Saturday’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl will mark the renewal of one of college football’s most intense rivalries. BYU and Utah are 45 minutes from each other and – minus three years during World War II – faced each other annually for more than 80 years. The Utes hold a 57-34-4 edge in the series and have won the last four meetings.
The yearly contest was suspended in 2013 due to conference realignment, but the two schools are scheduled to play each other in the regular season from 2016-20. This bowl game, the first meeting between the two teams outside of Utah, allows the rivalry to be renewed one year early. In addition, it will allow the battle for the Beehive Boot, the yearly award for state supremacy in football between BYU, Utah and Utah State, to be settled on the field as both teams beat the Aggies earlier this season. It also allows us to remember some of the best games in this rivalry known as the “Holy War.” Here are the top five.
5. Utah 41, BYU 34 (OT)
Provo – Nov. 19, 2005
After Utah quarterback Brian Johnson suffered a season-ending injury, backup Brett Ratliff made his first start. He performed brilliantly, throwing for 240 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 112 yards and another score. The game was tied at 34-34 at the end of regulation. In overtime, Ratliff found wide receiver Travis LaTendresse in the end zone to put the Utes ahead 41-34. Utah then stopped BYU on downs on the six-yard line to secure the win. Ratliff went on to be the starter his senior season for the Utes in 2006.
4. BYU 26, Utah 24
Salt Lake City – Nov. 21, 1998
This game is known as “The Doink Heard ‘Round Utah,” thanks to Steve Sarkisian. BYU was up 26-17 with less than three minutes play, but the Utes’ Daniel Jones returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to close the gap to 26-24. Utah then got the ball again and drove to the Cougars’ 15-yard line. With five seconds left, Utah kicker Ryan Kaneshiro lined up to kick a 32-yard field goal, but it bounced off the right upright. After the game, Sarkisian, BYU’s backup quarterback at the time, who had spent the game on the sidelines, described the missed field goal to media as a “doink” and the name stuck.
3. Utah 33, BYU 32
Salt Lake City – Nov. 26, 1953
NBC broadcast this Thanksgiving Day matchup, giving a national television audience the opportunity to see the high-flying passing attacks of both schools. BYU had only won two games that season but played its rival close the entire game. The two schools went in at halftime tied 13-13. Utah scored in the third quarter to take a 20-13 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, BYU was flagged for a personal foul. The rule at the time gave the ball to the Utes, who scored another touchdown to make the lead 26-13 (Thankfully, that rule has since been changed.). The Cougars roared back and tied the game at 26 apiece. Utah added another touchdown to take a 33-26 lead, but BYU responded with a score of its own. On the extra point try, however, BYU quarterback and holder Lavon Satterfield fumbled the snap, giving Utah the win.
2. Utah 23, BYU 22
Salt Lake City – Nov. 18, 1978
BYU quarterback Jim McMahon is best remembered in Provo for the amazing comebacks that he engineered, but this is one that got away from his team. The sophomore quarterback had the Cougars leading 22-7 entering the fourth quarter, but Utah responded with a flurry. The Utes’ defense shut McMahon and company down, while quarterback Randy Gomez threw two touchdown passes and kicker Jeff Hucko added a 37-yard field goal. The shocking comeback snapped BYU’s six-game winning streak over Utah.
1. BYU 26, Utah 23
Provo – Nov. 28, 2009
Both teams were 9-2 and ranked in the top 20 entering what would be the best contest of the series. Utah jumped out to a 6-0 first quarter lead on the strength of two field goals from kicker Joe Phillips. BYU responded with 20 unanswered points to take a 20-6 lead entering the fourth quarter. Utah then kicked a field a goal and scored a touchdown with 7:16 left. On the two-point play, quarterback Jordan Wynn hit David Reed in the end zone to make the score 20-17. Utah got ball back on its own 33-yard line with 2:44 left and drove 44 yards to the BYU 23. Phillips tied the game with 29 seconds left. Utah got the first possession in overtime and Phillips kicked his fifth field goal of the game. However, after the Cougars got the ball, BYU quarterback Max Hall proceeded to hit tight end Andrew George over the middle and he sprinted into the end zone for the thrilling win.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.