PROVO -- Following its 21-14 loss last Saturday to New Mexico, BYU faces a must-win game against the Utes on Saturday Nov. 20. BYU needs to win this game to become bowl eligible and to ensure a winning record for the first time since 2001. The Utes are currently 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the MWC. With a win against the Cougars on Saturday, Utah will become only the second school in the history of the MWC to go undefeated in MWC play. The 2001 Cougars are the only team to escape conference play without a loss. A loss by the Cougars would mark the first time in 40 years that BYU has suffered three straight losing seasons. Last season, Utah defeated BYU, 3-0, on a snowy day at LaVell Edwards Stadium, snapping the Cougars NCAA record of 361 consecutive games without being shut out.
BYU defensive line coach Steve Kafusi, Utah defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham and tight ends coach Keith Uperesa have ties to Utah and BYU. Kafusi, Whittingham and Uperesa had stellar playing careers at BYU before moving on to the world of coaching. Whittingham and Uperesa were both graduate assistants under LaVell Edwards before moving on to other coaching gigs. Kafusi got his start at Utah in 1994 as a graduate assistant under then head coach Ron McBride. He coached the defensive line for the Utes until moving to coach the d-line at BYU in 2002.
BATTLE FOR THE BOOT
First instituted in 1971, the Beehive Boot is the symbol for gridiron supremacy in the state of Utah. Estimated to be over 100 years old, the Beehive Boot is an authentic piece of Utah history. Unlike other rivalry trophies, the Beehive Boot is presented to the team with the best record against all in-state opponents. BYU has won the boot 19 times in the past 29 years, including five straight from 1983 to 1987. Utah has won the boot eight times, while Utah State has claimed it six times over the years. The boot currently resides at Utah after the Utes beat both Utah State and BYU last season.
A LITTLE HISTORY: BYU vs. The School Up North
Saturday's in-state battle between Utah and BYU will mark the 80th meeting between the two schools, dating back to 1922. Utah owns a 47-28-4 advantage in the rivalry. Prior to 1922, Utah and then B.Y. Academy met six times, posting an identical 3-3 record. (The two teams met three times in 1896, twice in 1897 and once in 1898 before the Academy disbanded its football team. For various reasons, including the death of a player, the Academy did not field a team again until 1922.) Over the past seven seasons no team has won by more than seven points. Interestingly, no team has ever won more than nine straight games in the series. Utah reeled off nine straight wins from 1929 to 1937, and while it took some 50 years, BYU managed nine straight from 1979 to 1987. The Utes are looking to win three straight for the first time since they won four in a row from 1968 to 1971. It wasn't until the 1969 season that BYU and Utah started playing each other at the end of the season, as opposed to earlier in the year. For many years, the Utah-Utah State game marked the end of the Utes' regular season. However, since 1969, BYU and Utah have met 25 different times in the regular-season finale (for one or both teams). This year's game will mark the regular-season ending for both teams. The Cougars own a 18-8 record against Utah when playing in the final game of the regular season, including a stretch of 13 straight victories from 1974 to 1992. Since 1993 however, the Utes have posted a 7-3 mark against the Cougars when playing in the regular-season finale. Since the MWC was formed in 1999, Utah holds a slight 3-2 advantage over BYU. With BYU needing a victory to win the outright title in 1999, the Utes upset the Cougars in Provo, 20-17. The following year in LaVell Edwards's last game as head coach of the Cougars, BYU overcame improbable odds to record one of the greatest come-back victories in BYU history, defeating the Utes 34-27. BYU won its second game in a row in 2001 to finish MWC play undefeated. Since then the Utes have won two in a row, including last year's 3-0 win in Provo.
JOHNNY B. IS GOOD
Sophomore quarterback John Beck entered the New Mexico game with 2,967 career yards, needing just 33 yards to reach the 3,000-yard mark. With 4:03 remaining in the first quarter, on a 19 completion to Chris Hale, Beck eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark. On the day, Beck completed 22 of 37 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown. He is the third rated passer in the MWC with an efficiency rating of 128.39. He ranks first in the MWC in completions per game with an average of 17.5 per game. Beck has accumulated 2,350 yards on the season, trailing only Utah's Alex Smith in passing yards in the MWC. Also of note, Beck is on pace to reach over 3,300 yards this season. If he does, he would finish as the Cougars' third-ranked sophomore quarterback. Only Ty Detmer (5,812) and John Walsh (4,678) have posted more passing yards through their sophomore campaigns.
