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The top 5 Utah football seasons of all-time: No. 3

Published July 23, 2014 1:54 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The 1994 Utes were a well-balanced team on both sides of the ball under Ron McBride, finishing the season at 10-2 and beating three ranked opponents along the way. Utah scored the seventh most points per game in the country and limited opponents to the 18th most points per game in the country. The team finished with the highest AP poll ranking in program history and set the tone for future success. Here's a look at the third-best Utah football season of all-time:

Biggest moment • Utah's 34-31 victory over 20th ranked BYU in the last week of the regular season may have been more important than Utah's actual bowl win over 15th ranked Arizona in the Freedom Bowl. The Utes up to that point had an abysmal record against BYU, losing every rivalry game stretching back to 1972 except for in 1979 and 1988, a 2-22 record before 1993. The 1994 victory made it two straight and the Utes went on to win seven of 10 over the next decade.

Lowest point • If any game haunts the history of the Utah program, it's the Nov. 5 loss at New Mexico in 1994. The Utes were rolling at the time with an 8-0 record, including a 45-31 victory over 12th ranked Colorado State two weeks earlier. The Utes surrendered an 18 point lead to lose 23-21 to a New Mexico team that had struggled to a 3-6 record up to that point. The loss cost Utah a chance at an undefeated season and knocked the team out of contention for a conference title.

Season MVP • Quarterback Mike McCoy was accurate and dominant throughout the season, tossing 28 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions with 3,035 yards passing and a 64.8 completion percentage. McCoy also ended Utah's season on a high note that year, tossing a game winning touchdown to Kevin Dyson in the waning minutes of the Freedom Bowl win over Arizona. On defense, the Utes also had two ball-hawking defensive backs in Ernest Boyd and Kareem Leary, who each grabbed six interceptions that season.

Legacy • This Utes team reignited a program and brought Utah football back to a place of respectability. After wandering through two decades of middling and losing seasons, McBride coached the Utes to the team's first AP ranking since 1947. The 1994 team laid the foundation for 15 winning seasons through the next 17 years under McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.