Sometimes the best memories in life come from the college years. For me, the sweet nostalgia extends to the football field where some of my best Utah football memories came during the 1990s when I was a college student. Considering how much I romanticize those days, I figured a few of my friends that actually played in those games might have even stronger opinions, so I took the question to my old college buddies, soon-to-be Crimson Club Hall-of-Famer Kevin Dyson, who was the star of many of those top games at wide receiver, and a member of the defense, former cornerback Clarence Lawson. I wasn't sure which games they would pick, but I wasn't too surprised when we all picked the same five greatest games of the 1990s.
The Ron McBride years might not be remembered in the same way as the Urban Meyer era, but for us and countless longtime Utah fans, there were some games that will be burned into our minds and Utes football lore forever.
5. Utah/CSU 1994
This game was just plain, old, good football. Both teams were having unprecedented success and ranked high in the polls, the Utes were 6-0 and ranked No. 15 and The Rams were 7-0 and ranked at No. 11. So many people showed up at the Rams' Hughes Stadium (39,107 announced attendance) that additional seats had to be added. The game was a flurry of the two teams exchanging leads, and when it was all over, Utah had recorded a safety, a blocked punt, a blocked extra point, a fumble recovery, and four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). But the Utah victory still required a Harold Lusk end zone interception and 100-yard return for a touchdown with just 22 seconds left to seal the victory 45-31.
4. Air Force 1995
With just over a minute left, the Utes were down 21-7 to the Academy Falcons and the ball at their own 36. Seemingly saying it was "go time," quarterback Mike Fouts threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Dyson with a successful point-after. Then with just 47 seconds left, Fouts delivered a 17-yard strike to Rocky Henry for the tying score, followed by a two-point conversion run by Roy Ma'afala. As if by a true miracle, the Utes won 22-21.
3. Utah/BYU 1993
The Utes were playing at BYU and for years leading up to this one, they had been unable to come away with the win. Both had top-rated offenses that season, which kept things close. The deciding factor actually came down to kicker Chris Yergensen, who had missed kicks in many important games, but not this one. With the Utes on the 37-yard line on fourth-and-10, he managed to hook the ball through the uprights at the end of the game for the 34-31 score.
2. Utah/BYU 1994
Having almost thrown away a record-breaking season the previous two weeks, the Utes headed into the Holy War looking for blood from a well-matched Cougar team. The Utes were trailing by four in the fourth quarter when Cal Beck had a kick return to the 32-yard line. Quarterback Mike MCoy connected with Charlie Brown for the touchdown and Dan Pulsipher's kick was good. BYU returned to the field after that, but Bronzell Miller sacked John Walsh for a fumble and Luther Elliss recovered the fumble for a Utes win, 34-31 (the same score as the previous season, leading to a series of hilarious commercials between McBride and BYU head coach LaVell Edwards).
1. Freedom Bowl 1994
Following a 9-2 regular season, Arizona's "Desert Swarm" defense was met by a strong Utah defense led by All-American Luther Elliss. Utah had one of the best offenses, but struggled against the Wildcats defense, putting up only 75 yards of total offense and recording just five first downs the entire game. Finally, in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, true freshman Cal Beck returned a kickoff for 72 yards to the five-yard line. The Utes were turned away from the end zone on the first three downs. Then, on fourth down, quarterback Mike McCoy (now the head coach of the NFL's San Diego Chargers) threw up a pass to redshirt freshman Kevin Dyson in the endzone for the winning score, 16-13. The Utes finished the season 10-2 (the first 10-win season in school history) and ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll and No. 8 in the Coaches Poll.