August 27, 2007

#5: November 19, 1988 - Utah vs. BYU

HOW IS IT GREAT? As usual, BYU was favored to win the 1988 Holy War, this time by 11 points. After all, BYU had won 15 of the last 16 meetings.

If you weren't alive when this game was played, or if you had no interest in the teams at the time, you may wonder why Ute fans make such a big deal about this game now. It may seem to you that this win--and this era of Utah football in general--is best forgotten. For doesn't harping on about this win necessarily recall the fact that BYU totally owned the Utes from 1972-1992? Isn't that a fact best left ignored in light of Utah's nine Holy War victories in the 14 meetings since?

The sheer satisfaction felt by Ute fans during this game was so immense, it made up for years of previous miserable and disappointing Holy Wars. And 19 years later, this game allows Ute fans to look back at "the Dark Ages" and know that they were not completely devoid of success and great moments.

Not only did Utah upset the highly-favored Cougars (ranked #19 in the Coaches Poll, and only four years removed from their 1984 MNC), but they beat the living crap out of them. Utah was basically scoring at will. Scott Mitchell threw for 384 yards and 3 TDs; Eddie Johnson rushed for 4 more scores.

Utah finished the 1988 season with a winning 6-5 record. Of course, those were the days when a winning record alone couldn't get you into a bowl game like it would today. But that doesn't matter. No bowl game could have been as sweet as the "Rice Bowl." BYU finished 9-4; but despite a rare bowl win and a stint in the national rankings, the season is still considered by BYU fans to be a mediocre one. And being upset by their rivals has more to do with that sentiment than anything else.



UTAH 57, BYU 28
By Dick Rosetta
Salt Lake Tribune
November 20, 1988

Yeah, there was another season ending rout at Rice Stadium Saturday afternoon in the storied Utah-BYU football rivalry.

Are you sitting down?

Get this: Utah 57, Brigham Young University 28.

You're incredulous. I just know it.

The goalposts came down, an emotional Jim Fassel nearly broke down as he saluted his club, most notably the seniors, and the game ball went to the school with President Dr. Chase Peterson accepting -- "We had some guys stand by us when the going got tough," Fassel said of the Ute administration as he delivered the ball to his boss.

If you're still wavering over this 29-point Ute win, the most points a Utah team has ever scored against a BYU team, count yourself among the legions of Crimson faithful who have gone into winter hibernation the last nine years, and 15 of the last 16 seasons, to have nightmares about Cougar victories in this sizzling in-state rivalry.

In what Ute followers will surely savor as the sweetest 60 minutes in the school's 95-year football history, Utah put the Cougars to sleep this time.

It was a basic blowout, the genesis of which could be traced to totally uncharacteristic inept Cougar ball-handling -- eight turnovers -- and which reached its fruition through a ravenous Utah offense that scored touchdowns on six of nine possessions in the second and third quarters.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said brilliant Utah sophomore quarterback Scott Mitchell after his 384-yard passing day produced three touchdowns.

Of all the Ute revelers, including senior all-time leading school rusher Eddie Johnson and his record-equaling four touchdowns, Mitchell had as big a right as any to bask in the glory of whipping a school in whose shadows he grew up.

The ex-Springville High flash, who opted for Utah over BYU in a heated recruiting contest in 1985, skirted the revenge avenue and walked down "class avenue" following a game in which he eclipsed four more NCAA records (12 for his career).

"It wasn't a case of 'I'll show you.' But this was BYU, a well-recognized program that everyone knows about. Everyone will see this and know about us now. We believed. Now maybe others will," said Mitchell, who had an even 400 yards total offense versus the Cougs.

Oh, BYU believes.

From the time Mitchell drove the Utes 73 yards for the game's first touchdown with 4:37 left in the first quarter, to the time he orchestrated Utah's final touchdown -- Johnson's 7-yard sweep off the right side -- with 10:09 to play, there was no question who the field general was this day.

In one giant sweep of his marvelous left arm that will almost certainly become the most prolific appendage in NCAA history over the next two seasons, Mitchell made patrons forget, at least for a season, the "quarterback factory" of Utah County.

Utah's defense victimized the "factory" for five interceptions, an incredible feat considering Cougar junior Sean Covey had gone 124 straight attempts without an interception coming into the game. The BYU duo of Covey and freshman Ty Detmer (who played all but one series of the second half), had thrown just 10 interceptions all season.

"Everyone came to play and we just clicked. This was no fluke," boasted the Utes' all-WAC free safety Eric Jacobsen. "This was BYU -- bowl-bound BYU. After nine straight losses to them, this win means everything -- everything to us [players], the coaches, to the school and to the community."

It never seemed like a fluke. It just seemed inexplicable.

