The Holy War
Rivalry games are big this weekend, and we are going to one of the most hotly contested games in the west, the Holy War between Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. A lot of hype surrounds this game--we've heard everything from how intense (some say bitter) the rivalry is to how important the game is for in-state bragging rights to how much is actually on the line this season (a Mountain West conference title, specifically). And while we are hesitant to get our hopes up--the New Mexico/New Mexico State rivalry never proved as divisive as expected--the stories we've heard from both current and former players have started affirming that something exciting is going to happen Saturday in Provo.
Drew Miller, former BYU quarterback and current wide receivers coach at Idaho State, told us of tales he heard of fans getting beers dumped on them in the stands and Utah students sneaking onto the BYU campus and painting the Cougar statue red, but nothing compares to what he says is exchanged between players on the field. Utah football players were full of anecdotes after practice yesterday, including one where a player made an elementary school visit only to have half the class not look him in the eye.
A little more is at stake in Saturday's game than just bragging rights. Both teams are sporting seven-game winning streaks, and BYU has won 14 straight conference games and is in a position to clinch the Mountain West conference title. But if Utah pulls off a victory in Provo--and the odds are stacked against them--they can claim a share of the title if BYU loses its last game to San Diego State. There will also be bowl representatives in the audience from the Poinsettia Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl weighing the merits of inviting each team.
But first, some background before we head south toward Provo. The game has been played between the two schools since 1922, and Utah won the first six matchups by a margin of 186-13. In fact, BYU did not get its first win of the rivalry until 1942 and didn't win another game until 1958. But with the rise of BYU football in the 1970s and 1980s, the rivalry has become less lopsided, and Utah leads the series all-time with a 49-29-4 record.
A thirst for revenge is in the air, as well. Last year's meeting was full of theatrics, and BYU won on a last-minute touchdown pass after Utah had scored with 50 seconds left. That play has been played over and over again on ads for the Mtn cable channel, and seeing it incessantly has fired up the Utah players.
This is bound to be the most exciting weekend Provo has ever seen.