Utah’s win over No. 5 Stanford is the biggest win for the Utes ever in Salt Lake City. Coming into the game, Utah had yet to win a Pac-12 game this season and since joining the conference in 2011 had only managed to go 7-13 against Pac-12 teams.
The Utes needed a win. They didn’t just need a win, they needed a statement win that would send a message to recruits, fans and the rest of the Pac-12 that they deserve to be in the conference. As Travis Wilson took a knee and time expired at Rice-Eccles Stadium, fans rushed the field and the Utes had made their mark for the future, beating Stanford 27-21.
This isn’t the first time the Utes have managed to announce themselves on a national stage. Throughout the past decade and beyond, the Utes have played some pretty miraculous games that have helped push the program to a bigger and brighter future. Here are the top 10 games for the Utes:
Alex Rasmussen is a student at the University of Utah studying communications. He has been a writer for The Daily Utah Chronicle and The Deseret News and has worked as an anchor and reporter for the U's Newsbreak. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"ESPN College GameDay," the rivalry and the Utes only needing one more victory to make history — it couldn’t get any better for Ute fans. In 2003, Utah squeaked away with a 3-0 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium in an all-out blizzard. This year, the skies were clear and Utah was ready to unleash Heisman hopeful Alex Smith.
The Cougars stayed with the Utes' pace in the first half, but after Bo Nagahi returned a BYU fumble 12 yards for a touchdown, Utah poured on the points, defeating BYU 52-21. For the first time, the Utes were BCS bound.
With the victory, Utah gave the Cougars a 5-6 season record and denied them bowl eligibility.
Just like in 2004, the last and final game of the Utes' quest for perfection was BYU. Never before had both teams been ranked so high in the rivalry game, with Utah at No. 7 and BYU No. 14.
The Cougars kept the game close through three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, Utah took advantage of Max Hall interceptions and put up 21 unanswered points for a 48-24 victory.
With the win, Utah won the Mountain West Conference title and was BCS-bound to face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
This game marked the first time Utah had reached a major bowl game since 1938 and was a season where Utah had everything falling in place. It had an 8-2 record, was ranked No. 14 and shared a piece of the WAC title.
The Liberty Bowl was only one of eight major bowl games that year and due to weather conditions, it became the first ever-indoor college football game. ABC agreed to broadcast the game nationally, and under the national spotlight Utah thrived, putting up 466 yards of total offense, giving it a 32-6 victory.
Some may be surprised this game made the list, but for die-hard fans who were alive for this game, this was the one match against BYU Utah won in a 19-year span against the Cougars. Not only did Utah win, it crushed BYU with a 57-28 victory.
Quarterback Scott Mitchell threw for 384 yards and three touchdown passes and running back Eddie Johnson rushed for four more scores.
This game gave the Utes an overall 6-5 season record, but beating BYU gave Ute fans hope for the future and in five years the rivalry would be reborn and the Utes were expected to beat BYU every year.
For the second time in four years, the Utes had started the season perfect, going 5-0. Facing Oregon State put that record on the line.
Utah looked to be in control of the game, taking a 20-9 lead at the half, but turnovers and Utah allowing OSU to score 19 straight points looked to put victory out of reach. With 2:18 remaining, Brian Johnson led his team down the field to score a touchdown and then ran the ball in himself for a two-point conversion.
On the Beavers' next possession, the defense forced them to go three and out and Johnson got his team within field goal range. Louie Sakoda stepped up and gave the Utes the victory, and the legend of King Louie was born in Salt Lake City.
This was the end to one of Ron McBride’s most successful seasons with Utah. It included victories against Pac-10 champion Oregon, WAC champion Colorado State and maybe the most important, a victory over its rival to the south — BYU.
Utah struggled offensively in this game, only recording 75 yards of total offense, but its defense and special teams kept the Utes in the game until quarterback Mike McCoy and the Utah offense were able to make a big play.
As Arizona scored a field goal in the fourth quarter with only four minutes left in the game, Utah needed a big play. Utah kick returner Cal Beck answered the call, returning the ensuing kick-off to the Arizona 5-yard line. On fourth down, McCoy threw up a desperation pass in the end zone toward Kevin Dyson, and he pulled in the pass for the win.
This would be the Utes' start toward greatness, finishing as the No. 10 team in the country and in 10 years would go undefeated with coach Urban Meyer and bust the BCS.
Editor's note: The original publication of this article read ASU instead of Arizona. It has been modified to reflect correct information.
Utah was on its way to a perfect season. It beat Oregon State on a comeback and survived a scare against New Mexico the week before, but the Utes' hardest test of the season came at Rice-Eccles Stadium with one of the nation's top 10 defenses.
This was the birth of the blackout game for Utah and was the first time a Utah team had donned black uniforms. The game started with TCU putting up 10 points in just 10 minutes and stealing the momentum. Utah answered with a field goal, though, and managed to close the game within four points, scoring another field goal in the second quarter.
The second half was an offensive struggle for both teams, but TCU was able to drive down the field twice and attempt a field goal, but both times it missed, and with under three minutes remaining in the game, Utah had one last chance to score a touchdown.
Brian Johnson led the offense down the field and delivered a slant pass to Freddie Brown to put the Utes up by three and the Utes were one step closer to their BCS dreams.
In Urban Meyer’s last game as the head coach of Utah football, Utah crushed the winners of the Big East Conference 35-7. Utah was without a doubt the better team on all sides of the ball. Alex Smith, the future No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, went 29-37 for 328 yards and threw four touchdown strikes.
This was also the first time a non-BCS school had managed to get into a coveted BCS game. Utah paved the way for Boise State, Hawaii and TCU to follow in their steps to break the BCS system and prove that there are programs that deserve a chance at greatness.
Before this game, Utah had lost its last two Pac-12 games by a combined margin of 10 points. The coaching staff, the players and the fans were tired of the “oh-so-close” games and wanted that victory. Travis Wilson, fighting back from his six-interception game the week before against UCLA, went 23-34 for 234 yards and two touchdowns and only one interception against one of the toughest defenses in the country.
The Utes were able to put up 27 points against a top ranked team and announced themselves as contenders for the Pac-12 championship.
Utah’s victory over Stanford may have been the biggest game for them in Salt Lake City and definitely the biggest Pac-12 win for them so far, but there is still one game that beats it.
In a season to remember, Utah was undefeated for the second time in four years and was getting the chance to test itself against a real powerhouse in college football, Alabama. The Crimson Tide were undefeated themselves until they lost the SEC championship game to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators and were ready to bounce back from losing their shot at the national championship.
Utah had other plans for them. In what can only be described as one of the greatest offensive schemes in Utah history, Utah put up 21 unanswered points in the first quarter. Utah’s quarterback Brian Johnson led his team in its no-huddle offense, racing down the field each possession, and each drive took less than two minutes to put up another seven points.
Alabama fought back to score 17 unanswered points of its own, but Utah would keep battling, finishing with 10 more points and defeating Alabama 31-17. Utah finished as the only unbeaten team in the country that season and No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches polls.