled 303 yards passing and three touchdowns. Senior running back Curtis Brown ran for 124 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown run to become BYU's all-time rushing leader.

"They're a very good football team," New Mexico head coach Rocky Long said. "I've been lucky enough to be around some good football teams, and to play against some good football teams. It's too bad (BYU) had struggles the first part of the season, where they didn't make field goals, because they're as good as any team in the top-10. I promise you, they are."

Following BYU's victory over New Mexico, Mendenhall accepted an invitation to participate in the 15th annual Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl. The Cougars will face an opponent from the Pac-10.

"We're excited to be returning to the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl--this time, as conference champions, not as the second-place team," he said. "We're excited to represent our great University and the Mountain West Conference. But, we still have one more game to play before we start thinking about a bowl game. As we have done all season, our focus will be on our next opponent."

Riding an eight-game win streak--the fourth longest in the nation--the Cougars head to Salt Lake on Saturday, Nov. 25 to take on in-state rival Utah in the regular-season finale for both teams. Entering the game nationally ranked, the Cougars own a 13-4 record against the Utes. Overall, BYU is 133-41 (.764) when playing as a ranked team.

ONE QUARTER AT A TIME

After outscoring New Mexico in three of four quarters on Saturday, BYU has now outscored its opponents in 33 of 44 quarters this season, including 21 shutout quarters. The Cougars have not trailed since the Boston College game, marking 32 consecutive quarters without trailing an opponent. BYU has outscored its opponents in 12 of its past 13 quarters.

PRE-GAME FIRESIDES

BYU has started a new tradition by putting on a fireside the day prior to each game (home and away) of season. All that wish to attend are welcome to do so. The remaining fireside for the Utah game will be held at the following LDS church building:

Nov. 24 7:00 p.m. (Prior to the Utah game)

Ensign Stake Center

135 A Street, Salt Lake City

POINTS OFF TURNOVERS

Not only is BYU third in the nation in turnover margin (+14 total and +1.27 turnovers per game), the Cougars are taking advantage of their turnovers. BYU has scored a total of 76 points off 25 turnovers. The Cougars are averaging 6.9 points off turnovers per game. BYU was held without points off turnovers in only two games (Boston College and Colorado State). The game the Cougars scored the most off turnovers was UNLV when BYU scored 24 points off six turnovers.

CONSECUTIVE WINS

BYU's eight consecutive victories over Utah State, TCU, San Diego State, UNLV, Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming and New Mexico mark the first time the Cougars have won at least seven in a row since 2001.

BALL SECURITY

BYU is currently third in the nation in turnover margin. The Cougars are coming off a game against New Mexico where they had three turnovers. In addition to holding on to the ball, the Cougars have found a way to force 25 turnovers. The Cougars have a +1.27 (per game) turnover margin heading into this week's action.

ACTIVE WINNING STREAKS

BYU's eight-game win streak is now the sixth longest win streak in the country.

Ohio State has an 19-game win streak, followed by Boise State with an 11-game win streak.

MILESTONES

Both Beck and Brown hit personal milestones in the BYU win. In addition to breaking the career rushing record at BYU, Brown became the first BYU running back in school history to pass the 3,000 career yard mark. He finished the game with 124 yards rushing on 13 carries. Brown has now rushed for 3,056 in his career. Beck became the second quarterback in school history to throw for 10,000 yards. He finished the game with a season-high 464 yards while completing 28-for-42 passes and four touchdowns. Beck has now thrown for 10,271 in his career. Beck's 464 yards passing are the most in his career in a victory and the second largest output of his career.

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY

BYU has now won 22 league championships, dating back to its first league title in 1965. BYU won a total of 10 straight conference championships from 1976-1985. Since the 1965 championship season, the Cougars have won 13 outright league titles. All totaled, BYU has recorded five seasons with a perfect league record (1979, 1983, 1984, 1996, 2001.)

SCORING EARLY

When Curtis Brown scampered into the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown early in the first quarter against New Mexico, it marked the ninth consecutive game. The only game in which BYU did not score first was in the Cougars season opener at Arizona. The Wildcats jumped to a 3-0 lead in that game.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

Shortly after BYU was presented with the MWC Championship trophy, Rueben Herrera, a member of the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Executive Bowl Committee, extended the official invitation to the 15th Annual Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe officially accepted the invitation. BYU will take on an opponent from the Pac-10 on Thursday, Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. in Las Vegas.

FINISHING THE SEASON

When BYU plays Utah in its final regular season game and second to last game, the Cougars will be trying to reverse the trend of the last few season. Over the past five years, BYU has lost its final two games. The last time the Cougars won either of their final two games was in 2000 when BYU beat New Mexico at home and Utah on the road. BYU's final two opponents this season are New Mexico at home and Utah on the road. Since 2001, the Cougars final two games have been losses, making BYU 0-10 in its final two games.

SCORING DEFENSE

BYU has given up just 152 total points this season. The Cougars entered the game ninth in the nation in scoring defense. After giving up 17 points to New Mexico, 10 of which were scored by the offense, BYU is currently giving up 13.8 points per game. The Cougars currently rank ninth nationally in scoring defense.

BATTLE FOR THE BEEHIVE BOOT

First instituted in 1971, the Beehive Boot is the symbol of gridiron supremacy in the state of Utah. The idea for the rotating trophy originated with Dave Schulhess, former Sports Information Director of BYU, and was agreed upon by SIDs from Utah, Utah State and Weber State. As the trophy would represent dominance within the confines of the Beehive State, it was decided that the trophy should be symbolic of the people Utah was built by--the Mormon pioneers.

As BYU and Utah have both beat Utah State, the annual BYU-Utah rivalry game will be for possession of the Beehive Boot. The Beehive boot lived its first four years at Utah State. BYU then began a dominant run as it ascended into the realms of football's elite, claiming the Boot 19 times in the past 30 years. Utah has won the Boot nine times. The longest streak in the history of the Beehive Boot is a five-year span from 1983 to 1987 by BYU. After a two-year stint in Provo, the Boot currently resides in Salt Lake City since the 2002 season.

PLAYING AS A RANKED TEAM AGAINST UTAH

Riding an eight-game win streak--the fourth longest in the nation--the Cougars head to Salt Lake on Saturday, Nov. 25 to take on in-state rival Utah in the regular-season finale for both teams. Entering the game nationally ranked, the Cougars own a 13-4 record against the Utes. Overall, BYU is 133-41 (.764) when playing as a ranked team.

RECORD AGAINST UTAH IN CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

BYU clinched its 22nd conference championship last week with a 42-17 victory over New Mexico. In previous seasons that BYU won conference championships, the Cougars hold a 17-4 record in games against Utah. However, in BYU's past five conference championship seasons, the Utes have won three of the games in champion ship years.

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