Legacies at stake in final rivalry game

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“I’m 0-3 against Utah, and I want to be 1-3,” said BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, anticipating the last BYU-Utah game for three years.

Saturday night’s contest is a single chapter in the exhaustive volume comprised of a century of football games between the Cougars and the Utes. Yet, to Van Noy and the other members of the BYU and Utah football teams, the results of the game will ripple far past Saturday night.

How will Saturday’s game affect the legacies of those involved?

Van Noy, the senior outside linebacker, is one of the most beloved BYU defenders in school history. His 2012 Poinsettia Bowl performance is one of the most impressive in BYU football history. But Van Noy is on the verge of going 0-4 against the Utes. Few BYU players have been more vocal about Saturday’s game.

Kyle Van Noy holds out the ball as he scores on an interception return in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl. Photo courtesy AP Photo.
Kyle Van Noy holds out the ball as he scores on an interception return in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl. (Photo courtesy AP Photo)

“It’s like the Super Bowl to me,” he said.

Revered linebackers Rob Morris and Bryan Kehl were 2-2 in the rivalry game. Similar to Van Noy, Cameron Jensen was 0-3 before a win in his senior year against the Utes.

Cougar fans respect Van Noy, but Cougar Nation is especially fond of good players who win — particularly against the team up north.

In Bronco Mendenhall’s ten years at BYU, he is 3-7 against Utah. Unfortunately for Mendenhall, his era has been marked by two undefeated Utah teams. Yet, the Cougars have been favored in more than half of Mendenhall’s ten rivalry contests. Gary Crowton —Mendenhall’s predecessor — was 1-3 against Utah before being let go, while famed head coach Lavell Edwards went 22-7 in the rivalry.

The win against Texas may have temporarily stopped the breathing down Mendenhall’s back, but Saturday night’s game will be forefront in the minds of BYU fans until the teams match up again in 2016.

Mendenhall, who has typically refrained from acknowledging the significance of playing Utah, wants this one.

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Head football coach Bronco Mendenhall has been vocal about the importance of this year’s rivalry game. (Photo courtesy BYU Photo)

“The state championship is extremely important,” Mendenhall said.

Taysom Hill was phenomenal against Texas. In that Sept. 7 game, he notched more rushing yards in a single game than any other player in the nation in 2013. And that was before halftime.

His performance has sparked a lot of questions. Can he run like that again? Will his passing improve to make him a more balanced quarterback?

And it just so happens that the Utah games comes in the wake of Hill’s performance. Although his legacy at BYU won’t be sealed until he finishes his career in 2015, the sophomore quarterback only has one shot at the Utes.

“I want if for myself,” Hill said. “But I also want it for our team and our seniors.”

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