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Provo • John L. Smith's name is mud in Utah these days, after the longtime college football coach jilted Weber State for a more lucrative, but temporary, role at Arkansas. Since Smith accepted the job to succeed Ron McBride in Ogden and left before ever coaching a game, Weber State's program has plummeted and will take years to recover.
But Smith did do something positive for the state 26 years ago, something that successful local coaches Bronco Mendenhall, Kyle Whittingham and Gary Andersen have never been able to do.
He beat Boise State.
In 1997, Smith's Utah State Aggies defeated the Broncos 24-20 in Logan. That still stands as the last time a team from the Beehive State got the better of Boise State on the football field. The next year, Boise State downed Utah 31-28, Weber State 24-13 and Utah State 30-16 to start a winning streak against Utah teams that has reached 21.
Will the state's gridiron nightmare against Boise State end Friday night?
Streaking BYU (5-2), which has lost all three games it has ever played against BSU, hosts the 5-2 Broncos at 6 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of close to 64,000 fans and a national television audience (ESPN) hoping to get some payback for last year's 7-6 loss in Boise.
Is it redemption time for the entire state? That depends.
The Cougars said this week that they need a win to keep their own four-game streak alive, keep the momentum going into November games at Wisconsin and Notre Dame, and to become bowl eligible. Most had never heard of the futility streak against their neighbors to the north.
"I think just our own banner is heavy enough right now, so maybe at some point we will carry more than that, but just ours is enough for now," coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Besides, the last time BYU went looking for revenge against Boise State, in 2004 after a humiliating 50-12 home loss in 2003, they fell just short and lost 28-27 when Matt Payne missed a short field goal in the final minutes.
And, as Mendenhall reminds, it isn't like Boise State is only beating up on Utah teams. The Broncos have won 50-straight games in the month of October, and Chris Petersen is the winningest coach in college football, with an 89-10 record. Boise State has won 84.4 percent of its games (168-31) since starting the domination over Utah teams in 1998.
"They have a good program, and have built a lot of momentum and confidence playing in the WAC for a long time [and now the Mountain West]," Mendenhall said. "It is uncommon for Boise to have, really, any losses at this point in the year. So I think as we are finding, as Utah is finding, as TCU is finding, as you continue to play harder and harder teams, and more and more of them, sometimes that changes. But they have earned every win they've gotten, and they have just done a nice job with their program."
Petersen said Monday he doesn't know how to explain Boise State's 21-0 stranglehold over Utah teams 11 of those wins were over Utah State teams that foundered until Andersen took over in 2009 and doesn't really dwell on it.
"It is about the here and now," he said. "I know Bronco has got a heckuva team over there. They play hard. They got it going. They are in a new winning streak, all those types of things. This will be a very tough game for us, without question."
The Broncos have played some of the country's top programs during Petersen's run, but the coach said earlier this week that Friday's game might represent his biggest challenge yet, seeing as how starting quarterback Joe Southwick fractured his ankle in the first series of Saturday's 34-17 win over Nevada. Redshirt junior Grant Hedrick, a better runner than Southwick, pulled out the win after the Broncos trailed 17-7 in the first half.
BYU defensive back Mike Hague acknowledged that 21 straight wins is impressive, but said it will mean little at kickoff time.
"This is the only one that really matters to me," he said. "We are playing for ourselves and for Cougar Nation. I don't feel like we are carrying a huge load. I don't think we have 21-0 in the backs of our minds, going out there."
Boise State at BYU
O At LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo)
Kickoff • Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 5-2, Boise State 5-2
Series history • Boise State leads, 3-0
Last meeting • Boise State, 7-6 (Sept. 20, 2012)
About the Broncos • Friday's game marks Chris Petersen's 100th game as Boise State's head coach. He is 89-10 and the winningest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. … They have won 50 straight games during the month of October, dating back to a 45-14 loss at Rice in 2001. … They have averaged 45.5 points per game in their last six games.
About the BYU Cougars • WR Cody Hoffman leads all active FBS receivers in career touchdown catches with 30 and needs one more to pass Austin Collie on BYU's all-time list. … QB Taysom Hill became the seventh quarterback in NCAA history to throw for more than 400 yards and run for more than 100 yards in the same game last week in a 47-46 win over Houston. Hill is No. 1 in the nation in plays of 10 or more yards, with 37.
Boise State's 21 straight wins against Utah schools:
Utah school Against BSU Years played
BYU 0-3 2003, 2004, 2012
Utah 0-4 1998, 1999, 2006, 2010
Utah State 0-11 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013
Weber State 0-2 1998, 2007
Southern Utah 0-1 1999