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10. BYU 21, Notre Dame 14 (October 15, 1994)
9. BYU 31, TCU 17 (September 28, 2006)
8. BYU 70, Utah 31 (November 18, 1989)
No top 10 list would be complete without a game against archrival Utah. While this game did not have a fourth down bomb to keep the winning drive alive (2000, 2007), a BYU player streaking towards the end zone for the winning score (2001, 2009), or a super human throw to a wide open tight end with no time on the clock (2006), this game trumps them all because this is a rivalry. I do enjoy the bragging rights that the five games I eluded to have provided during the last decade, but my first option is always to see BYU stomp the Utes and have the outcome decided by halftime. For a rivalry game to make the top 10, the complete body of work is important. It has to embarrass the rival.
In 1989, BYU put up 49 points in the first half, scored on a 76-yard pass play and an 81-yard run, racked up over 750 yards of total offense, and scored more points than either team has ever scored in the rivalry, all while exacting revenge for the disaster the year before in Salt Lake City. Ty Detmer played nearly flawless: 18-22, 358 yards, 4 touchdowns. This was the type of game that you only dream of. However, I am still bothered by the fact that BYU let Utah score 31 points, even if the game was far, far, far out of reach.
Running back Fred Whittingham said after the game, “It was just as easy as it looked. It was like we were running against air. It was easy to break tackles and find holes. Their defense didn’t seem to be there.” Even as a nine year old, I remember being awestruck with the ease that BYU took the ball down and scored on every possession in the first half, while the defense held Utah scoreless. It left me in disbelief wondering, “Is it always this way?”
Score (maximum points for each category is in parenthesis):
1. Caliber of Opponent: 10 points (25). Utah was 4-6 coming into this game (ended the season 4-8), and Scott Mitchell, who was injured for this game, was the only Utah player drafted by the NFL in 1990. Utah gets points for being BYU’s archrival. You know what they say, “Throw the records out when they play”—just look at 1988.
2. What was at stake: 16 points (20). Bragging rights and the in-state recruiting battle. First conference championship since 1985 (BYU was in a tight race with Air Force. Each team had one conference loss, but BYU held the tie breaker having beat Air Force the week before. BYU had to win out to win the conference.)
3. What was the impact: 15 points (20). BYU reclaimed dominance in the state of Utah, and was one step closer to returning to its rightful place atop the WAC. Ty Detmer bumped up a couple of notches on the BYU Quarterback totem pole.
4. Underdog: 0 points (10). The Scott Mitchell injury caused the line for this game to be removed, but a BYU loss would have been an upset—with or without Mitchell.
5. Dramatic win: 5 points (10). As a rivalry game, this game is not subject to the normal criteria for drama. This is the way you want a rivalry game to end, especially when you are favored to win.
6. Underlying Storylines: 4 points (5). Revenge! Utah embarrassed BYU the year before to end BYU’s nine game win streak in this rivalry (1979-1987). The Scott Mitchell injury on the last play of practice during the week leading up to the game. WAC championship race.
7. Nostalgia: 10 points (10). The nostalgia of this game grows with each year that BYU loses to Utah, or has to engineer a last minute victory. BYU has not beat Utah by more than a touchdown since 1996.
8. Total: 60 points
Video highlights: BYU vs. Utah, 1989
Full game footage: BYU vs. Utah, 1989
7. BYU 18, Texas A&M 17 (September 8, 1979)
6. BYU 20, Pittsburgh 14 (September 1, 1984)
5. BYU 14, Oklahoma 13 (September 5, 2009)
4. BYU 24, Michigan 17 (December 21, 1984)
3. BYU 19, Kansas State 15 (January 1, 1997)
2. BYU 46, SMU 45 (December 19, 1980)
1. BYU 28, Miami 21 (September 8, 1990)