After not losing a game in Provo for 68 years, according to the Ute record book, and never according to the BYU record book, it looked like Utah might never win again in Utah County after losing 12 of 14 games there, including 10 consecutive games over a 20-year span from 1972 to 1992.
Then it all changed with an improbable 55-yard field goal by Chris Yergensen in 1993, giving Utah an upset 34-31 victory.
Since then, the Utes have owned the Cougars at their home field, winning five games and losing just one, a game they dominated for 56 minutes and still nearly came back to win.
In 1995, the Utes dominated the Cougars 34-17 and then ran off 20-14 and 20-17 wins in 1997 and 1999, respectively.
Then in 2001, the Utes were big underdogs to an unbeaten Cougar team that still had hopes of a BCS berth, until Luke Staley broke their hearts with a pair of late fourth-quarter touchdowns. In 2003, Utah escaped with a 3-0 victory in an ugly game in the snow.
When asked about the Utes' amazing run of success in Provo, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who has been a part of five of those six games as a Ute coach, wasn't even aware it was that great.
"Is that what it is? I guess that's right," he said. "It's been a strange series because for most of the last 12 years the visiting team has had the upper hand. But I have no explanation for it whatsoever."
This year the hopes look bleak for the Utes, who are two-touchdown underdogs without their starting quarterback and top receiver. They can take solace in that they were underdogs in all but one of those half-dozen games in Provo, that they won with a 5-5 record compared to BYU's 6-4 mark in 1997 and that they won with a second-string quarterback, T.D. Croshaw, in 1999.
Here's a closer look at the last half dozen games in Provo:
1993 — The Utes piled up 629 yards, including 462 through the air behind quarterback Mike McCoy, but all anyone remembers is Yergensen's 55-yard field goal with 25 seconds left. What made it even more impressive was that Yergensen had already missed two field goals and an extra point before making the game-winner.
1995 — BYU was 7-3 and on a four-game winning streak, but the Utes dominated the game behind the passing of Mike Fouts and the running of Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Juan Johnson. Fouts won the battle of JC quarterbacks over Steve Sarkisian, who threw four interceptions and was sacked three times. The Utes led 27-3 and 34-11 before the Cougars scored with 13 seconds left.
1997 — Utah came into the game as the underdog with a 5-5 record, compared to BYU's 6-4 mark. Sound familiar? The key was the Ute defense, which held BYU to just 196 yards and scoreless over the final 42 minutes of the game. The Utes came back from a 14-10 deficit with a run by Darnell Arceneaux and added a field goal by Tommy Truhe. Kevin Dyson finished off a sterling college career by catching nine passes for 143 yards.
1999 — Defense was the difference as the Utes held the Cougars 100 yards below their season average. After leading 6-3 at halftime, the Utes went up 20-10 on a pair of Croshaw touchdown passes, including a 70-yarder to Cliff Russell. The Cougars cut the lead to three points with 2:20 left and then got the ball back in the final minute, but Andre Dyson made his second interception of the game to end the rally. The win allowed the Utes to tie the Cougars for a share of the Mountain West Conference title.
2001 — The 7-2 Utes appeared on their way to a big upset of the 10-0, No. 8-ranked Cougars, the top offensive team in the country, leading 21-10 late in the game. Behind the running of Dameon Hunter and Adam Tate, Utah controlled the ball for the majority of the game. However, the Cougars finally broke through with a 7-yard catch by Staley with 3:22 left and a 30-yarder by Staley with 1:16 left. The Utes moved to the BYU 30, thanks in part to a trick lateral pass to tackle Jordan Gross, but Jernaro Gilford picked off a Lance Rice pass.
2003 — Not only did the Utes wrap up an outright MWC championship, they broke an NCAA-record 361-game scoring streak by keeping the Cougars off the scoreboard. The only score of the game was a 41-yard field goal by Bryan Borreson midway through the second quarter. Freshman Eric Weddle intercepted a pass and forced a fumble on a punt return to ice the game for the Utes with three minutes left.
Last 6 games in Provo
2003: Utah 3, BYU 0 — A Bryan Borreson field goal is enough on snowy day
2001: BYU 24, Utah 21 — Two Luke Staley TDs in final 3:22 doom Utes
1999: Utah 20, BYU 17 — Backup QB T.D. Croshaw leads upset win
1997: Utah 20, BYU 14 — Ute defense holds Cougars to 196 yards
1995: Utah 34, BYU 17 — Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Mike Fouts lead rout
1993: Utah 34, BYU 31 — Chris Yergensen connects from 55 yards
Series in Provo: 16-15-1