Provo • Every. Single. Day.
That’s how often BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree thinks about last year’s rivalry football game against the University of Utah, a 54-10 loss often referred to as “The Nightmare” by BYU fans around the globe.
“It was a tough pill to swallow,” Ogletree said. “Still is. As a college football player … losses stick with you a lot more than wins do. The wins are fun, but the losses really stick with you.”
It stuck more than the massive Utah flag that Ute defensive end Derrick Shelby tried to plant in the middle of the painted “Y” at midfield when the bloodbath was over. The act could have touched off a brawl, but most of the sellout crowd of 63,742 had long since hit the exits, and most of BYU’s players, their heads bowed in shame, had shuffled off to the showers.
“I kinda went into a shell, so I don’t remember anything that happened after the game,” Ogletree said.
Make no mistake about it, though. This was a memorable loss for the Cougars, who have gone 11-1 since the turnover-filled debacle. It was on their home field, against their biggest rival, and the 44-point margin of victory was Utah’s largest over BYU since a 49-0 win in 1922, the first year BYU acknowledges it started playing football.
Senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who will try to snap the 2-0 Cougars out of their two-game losing skid to the 1-1 Utes on Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN2) when the longtime foes meet at Rice-Eccles Stadium, said during June’s BYU football media day that it might have been the darkest day in Cougar football history.
“Total, absolute nightmare,” Nelson said.
Like everything else in this rivalry, where there is misery, there is also elation. Utah defensive back Quade Chappuis’ recollection of the win, after intercepting a Heaps pass in what Utah fans like to term “The Beatdown,” is how he can never seem to wipe the huge smile off his face when he returns home to Utah County, having played prep football at Lone Peak High.
“There was just turnover after turnover. Nothing was going in their favor, and it seemed like we had good momentum and couldn’t be slowed down,” Chappuis said. “It is obviously exciting to beat any team by that much, but when it is your rival, it is even [more exciting].”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said every year is different, with its own set of circumstances, and last year’s game doesn’t give Utah an advantage on Saturday. He said the only similarity is that the Utes were coming off a loss (to USC) last year, and are coming off a loss to Utah State this year.
“We went down to [USC] and we played well. We didn’t come out with a victory, but I thought we played well and our guys executed fairly well for the most part,” Whittingham said. “This week, like I have said over and over, was a complete shambles as far as how we executed [against Utah State].”
If there is some consolation for the Cougars, it is that they recovered well from Jake Heaps’ gargantuan early mistake, had a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter, and were down just 14-10 at halftime. They simply imploded in the second half — offensively, defensively, and on special teams, finishing with seven turnovers, just 11 rushing yards on 22 attempts, and eight penalties, to Utah’s three. The defense’s swagger was sapped on Utah’s first drive of the second half when a cornerback misplayed a long pass from Jordan Wynn that Dres Anderson took to the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown and a 21-10 lead.
Utah scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, as John White ran wild through the gut of the BYU defense for touchdowns of 62 and 35 yards and V.J. Fehoko returned a Nelson fumble 57 yards for the game’s final score.
“At the end of the day, the scoreboard tells the truth, so that day it was 54-10, and that day they beat us by 44 points, and that day they were a better football team,” Ogletree said. “We have a little chip on our shoulder from that.”
When it was suggested the Cougars would be out for revenge this year, Ogletree called that notion “a little melodramatic” and said they seek redemption more than revenge.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who somehow managed to get the Cougars to win nine of their next 10 games last season — yes, the schedule weakened considerably — said the big loss will not affect this year’s game.
“We watched it [Monday], and I hardly remembered it, to be honest,” he said. “I remembered three or four of the plays that worked against us, but, man, I had forgotten about all the turnovers, and the different things that happened until then.”
Suffice it to say players such as Ogletree haven’t forgotten. Hard to do that when you think about it every single day.
Utah 54, BYU 10 — how it happened
Quarterback Jake Heaps set the tone for BYU’s misfortune early, losing the football in his own end zone on the third play of the game. Derrick Shelby pounced on it for a Utah touchdown.
The Cougars committed seven devastating turnovers, including six fumbles, and had just 11 net rushing yards. The Utes scored 47 unanswered points after BYU took a 10-7 lead, including a 40-0 run in the second half.