The greatness of the BYU – Utah rivalry, part 2: the players

There have been so many great individual performances in the rivalry game that it would take a book to cover them all.  It seems like guys step up every year and make huge plays to win games.  There are also plenty of times that guys play remarkable but they end up losing anyway.

This list is of some of the most impressive individual offensive performances over the last dozen years or so.  Keep in mind that this is talking about a player’s body of work for a whole game and not just one play.  The next segment will cover those in-depth.

In the 2001 game there was no question who the star of the game would be and he delivered in a big way.  Luke Staley had one of the best games a Cougar running back has ever had against the U and helped keep BYU undefeated.  Staley carried the ball 17 times for 169 yards and a touchdown as well as catching three passes for 28 yards and another trip to the end zone.  Staley’s second touchdown was the game winner with just over a minute to go.

The game in 2002 was dominated by another running back but this time he was wearing red.  Brandon Warfield put on quite a show in Utah’s 13-6 victory and almost single-handedly out gained the Cougars offense.  Warfield rushed for 194 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries and had 2 receptions for 22 yards.  All told, the Cougars offense only bested Warfield’s output by only 19 yards.

In a game that was totally controlled by the Utes in 2004 one player stood out more than any other and that was Steve Savoy.  Savoy touched the ball exactly nine times for the Utes offense and scored on three of those plays.  For the game, he carried the ball three times for 96 yards and two scores while catching five passes for 47 yards and another touchdown.  To top it all off, Savoy even completed a pass.  Not a bad day’s work for a fine Utah receiver.

The 2005 game was an offensive slugfest where plenty of players had huge games.  Each team had a running back and a quarterback do all they could but in the end the Utes players won out with a 41-34 overtime victory.  The Utes were led that day by Quinton Ganther and Brett Ratliff.  Ganther carried the ball 21 times for 132 yards and caught three passes for another 16 yards.  He would receive more recognition for his great performance if not for his starting quarterback.  In Ratliff’s first start as a Ute he was unstoppable with his arm and his legs.  Ratliff completed 17 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns as well as carrying the ball 19 times for 112 and another score.

His BYU counterpart also played very well.  John Beck completed 27 passes for 309 yards and two scores but wasn’t the best Cougar on the field that day.  That honor belonged to Curtis Brown.  Brown had one of his best games as a Cougar rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries as well as catching seven passes for 84 yards.

2006 was one of those games that both BYU and Utah fans will never forget. In a game won with no time left there were three offensive players who really shined that day.  The first was Utah receiver Brent Casteel.  Casteel touched the ball nine times that day and amassed 134 yards along with two touchdowns in a losing effort.

For the Cougars it was the Beck to Harline show all day long including the games last score as the game clock had run out.  John Beck completed 28 passes in that game for 375 yards and four touchdowns.  His favorite target, Jonny Harline caught seven of those passes for 118 yards and three scores.

Even though the 2007 game was a nail-biter that went right to the end it was two Cougar players that did the most damage on offense.  Harvey Unga carried the ball 23 times for 141 yards and a touchdown as well as catching a pass for 27 yards.  Unga also scored the game winning touchdown with only 38 seconds remaining.  The only reason why Unga was able to score that game winning touchdown was because of a 49 yard catch made just a few plays earlier by Austin Collie on fourth down and 18.  That wasn’t the only play that Collie made that day however.  He caught five passes for 126 yards and also corralled the key two point conversion to put BYU up seven late.

The 2008 version of the rivalry was a game that was won by the Utes by a large margin.  Even though the Utes doubled up the Cougars on that day BYU still had a great offensive performance by the school’s all-time leading rusher.  Harvey Unga carried the ball 15 times for 116 yards and two scores as well as catching three passes.  Many Cougar fans still believe they would have won that game had BYU just kept giving Unga the ball.

The Utes offense that day was led by one of their favorite sons in quarterback Brian Johnson.  Johnson put on a show by completing 30 of 36 passes for 303 and three touchdowns while rushing for another 21 yards.

2011 was a game that Cougar fans wish would’ve never happened and Utes fans will never forget.  John White owned the day as the Utes trounced BYU 54-10 in Provo.  White carried the ball 22 times for 174 yards and three touchdowns.

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