KING OF PAYNE
After 10 games, Matt Payne is fourth in the nation in punting with an average of 45.45 yards per kick and second in net punting with an average of 41.83. He has pinned opponents inside the 20-yardline 23 times. In the third game of the season, Payne booted a career-long and a then MWC record 79-yard punt. Unlike most punters, Payne likes to get into the thick of it during kick coverage. He had two highlight-reel quality hits against Boise State kick returner Chris Carr. On the season, Payne has racked up seven tackles on special teams, including six solo takedowns. Payne is no slouch as a kicker either. The senior from North Ogden, Utah has booted 15 of 21 field goals, including a 12 of 15 from 40-yards or greater. Prior to last week's game against New Mexico, Payne's only miss from beyond 40 yards was a 59-yard attempt that was blocked against San Diego State. Payne promptly picked up the blocked kick and ran 25 yards for a first down. Also against the Aztecs, Payne broke the NCAA record of consecutive field goals from 40-49 yards--a record he tied during the Wyoming game. On the season, Payne has matched his career high of 53-yards twice, against Notre Dame and Air Force. On the season Payne has missed just one extra point, connecting on 25 of 26 attempts. His school-record of 67 consecutive extra points dating back to the 2002 season was snapped against the Aztecs.
OH AUSTIN BEHAVE
Already the owner of BYU's freshman record for yards (697) and touchdowns (7), freshman receiver Austin Collie continued his bid for Freshman All-America and MWC Freshman-of-the-Year honors after grabbing four more receptions last Saturday. Collie needs just two more receptions this week against Utah to break Matt Bellini's record of 51 set in 1987. On the season he has 50 receptions for 697 yards. He leads the Cougars in touchdowns and touchdown receptions with seven. Five of his seven touchdowns have been 40-yards or greater, including an 82-yarder against SDSU. Collie is also second on the Cougars and ninth in the MWC in receiving yards per game, averaging 69.7 yards. He is second among freshman nationally in receiving yards per game and is first among freshman in receptions per game with an average of 5.0 catches per game.
Junior College transfer Todd Watkins has made an immediate impact for the Cougars. He leads the team with 1001 receiving yards on 48 receptions and is second on the team in touchdown catches with five. He has caught touchdown passes of 68, 69, 70 and 79 yards on the season, leading Sports Illustrated to dub him the nation's top "deep threat." Despite being held to just one reception against New Mexico, Watkins is first in the conference and fifth nationally in receiving yards per game with a 100.1 yard average. He, along with freshman Austin Collie, have helped return the Cougars to one of the premier passing schools in the country. BYU currently ranks 12th in the nation in passing, averaging 286.2 yards per game.
GOOD GRIEF CURTIS BROWN
Despite a slow start, sophomore running back Curtis Brown has picked up the pace in MWC games. Since MWC play began Brown has racked up 602 yards. Included in that stretch was a streak four straight games over 100 yards. Brown's four straight 100-yard games marked just the third time a Cougar running back has eclipsed the century mark in four consecutive games. On the season Brown has rushed for 705 yards and five touchdowns. Brown accounted for 230 of the Cougars' 416 total yards in the Cougars' 24-13 win over Wyoming. He carried 24 times for 159 yards, threw one time for 40 yards and had three receptions for 31 yards. He also scored one rushing touchdown on a nine-yard run in the fourth quarter to give the Cougars a 17-13 lead with 13:37 remaining in the game. Against New Mexico, Brown eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for his career, becoming only the fourth Cougar to accomplish that feat by their sophomore season. He joins Ronney Jenkins, 2,179; Jamal Willis, 1,524; and Jeff Blanc, 1,026.
- The Cougars rank third in the conference in total offense (391.6)
- BYU ranks last in the conference in rushing offense, averaging 105.4 yards per game
- BYU has the 10th best passing attack in the nation averaging 286.2 yards per game
- The Cougars rank third in the conference in total defense (361.2)
- BYU ranks second in the MWC in rushing defense (127.4) and last in the conference in pass defense (233.8)
- The duo of Todd Watkins (100.1) and Austin Collie (69.7) rank second and ninth in the conference respectively in receiving yards per game with Watkins ranking 10th in the nation.
- Collie leads all freshman in the nation receptions per game (5.0) and is second nationally in receiving yards per game with 69.7.
- BYU punter Matt Payne ranks fourth in the nation in punting with an average of 45.45 yards per kick
- BYU ranks second in the nation in net punting with an average of 41.83 yards per kick
- BYU needs a victory on Saturday to avoid its third straight losing season and also to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2001
- Utah ranks first in the MWC and 18th nationally in pass efficiency defense holding opponents to a 106.78 rating.
- Utah ranks first in the conference and second nationally in total offense, racking up 499.2 yards per contest.
- The Utes rank second in the conference behind BYU in passing offense (265.2) and second in rushing (234).
- Utah is the second highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 45.7 points per game.
- Utah is second in the conference in total defense, giving up 355.9 yards per game.
- The Utes rank second in the conference in pass defense (197.5) and fourth in rush defense (158.4)
- The Utes lead the nation in turnover margin with an average of plus 1.6 turnovers per game.
- Utah quarterback Alex Smith leads the MWC in yards passing (2,440) and second in the nation in pass efficiency (179.32)
- Utah's Steve Savoy and Marty Johnson rank first and second in the MWC in scoring
- Steve Savoy and Paris Warren rank third and sixth in the conference respectively in receiving yards per game