Our Favorite Moments From the Holy War


Brigham Young University freshman kicker Jake Oldroyd (39) kicks a field goal during an NCAA Football game vs. The University of Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


For the last 10 years, Utah has bested BYU on the gridiron, and we at The Daily Utah Chronicle have our own set of favorite moments from Holy Wars past. 


Sammy Mora: 

Picture it — September 2011. Utah had just come off a heartbreaking loss at USC and was headed to Provo to take on BYU for the first time as non-conference opponents. I knew it was going to be Utah’s game from the third snap, when the ball went over Jake Heaps’ head and Derrick Shelby recovered it in the end zone for a Utah touchdown. Later in the first quarter, BYU running back JJ Di’Luigi was stripped of the ball when BYU was knocking on the door of a touchdown. Even though in the second quarter, BYU finally was able to put some points on the board, Jordan Wynn was able to connect with Jake Murphy on a 30-yard pass right at the end of the half. It was a close game of 14-10 when both teams headed to the locker room. 

But it’s the second half that would be the one I always remembered while BYU fans wanted to forget. 

Utah would lay the hammer down and score 40 unanswered points as BYU couldn’t keep the ball safe. BYU would end the game with seven turnovers total while Utah would roll to their biggest margin of victory in Holy War history, winning the game 54-10.  

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Cole Bagley: 

In November of 2018, the No. 17 Utes (8-3) welcomed BYU (6-5) back to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the second time in the Kalani Sitake/Kyle Whittingham era. Despite losing Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss to injury earlier in the season, the Utes were still heavily favored due to their fierce defense and BYU’s recent changes under center from senior Tanner Mangum to freshman Zach Wilson. 

Surprisingly, the Cougars came out swinging as they led 20-0 at halftime, completely shutting down Jason Shelley and the Utah offense. I’ll never forget the plethora of texts from friends and family who support the Y, as they were certain this would be the year BYU would end the streak, and there was no way the Utes could come back. 

But thank goodness for Julian Blackmon, as he intercepted Wilson to begin the third quarter and ran it back for Utah’s first six points of the night. Even though Utah would give up another BYU touchdown, the momentum had already changed hands. The Utes would score 28 unanswered points that included freight-train rushes into the end zone from running back Armand Shyne, a high flying leap by quarterback Jason Shelley over BYU’s Keenan Ellis for a critical first down and near-perfect team football to extend Utah’s win streak to eight.

No phrase could better summarize this game than what the Fox commentator said as Jason Shelley scored the final touchdown of the game with 1:44 left in the game: “A rivalry for generations, and a comeback for the ages!” 


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Eric Jensen: 

Last year’s 2019 Holy War game is especially memorable to me. Not only did record-breaking running back Zack Moss start his all-time historic run with a 187-yards, one-touchdown game, there was also a rain delay.

There is nothing in sports media that really gets a reporter more hyped up than a rain delay. I mean, for myself a lowly hourly employee, it means free money while you wait for the storm to pass you by.

Also, it’s Pac-12 after dark. Which, I mean, who doesn’t love staying up until 3:00 a.m. covering a football game?

That game was also Week 1 of Utah’s season, and there is nothing quite like the unbridled optimism a dimension-shattering smackdown of a rival gives off. Nothing to make you say “we want ‘Bama” quite like smacking a barely over .500 team from Provo, Utah and in Provo, Utah, for that matter.

That game is also a master class in Kyle Whittingham football: get stops on defense and wind together yawning eight- to 10-minute drives that crush the spirit of the opposition. Time of possession in that game was 35 minutes to BYU’s 24. That is just a master class in time management. I love two types of football: shootouts, and grinding, possession-based running attacks where the opposition never gets the ball. This game was the latter, especially after the rain delay.

There is just nothing quite like the Holy War. It’s two institutions with vastly different backgrounds and policies from two different cities with vastly different cultures. Both have their merits, and when they clash, it is always a recipe for a great time.


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Ethan Pearce: 

Utah and BYU have had some close games over the years, and although Utah has come out on top recently, it hasn’t always been easy. The game from 2016 comes to mind as an incredibly close contest. The Utes were able to pull out a close win at 20-19. Both teams played sloppily all night long, with nine turnovers between the two teams, six of which came from the Utes. Sunia Tauteoli had two interceptions on BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, one of which happened on the first play of the game and was returned for a touchdown. Despite the early lead, Utah’s offense couldn’t get much going and only managed one offensive touchdown the whole night. As has become customary for the Utes, the defense saved the day, holding BYU to just 19 points. 

The Cougars scored a touchdown while down 13-20 with only 18 seconds on the clock. Instead of kicking the extra point to tie it, head coach Kalani Sitake elected to go for two, which would give them the lead and likely seal the game. Taysom Hill was stopped short on the attempt and the Utes grabbed their sixth straight victory over BYU. This was the first Holy War game to be coached by Sitake after Bronco Mendenhall left for Virginia the previous offseason. Sitake made the bold call to go for the win instead of play for overtime, and he certainly would have looked like a genius had it paid off. It’s a gutsy move to make that call in your first season as head coach, but it didn’t work out for them that time. Utah narrowly escaped defeat in a game that was marred by ugly offense and turnovers. 

Still, it was exciting until the very end, and was definitely one of my favorite Holy War games in recent memory.

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Carlos Padilla: 

The Holy War in Salt Lake City has produced some classic gridiron moments, but perhaps one of the most entertaining meetings between Utah and BYU took place one state over. 

In 2015, Utah and BYU found themselves matched up to play in the Las Vegas Bowl. While the Utes had a respectable 9-3 record (6-3 Pac-12), they ultimately were pushed to a lesser bowl game due to the strength of the conference. Meanwhile, BYU had a 9-3 record but were pushed to Vegas due to their status as independent. Without a strong conference to back them up, the Cougars were shoved into the most convenient bowl game. 

So was born the Holy War in Sin City. 

Utah fans will fondly remember the 35-0 first quarter the Utes put up. It appeared as if Utah was flexing their Pac-12 muscle. However, the hype soon disappeared as BYU mounted an impressive comeback. 

The Cougars locked down on defense and Utah didn’t see the end zone for the rest of the game. BYU went on to score a touchdown in both the second and third, capitalizing on their momentum by having a 14-point fourth quarter. 

The game came down to a nail-biter as BYU came within one touchdown of the evening the score. However, Utah came through and were able to mount a last stand effort to keep BYU from completing the comeback.

Since the Holy War had become rather mundane, it was refreshing to see the rivalry re-spark its old magic. The Holy War in Sin City will always be one to remember. 

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