Remembering the Rivalry: LaVell Wins His First, Starts a Paradigm Shift

Editor's Note: To prepare for the BYU-Utah rivalry game, each day this week BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL will take a look back at one of the Cougars' great wins against Utah. To read additional installments of this feature, visit the “Remembering the Rivalry” page.

Going into the 1972 clash, the Brigham Young Cougars and Utah Utes shared identical 5-4 records. They were both coming off a loss the week before. Utah, however, was still in the running to represent the WAC in the Fiesta Bowl. BYU showed up in Salt Lake City ready to crash the party.

The BYU defense played great keeping the Utes scoreless the entire first half. In the second quarter, the Cougar D had Utah pinned deep in its own territory, which enabled BYU to capitalize on a bad snap by the Utes. The snap went out the end zone, and BYU added a safety to its seven point lead. The seven points were a result of running back Steve Stratton’s 4-yard run in the first quarter.

It was 9-0 at the half. BYU was in control, but all it would take was one big play for Utah to get back in the game.

Utah got that play in the third quarter in the form of a 70-yard touchdown run. This one play accounted for 41percent of Utah’s 169 yards of total offense for the game.

BYU running back Pete VanValkenburg had nearly that many yards all by himself. Clinging to the slim 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter, BYU turned to VanValkenburg to carry the Cougars to victory. He carried the ball a school record 37 times for 158 yards. As a team, BYU had 350 yards of total offense, which more than doubled Utah’s total.

The game was kept close by turnovers. They filled the final period. BYU turned the ball over three times on fumbles. Utah had two fumbles of its own, as well as three interceptions. It should come as no surprise that the final points were scored off a turnover.

With less than a minute to play, George Gourley returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown to give BYU a 16-7 win.

As the 24,917 spectators in attendance left the game, they were probably talking about the turnovers, and how evenly matched the teams were. They would both finish with 5-2 records in the WAC, and just one game apart in the won-loss column (BYU, 7-4; Utah 6-5). Little did they realize how this small separation would rapidly spread.

The paradigm had shifted with LaVell Edwards. It was his first season as head coach at BYU, and the status quo of Utah dominance in this rivalry was over. Edwards had ushered in a new era of football at BYU. That new era would not include losing to Utah.

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