Utah’s football teams of 1966 and ’67 lost more games than they won, but they looked good. The Utes will celebrate college football’s 150-year anniversary season by wearing “heritage” uniforms from that era Saturday vs. UCLA.
Under Armour, the school’s apparel provider, is reproducing Utah’s look of silver helmets, red jerseys and silver pants from those years — somewhat resembling Ohio State’s traditional design, with big numbers.
Ute coach Kyle Whittingham is in his 26th season as a staff member and has been connected to college football for nearly 50 years as a coach’s son, player and coach. “It’s certainly been good to me, I’ll tell you that,” Whittingham said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. … It’s still, in my opinion, the ultimate team sport, and so many valuable lessons are learned in football. I hope it’s around for 150 more years.”
Coach Mike Giddings’ teams of the mid-'60s didn’t produce any of Utah’s all-time biggest wins, even with quarterback Jack Gehrke and running back Charlie Smith as future NFL players and Norm Chow as an All-Western Athletic Conference offensive guard. There have been a lot of meaningful moments, though, since the school first fielded a team in 1892. Here are The Tribune’s Top 50 Utah victories, with the 10 most significant wins ranked in order:
No. 1 – Utah 31, Alabama 17 (2009)
Even as a Mountain West program, Utah was so loaded with future NFL talent that this Sugar Bowl result is explainable, looking back. At the time, though? The Utes’ performance was stunning, as offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s quick-passing scheme, quarterbacked by Brian Johnson, shredded the Nick Saban/Kirby Smart Crimson Tide defense with three first-quarter touchdown drives
No. 2 – Utah 34, BYU 31 (1993)
Partly because this game produced the first of the consecutive 34-31 scores that became the theme of a bank commercial featuring coaches Ron McBride of Utah and LaVell Edwards of BYU, it became indelible. Utah’s win relaunched a genuine rivalry, after Edwards had won 19 of 21 meetings. If not for Chris Yergensen’s 55-yard field goal, the game would have ended in a tie — prior to the adoption of overtime rules at college football’s top level.
No. 3 – Utah 13, TCU 10 (2008)
In a Thursday night matchup of teams ranked Nos. 10 and 11, the Utes fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. Gary Andersen’s defense shut out the Horned Frogs the rest of the way, and Johnson led a late drive to the winning touchdown, a pass to Freddie Brown that kept the Utes unbeaten.
No. 4 – Utah 57, BYU 28 (1988)
Utah’s breaking a nine-game losing streak in the rivalry was only a temporary interruption, and coach Jim Fassel would be fired a year later. Yet that context only makes the Utah’s performance more memorable, with an offense led by quarterback Scott Mitchell and running back Eddie Johnson producing 57 points against a decent BYU defense.
No. 5 – Utah 32, Oregon 25 (2018)
There’s almost a recency bias against this game, rather than in favor of it, among longtime Utah fans. But it cannot be overlooked, because of what it meant and how it happened. The Utes had lost quarterback Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss to season-ending injuries, and were coming off a critical loss to Arizona State. But with Jason Shelley and Armand Shyne as fill-in players, the Utes took a 19-7 halftime lead, fell behind in the fourth quarter and then rallied as Shelley led a poised, go-ahead drive. Matt Gay kicked his school-record sixth field goal for the game’s final points and the Utes won their first Pac-12 South title the following week — with help from Oregon, as the Ducks beat ASU.
UCLA AT NO. 8 UTAH
When • Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • Ch. 13
No. 6 – Utah 62, Oregon 20 (2015)
Coach Kyle Whittingham’s postgame speech captured the program’s level of self-belief after a resounding upset of the No. 13 Ducks on the road: “That surprise anyone? 'Cause it didn’t surprise me.” Utah’s degree of domination shocked a lot of people, against a team that had played for the national championship the previous season. Travis Wilson threw four touchdown passes and the Utes produced 530 total yards.
No. 7 – Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7 (2005)
Only the quality of the opponent diminishes the Utes’ showing in the Fiesta Bowl as the first contestants in a BCS bowl game from outside of the power conferences. Utah dominated the Panthers from start to finish, with Whittingham’s defense recording nine sacks in the last game for coach Urban Meyer, who had taken the Florida job.
No. 8 – Utah 28, Arizona 27 (1972)
The Utes trailed 27-0 after three quarters, before rallying with quarterback Don Van Galder’s two touchdown passes to Steve Odom, Steve Marshall’s interception return for a score and Van Galder’s 3-yard TD run with 10 seconds remaining, plus the extra point. The Utes finished only 6-5, but the improbability of the comeback gave this game lasting impact.
