Remembering the Rivalry: Brigham Young Cougars 56, Utah Utes 28 (1981)

November 21, 1981-For the first time in the Brigham Young Cougars and Utah Utes rivalry, the winner would win more than just bragging rights. A conference championship was on the line. With the stakes raised, 47,163 people crammed into Cougar Stadium to form the largest crowd ever to witness a sporting event in the state of Utah.

Utah jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on an 87-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game. That turned out to be an aberration. It was senior day, and senior quarterback Jim McMahon was not going to let anyone rain on his parade. McMahon had treated Cougar fans to many memorable performances in his career, but the home crowd found out that the record setting quarterback had saved his best for last.

McMahon picked the Utah defense apart. He quickly answered the Utes’ touchdown, and then left them in the dust. He completed 35 of his 54 attempts for a career high 565 yards and four touchdowns. It was the second most passing yards in a game in BYU history, and McMahon’s 552 yards of total offense was the third most in BYU history.

While McMahon shined the brightest, other Cougars made big plays and had big days. The defense contributed a score when Dave McKee returned an interception for a touchdown. Tight end Gordon Hudson was McMahon’s favorite target catching 13 passes for an NCAA record 259 yards (most receiving yards in a game by a tight end) and two touchdowns. The 13 receptions were the third most in a game in BYU history, and the 259 receiving yards was second most in a game in BYU history.

Remembering the Rivalry is a special feature on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL that is done annually during the week of the BYU vs. Utah football game. Each day, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL will highlight one of the classic games in this rivalry. For additional installments of this feature, please visit the Special Features page. 

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