Deseret First Duel Set for Saturday
"I think people from the South and from the Midwest ought to see this. This is a big-time football rivalry."
-- Bill Curry, ESPN College Football Analyst
PROVO -- Riding a seven-game overall win streak, a record 14-game Mountain West Conference win streak, and an 11-game win streak at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, the Cougars will put it all on the line Saturday against the University of Utah in the 83rd official meeting between the two in-state rivals. This year's Deseret First Duel will mark the only major college football rivalry game in the country that will pit two teams that enter the game with identical seven-game winning streaks.
"Seven consecutive wins by each program is a remarkable thing," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I think both teams are to be credited. I think the state will receive the benefit of it from a quality football game with two good teams."
One of the hottest teams in the country over the past two seasons, the 23rd ranked Cougars have won 18 of their last 20 games and enter this year's game with a record of 8-2, including a perfect 6-0 mark in league play. The Utes will travel to Provo with an 8-3 overall record and a mark of 5-2 against Mountain West opponents.
"Very few rivalries have opponents in the conference that are so close together," Mendenhall said. "Being only 40 miles from each other has the makings of all the emotion and all the things that happen outside the game. What the results have shown from previous years is that regardless of record, it could be anyone's game, which adds to the intrigue as well."
Separated by just 46.3 miles, the two schools have shared a recent tradition of the road team winning on the home team's field. The visiting team has won nine of the last 12 games, including last season's dramatic, come-from-behind, no-time-left-on-the-clock, 33-31 BYU victory in Salt Lake City. Cougar fans call it the "13-second Miracle" and often wonder, "Is Harline still open?" (Quarterback John Beck found tight end Jonny Harline wide open in the end zone with no time left on the clock to give BYU a 33-31 victory.) However, the Utes have won six of the last seven games in Provo and would like nothing more to put a blemish in the Cougars' second consecutive Mountain West Conference championship season.
"We might be a target, yet I am not sure how or why this should affect our preparation," Mendenhall said. "We will just do the best we can everyday, no matter who we are playing."
After beating Wyoming last Saturday, 35-10, BYU claimed at least a share of its second-straight MWC league title -- their 23rd overall conference championship. With a two-game lead over Air Force (9-3, 6-2) and Utah in the MWC standings, BYU needs to win one of its two remaining games to clinch the outright title for the second straight season. (BYU will play at San Diego State on Saturday, Dec. 1.)
A closely contested rivalry, four of the last eight games between BYU and Utah have been decided by just three points and six of the last seven in Provo have been decided by an average of just over four points per game.
"One year we lost to Utah in overtime and the other we won on a last-second play," Mendenhall said. "Both of the last two games have come down to the wire and maybe this one won't be any different.
"I do know that I like our team to play well at home and this week will be no different than what I have said each week to our team about the way we play in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Both teams will try all they can try and all the coaches will do everything they can to get their teams ready."
BROADCAST INFORMATION: Because Bill Curry wants you to see this ... don't miss this year's Deseret First Duel. The game will be produced by the Mtn., and broadcast nationally on CSTV, Versus and the Mtn. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. (MT) / 2 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Nov. 24.