No. 9 – Utah 41, Texas A&M 21 (2004)
This is the “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” game, as the Utes lived up to their bold advertising campaign of the summer. It was true; a 10-2 record in Meyer’s first season was just the start for his program. Alex Smith passed for 359 yards and three touchdown and the Utes compiled 582 yards in a season-opening sign that their offense would be practically unstoppable.
No. 10 – Utah 24, USC 21 (2014)
The Utes entered the Pac-12 knowing USC was the conference’s flagship program, and lost to the Trojans in each of the first three years. The first win over USC required a fourth-down stop on a play that could have effectively ended the game, then quarterback Travis Wilson led a 73-yard drive that he topped with a 1-yard pass to Kaelin Clay with eight seconds remaining.
The rest of the top 50, in chronological order:
1916 – Utah 27, USC 12. The Utes’ only win in Los Angeles, predating the Coliseum.
1939 – Utah 26, New Mexico 0. Utah’s first bowl appearance (Sun).
1953 – Utah 33, BYU 32. Nationally televised game on Thanksgiving Day.
1960 – Utah 6, Utah State 0. Aggies were 9-0, coming to SLC.
1961 – Utah 21, Colorado 12. Buffaloes were ranked No. 8, playing at home.
1963 – Utah 25, Utah State 23. Game played the day after John F. Kennedy died.
1964 – Utah 32, West Virginia 6. Liberty Bowl, played indoors in Atlantic City, N.J.
1969 – Utah 24, Arizona State 23. Utes believed they deserved WAC title; ASU played one more game.
1973 – Utah 36, Arizona State 31. No. 8 ASU was loaded with offensive talent.
1973 – Utah 31, Utah State 28. USU featured quarterback Tony Adams.
1978 – Utah 23, BYU 22. Utes broke a six-game losing streak in the series.
1985 — Utah 44, Washington State 37. Utes win, despite allowing 675 yards to QB Mark Rypien’s offense.
1990 – Utah 35, Minnesota 29. Lavon Edwards’ return of a blocked field goal on the final play.
1992 – Utah 38, Hawaii 17. Ron McBride’s first four-game winning streak.
1993 – Utah 45, San Diego State 41. Mike McCoy’s game-winning pass with nine seconds left.
1994 – Utah 34, Oregon 16. Kareem Leary’s pick-six is one of his two interceptions.
1994 – Utah 16, Arizona 13. Freedom Bowl win gives Utah a top 10 final ranking.
1995 – Utah 25, Fresno State 21. Utes score 15 points in the final 2:09.
1995 – Utah 22, Air Force 21. Utes score 15 points in the final 41 seconds.
1996 – Utah 17, Stanford 10. Juan Johnson rushes for 114 yards.
1996 – Utah 45, Kansas 42. Jayhawks came to town with a No. 20 ranking.
1999 – Utah 17, Fresno State 16. Mike Anderson rushes for 254 yards.
2001 – Utah 10, USC 6. Utes beat Pete Carroll and future Heisman winner Carson Palmer in the Las Vegas Bowl.
2003 – Utah 31, California 24. Alex Smith outduels Aaron Rodgers in his first career start.
2003 – Utah 17, Oregon 13. The Utes stifle an offense coordinated by Andy Ludwig.
2003 – Utah 45, Air Force 43 (3 OT). Ben Moa’s jump pass to Matt Hansen makes the difference.
2003 – Utah 17, Southern Mississippi 0. Utes pitch a shutout in the Liberty Bowl.
2004 – Utah 52, BYU 21. Victory sends the BCS-busting Utes to the Fiesta Bowl.
2005 – Utah 41, BYU 34 (OT). Fill-in QB Brett Ratliff outduels John Beck.
2005 – Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10. Eric Weddle blankets star receiver Calvin Johnson.
2007 – Utah 44, UCLA 6. Fill-in QB Tommy Grady stuns the No. 11 Bruins.
2008 – Utah 25, Michigan 23. Utes launch their perfect season in the Big House.
2008 – Utah 31, Oregon State 28. Utes score 11 points in the last 1:29.
2010 – Utah 27, Pittsburgh 24. Utes stage their last upset as a Mountain West member.
2010 – Utah 17, BYU 16. Brandon Burton’s field goal block starts a rivalry winning streak.
2011 – Utah 27, Oregon State. Utes get their first Pac-12 win after an 0-4 start.
2013 – Utah 27, Stanford 21. Goal-line stand preserves upset of the No. 5 Cardinal.
2016 – Utah 31, USC 27. Troy Williams’ TD pass to Tim Patrick rescues a win.
2019 – Utah 30, BYU 12. Utes tie the rivalry record with a ninth straight win.
2019 – Utah 33, Washington 28. Utes avenge four losses to UW in three years.
Sources: “100 Things Utes Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” and utahfootballcountdown.blogspot.com