This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In an era before two-point conversions and overtime were invented, Utah held on for a 33-32 victory over BYU when the Cougars botched an extra-point attempt in the last 90 seconds of a Thanksgiving Day game in 1953.
There's a fairly comparable moment for just about everything that happens in a rivalry, and that '53 game historic, because the game was played on national television is the closest thing to what unfolded Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. But the latest episode has its own distinction, because of the win-or-lose, two-point option.
The Utes have won seven one-point games in the series, but prior to Saturday's 20-19 victory, only the '53 game was decided by what happened immediately after a late touchdown. BYU's holder tried to run after fielding an errant snap and was tackled well short of the goal line (a successful run would have tied the game). And while two overtime games have been played in this century, no coach ever faced a decision like BYU's Kalani Sitake did in the last 18 seconds.
Other observations from Saturday's wild adventure:
• In criticizing BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer's call for a quarterback draw on the two-point play, I was picturing a roll-out for quarterback Taysom Hill. Wouldn't you know, that's exactly what Brandon Doman called at Boise State in 2012, Hill's freshman year. That play also failed, as a rusher broke free and hurried Hill into an incompletion in the end zone as the Broncos won 7-6.
• Ute coach Kyle Whittingham's decision to kick a field goal to make the score 20-13 in the last three minutes was rewarded when the Utes stopped Hill's two-point attempt. But if BYU's play had succeeded, Whittingham would have been second-guessed as much as Detmer. Even if Utah's fourth-and-inches gamble had failed, BYU would have needed a touchdown to win and would have started a drive at its 7-yard line instead of the 25, after the kickoff.
• Whittingham often allows himself to make some wry commentary after a rivalry win. In 2012, he joked about what BYU would have done if the game had gone into overtime after midnight. Asked if Saturday's win felt any different, in an apparent reference to coaching against Sitake, Whittingham playfully added, "... than the last five in a row?"
• That streak, now at six games, is the reason BYU really needed to win Saturday, just as Utah needed victories at various checkpoints such as 1978, '88 and '93 to break up BYU's former domination. Next September in Provo, the Utes will be trying for their first seven-game streak in the series since the 1950s when their run included two one-point wins, just like their current reign.