This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Two coaches went their separate ways Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium: one a winner, one a loser, one moving to finish off the night at a celebration with family members, one moving toward his team bus to ride home in dark disappointment, one a beneficiary of football fortune, one a victim, one headed for the Pac-12, one headed for independence.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham grinned and pumped his fist in the aftermath of the Utes' 17-16 win over BYU. His counterpart, Bronco Mendenhall, answered questions from reporters, while Utah fans in the stands above sprinkled snow on him. Then he left.
Nobody knows with any exactness what lies ahead for Whittingham's Utes as they move on to their new league. There's even less certainty for Mendenhall's Cougars as they bolt the Mountain West Conference for the mostly unwalked path through independence.
"The bar has been raised," Whittingham said in the postgame, addressing the Pac-12 issue for the first time since putting a moratorium on the subject at season's start. "The challenge will be more intense. Everything is a bigger challenge for us."
Not that he wanted anything more intense or bigger than what had just transpired.
It took all the Utes could muster, not to mention more than a dash of luck, to beat BYU on Saturday. Utah fell behind, 13-0, in the third quarter, and trailed for most of the game. It was held scoreless until a 17-point outburst in the final quarter, aided greatly by BYU mistakes.
"Freak things," Cougar running back Bryan Kariya called them.
There was a blocked BYU field-goal attempt on the game's final play, a questionable decision to settle for that distant field goal by BYU coaches, a fumble by a Cougar defensive back after he intercepted a Utah pass on the Utes' last scoring drive, a shanked punt that ricocheted off a BYU special-teams player, giving the ball back to the Utes.
But, as Whittingham properly pointed out, Utah executed well enough through BYU's errors to make its strong charge in the closing minutes.
"Fortune plays into it, but I can't look at it that way," he said, afterward. "We blocked the kick. Our guys executed at the end."
Either way, fittingly enough, the last Utah-BYU rivalry game with both schools playing in the same league, turned out to be what these games always seem to be: competitive and more than a little insane.
It all seemed to stoke the fires of the rivalry, even as the teams now go in their different directions.
"[This] is never cooling down," Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom said.
"Going our separate ways is going to make it worse," said Sealver Siliga.
Some really believe the rivalry will suffer now that BYU is forging its own path and the Utes are headed for the coast.
That, of course, is not true.
If anything, the teams will attempt to justify their places and positions, measure their status and standing, against one another as the years come and go.
Bottom line: There's a whole lot more where Saturday's game came from, crazy though it was. And football fans in the state of Utah have that to look forward to and be thankful for.