Mitchell threw a pass interception on the fourth play of the game. At that point, it made sense. Utah has invariably crawled out of the starting blocks this season.

Immediately following Scott Peterson's interception, the Cougars drove 52 yards. However, on the 10th play of the initial drive, sophomore Matt Bellini missed a handoff from Covey and the fumble was recovered by Ute sophomore Sean Knox at the Utah 27.

Who could have fathomed the bobble would be a precursor of BYU's misery for the day?

Mitchell's 29-yard toss to the right flat to Johnson gained 29 yards, a third down toss to senior split end Aaron Grimm picked up nine and two E.J. runs later, Utah was up 6-0 and kicker Tim Wagstaff made it 7-0.

The floodgates didn't open just yet, but the trickle became a torrent in the second quarter.

With Ute defenders Greg Reynolds, Brent O'Brien, Sammy Tausinga, Joe Clausi and James Thompson causing havoc up front, parlayed with linebackers Garland Harris, Frank Bonifaco, Darren Patterson and Pasa Tukuafu suffocating the Cougar underneath passing game, Utah's offense got the lift it needed.

On the first Ute possession of the second quarter, Mitchell floated a 61-yard pass to Johnson down the right sideline. Following a face mask penalty on BYU, E.J. danced untouched into the end zone for a 2-yard TD.

That was a slap to the proud BYU defense, ranked No. 19 in the country coming in.

The Ute defense whacked the nation's 10th-ranked offense on the other cheek on the very next Cougar possession. On third down, Covey faded to pass and was gobbled up by Thompson charging in from the left side. The ball popped up in the air and into the waiting arms of Tausinga, a 6-foot, 265 pound junior, who sprinted into the end zone for a 17-yard score, the first TD of his college career.

Now it was 21-0. And it was getting ugly.

The Cougars saved some face when Covey's passing and Bellini's running resulted in an 80 yard scoring drive, with Bellini's 2-yard run at 7:35 of the second quarter and Jason Chaffetz' PAT cutting the Ute lead to 21-7.

The turning point of the game occurred 65 seconds later. Utah's Scott Lieber punted to Rodney Rice, who streaked 68 yards for an apparent TD, his first of the season on 25 punt returns. However, the Cougars were called for a clip and four plays later BYU had to punt.

Utah pounced. Mitchell threw over BYU cornerback Eric Bergeson's head and into Carl Harry's hands for a 48-yard completion. Two plays later, Johnson leaped over the BYU defensive wall and Wagstaff's conversion made it 27-7 with 3:20 left in the half.

BYU got a reprieve in the third period when Detmer took over for Covey. Detmer, using a 32-yard scramble of his own, hit tight end Darren Handley with a 22-yard TD pass to cap a 67-yard drive and with 11:00 to play in the third, some Ute partisans were fearing the worst -- another BYU comeback.

Utah was at the ready with some Pepto-Bismol. Mitchell, scrambling out of the pocket to his left and giving the impression he was going to run, shoveled a pass to Smith who spurted 21 yards for a TD with 7:12 left.

Freshman LaVon Edwards then pilfered his fifth pass in the last three games, snagging a sure TD pass from Detmer right out of Tyler Anderson's hands and returning it 40 yards to the BYU 28. Three plays later, Mitchell's 16-yard TD pass made Harry a record breaker as the senior wideout hauled in his 20th career TD, breaking a tie he had forged with Steve Odom.

At 43-14, delirium reigned. Another Mitchell pass, this one 7 yards to Smith, and Johnson's forth touchdown, a 7-yarder, would only be more frosting.

The south goalposts came down. Coach Jim Fassel embraced Mitchell on the sidelines, lifting him completely off the ground, as Mitchell thrust his long left index finger skyward to the student section.

A new era dawned. Utah got its winning season (6-5 overall, 4-4 in the WAC), and dealt BYU its third WAC defeat (8-3 overall), the first time that's happened since 1975.

And Utah will enter 1989 with a four-game winning streak. That hasn't happened since that 1978 team gave Utah its last "miracle" win over BYU.


j said...

I was only 10 at the time, but I'd put up with at least 5 years of anti-Ute Coogar-mongering, growing up as one of the few outspoken Utah fans in small town Utah. This game was like a dream come true. Up until this game, I didn't know people could tear down goalposts. Truly, a watershed moment in my Ute fan history.

Anonymous said...

This game was just incredible. I was actually there to see it, and unlike most others, I saw it coming. The Utes were 2-5 with 4 games left. They won the three games prior to this one, so they were hot coming in, and the zoobs had been beaten up physically the week before by the Air Force. I saw a Ute victory coming that year, but I did not see how amazingly thorough Utah would beat the zoobs. It was awesome.