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Holy War revisited: 1993

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Over the next week I will be profiling some classic Utah victories over BYU as we lead up to the showdown this Saturday. Today we revisit the 1993 match, where Utah beat BYU 34-31.

With the odds stacked against them, the Utes rolled into Provo with hopes of getting their first victory there in 21 years. BYU, one win shy of another WAC Championship, were heavily favored and not many people gave the Utes much of a shot to hang with the mighty Cougars, let alone win the game. But the resilient Utes didn't make the trek 40 miles south just to lose. They had victory on their mind and what played out 13 years ago today is still widely regarded as Utah's return to rivalry dominance.

The Utes entered the game losing eight starters in their secondary to injury and were forced to start a backup quarterback and tailback in that secondary. They had a simple defensive game plan that day, two blitzes, one zone coverage and no man coverage. It was all they could do to help contain BYU's potent offense and even that was a long shot at best. To say the Utes needed a miracle to pull out a victory would be a gross understatement. That miracle, however, came in the form of a kicker, Chris Yergensen.

Utah's defense, thrown together in a week by defensive coordinator Fred Whittingham, intercepted BYU quarterback John Walsh five times. The Utes defensive line also stepped up, forcing its way through BYU's offensive line and coming up with four huge sacks. The injury riddled Utah defense held Walsh to only one passing touch down, clearly playing its best game of the year.

On offense, Jamal Anderson ran for 146 yards on 36 carries. While quarterback Mike McCoy had 434 yards on 29 of 47 passes, including 3 touchdowns. On their first possession of the game, Utah drove down the field on a swing pass that turned into a 47-yard gain by Pierre Jones. That set up a 4-yard pass from McCoy to Rowley and the Utes were up 7-0. After a BYU field goal cut the lead to 7-3, the Utes once again marched down field 80 yards, where Anderson caught a 9-yard pass for the score. Utah would give up a touchdown, but Yergensen's kick right before the half sent the Utes into the locker room with a 17-10 halftime lead.

At the break the Utes could taste victory, but cautiously sat on their lead. Two years earlier, the Utes had a 17-14 lead on BYU down in Provo and ultimately lost the game 48-17. Utah was not about to let history repeat itself.

BYU struck first in the second half, tying the game 17-17 on a 1-yard run by Walsh and it would be the only score until early in the fourth quarter. Utah, working from their own 16, came out in the shotgun formation. McCoy, seeing BYU's blitz, hiked the ball and fired it to Curtis Marsh, who caught it and took off for 84 yards and the score. Yergensen, who later would become the hero, missed the extra point and Utah's lead stood at 23-17.

With 4:39 left in the game, Anderson scored on a 4-yard run and then caught McCoy's pass on the two-point conversion. BYU would answer on a Walsh run, tying the game at 31-31 with 3:16 left. That's where the fun began.

Utah drove down the field and with 25 seconds left in the game set up for a 55-yard field goal. It was the Utes only chance to win the game in regulation and Coach McBride decided to go with Yergensen, who was fresh off missing a PAT that would most likely have won the game for the Utes. Yergensen stepped up and calmly kicked the game winning field goal. The Utes took a 34-31 lead and the celebration began.

The pressured kick would become the most famous kick in Utah football history. The clutch performance set in motion Utah's football revival, as the Utes would take command of the rivalry and dominate BYU on their own home field (only losing once since '93, in 2001).

As the game ended, the Utah fans that were in attendance stormed the field. It was their day too, as they had been waiting over two decades for an event like this. They set their sights on the goal posts and began dismantling them when the BYU players took off toward them in defense. A near brawl broke out, but coaches and security guards would get things under control. Ute fans and players wouldn't tear the goal posts down that day, but they did plant a giant Ute flag into the stadium's turf, officially declaring Cougar Stadium their house.

It was ironic that the Utes would win on a last second kick, as it would be special teams problems that were the eventual downfall of Coach Ron McBride. 5 years later, faced with another chance of a game winning kick to beat BYU, Utah choked and missed it. They would lose the game 24-26.