Provo • For seniors Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman, two of the best players in BYU football history, the numbers are on their minds when they wake up in the morning, go to bed at night and several times in between.
Three losses and zero wins against the rival Utes.
“There’s no lying about it. I am 0-3 against them, and I want to win,” Van Noy said. “They don’t like us, and we don’t like them, and that’s OK. It is going to be a bloodbath, and we are going to show up for it.”
It, of course, is the BYU superstars’ Last Chance. Before they head off to the National Football League, Van Noy’s and Hoffman’s last shot to beat the Utes comes Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m. MT, ESPN2) in the rivalry game.
It is arguably the only thing missing on each senior’s resume.
“Yeah, I feel like that’s definitely [missing],” Hoffman said. “The last time we beat Utah was my redshirt year , and I didn’t play. So yeah, it really isn’t on my resume. I want it just as bad as anyone else on this team.”
Because of LDS Church missions, there are a few seniors on BYU’s roster who know what it is like to beat Utah. Nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna and backup linebacker Austen Jorgensen were on the 2007 team that beat Utah 17-10 in Provo. Defensive back Mike Hague, who has been injured but is expected to play Saturday, was a little-used freshman on the 2006 team that beat Utah 33-31 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Hague also was part of the 2009 team that won 26-23 in overtime, but he had suffered a season-ending injury in the third game and didn’t play that year.
Like Van Noy and Hoffman, vital seniors Mike Alisa, JD Falslev, Kaneakua Friel, Spencer Hadley and Daniel Sorensen never have defeated Utah.
“Oh, I would love to see them be successful [against Utah],” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “If there is a main motive for me for this game, I would love to see them have an opportunity to have success. I care about them more than the rivalry, so I would love to see them be happy, like they were last week after the Texas game.”
Van Noy and Hoffman actually both played well in the three losses, two of which were decided on the last play of the game. All told, Van Noy has had 15 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, a pass breakup and an interception against the Utes. Hoffman has caught 19 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown after not doing much against Utah his freshman year — three catches for 22 yards in the 17-16 loss where BYU outplayed the Utes for most of the game, only to see Brandon Burton block Mitch Payne’s last-second field-goal attempt.
Hoffman said those losses have added up to make Saturday’s game “personal” for him, although he’s not quite at 100 percent. The hamstring in his left leg that he tweaked before the Virginia game still bothers him, and he didn’t practice last week. He got back at it Monday, and he said he will be “ready to go” at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
“The sense of urgency should already be there,” Hoffman said. “I mean, it is your in-state rival, and you know that they are going to bring their all. That should be motivating enough, whether we win every year or we lose every year.”
Neither Van Noy (Reno, Nev.) nor Hoffman (Crescent City, Calif.) grew up knowing anything about the rivalry, especially not Hoffman, who remembers being surprised at how fierce and intense it was when he watched BYU win as a redshirt freshman in 2009.
“Just playing them every year and losing to them every year, it adds on more to it,” he said. “So it constantly magnifies every year, I would say.”
As for Van Noy, getting another shot at Utah was one of the reasons — but not the main reason — he decided to return to BYU for his senior year rather than turn pro.
“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about [not beating Utah],” Van Noy said. “But I am not going to wake up and think about it and say, ‘Oh I lost to Utah’ every day. You know, I am not going to sit here and weigh that, but yeah, I think about it a lot. I am a competitor, and I don’t like losing. I am 0-3 and I want to be 1-3. That would be better than 0-4.”
Although he didn’t play much of a role in last year’s 24-21 loss, BYU sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill realizes this is his last chance to beat the Utes as well because the teams aren’t scheduled to play in 2014 or 2015.
“It is a really important game for me,” Hill said. “Guys like Cody and Kyle and JD and Uani [Unga] and those guys, man, I really look up to those guys as seniors and leaders of our team. I have told them before and I will tell them again before the game, I am going to do everything in my power to win. I am going to sell out for those seniors on our team.”
Van Noy, Hoffman against Utah
2010 — Utah 17, BYU 16 Van Noy • 7 tackles, .5 sacks, 1.5 TFL
Hoffman • 3 catches, 22 yards
2011 — Utah 54, BYU 10
Van Noy • 1 int., 0 tackles, 1 pass breakup
Hoffman • 8 catches, 138 yards
2012 — Utah 24, BYU 21 Van Noy • 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL
Hoffman • 8 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD