Utah Utes football

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Utah Utes football
2014 Utah Utes football team
Utah Utes logo.svg
First season 1892
Athletic director Chris Hill
Head coach Kyle Whittingham
9th year, 73–32 (.695)
Home stadium Rice–Eccles Stadium
Stadium capacity 45,807
Stadium surface FieldTurf
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Conference Pacific-12
Division South
All-time record 628–435–31 (.588)
Postseason bowl record 13–4 (.765)
Claimed national titles 0
Conference titles 24
Consensus All-Americans 4
Current uniform
Pac-12-Uniform-Utah.png
Colors

Crimson and White

          
Fight song Utah Man
Mascot Swoop
Marching band Pride of Utah
Rivals BYU Cougars
Colorado Buffaloes
Website UtahUtes.com

The Utah Utes football program is a college football team that currently competes in the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I and represents the University of Utah.[1] The Utah college football program began in 1892 and has played home games at Rice–Eccles Stadium since 1927. They have won twenty-four conference championships in five conferences during their history,[2] and they have a cumulative record of 628 wins, 435 losses, and 31 ties.[3]

The Utes have a record of 13–4 (.765) in bowl games,[4] which is the highest winning percentage in the nation among teams that have had ten or more bowl appearances.[5] Among Utah's bowl appearances are two games from the Bowl Championship Series (BCS): the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers 35–7, and in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 31–17.[4][6] During those seasons, Utah was a member of the Mountain West Conference, whose champion does not receive an automatic invitation to a BCS bowl. The Utes were the first team from a conference without an automatic bid to play in a BCS bowl game—colloquially known as being a BCS Buster—and the first BCS Buster to play in a second BCS Bowl.

History[edit]

At the start of Utah's football history in 1892, the school did not have a conference affiliation so Utah played as an independent. That changed in 1910 when Utah joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Utes have played in five different conferences in their history. As of 2011, Utah football competes in the Pacific-12 Conference (South Division).[1]

Timeline of Utah's conference history:

Beginning of Utah football: 1892–1924[edit]

The 1905 football team

During Utah's first year in 1892, the Utes won one game and lost two, including a loss to future rival Utah State. The first two games were against the local YMCA, but no one knows when these contests took place. Utah's first game against another college, Utah Agricultural College (now called "Utah State"), was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, but was postponed one day due to a snow storm.[8] Utah A.C. won 12–0.[9]

Utah did not field a team in 1893, but resumed playing in 1894. One other season in Utah's history has been cancelled: in 1918 Utah did not field a football team due to World War I.[10]

Utah had its first sustained success when, in 1904, it hired Joe Maddock to coach football, as well as basketball and track. During his six seasons, he coached the football team to a record of 28–9–1 (.750).[11] The school enthusiastically embraced the former Michigan Wolverine. In 1905, the Galveston Daily News reported, "He has the Mormons all football crazy. He has written here to say that his team now holds the championship of Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and the greater part of Colorado. When he won the hard-fought battle with Colorado College a week ago the Salt Lake City papers said: 'Maddock' is a new way of saying success. The great Michigan tackle has taken boys who never saw a football before and made them the star players of the Rocky Mountain States."[12] In early 1910, Maddock retired from coaching (although he later coached a year at Oregon.)

Fred Bennion coached the Utes from 1910 to 1913. 1910 was also Utah's first season as a member of a conference, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC). Bennion finished with a record of 16–8–3 (.648) during his four seasons.[11] Nelson Norgren finished with a record of 13–11 (.542) during his coaching years from 1913 to 1917.[11] Utah did not field a team for the 1918 season because of a shortage of players due to World War I.[2] When play resumed in 1919, Thomas Fitzpatrick started his football coaching career. He continued as football coach until end of the 1924 season. His teams finished with a record of 23–17–3 (.570).[11] Utah won their first conference championships in these early years, in 1922.[2]

1925–1949: Ike Armstrong era[edit]

Ike Armstrong was originally hired to coach both the men's basketball team and the football team. While he lasted only two years as basketball coach, in football he amassed a record of 141–55–15 (.704)[11] during his twenty-five years as head coach, which places him first among Utah head coaches for total wins. Under Armstrong, Utah won thirteen conference championships, including six in a row from 1928 to 1933 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.[2] His teams produced three undefeated and untied seasons (1926, 1929, and 1930) and two more seasons where Utah was undefeated but tied (1928 and 1941).[13]

The 1930 team only allowed 20 points by the opposition all year (2.5 points per game), but scored 340 points (42.5 points per game.) On offense, they averaged 463 yards a game that year, but were unable to find a postseason opponent.[14] Armstrong coached the Utes to their first bowl in the 1939 Sun Bowl defeating New Mexico 26–0.[4]

Armstrong also oversaw the opening of Ute Stadium. As the popularity of Utah football grew, Cumming's Field, an 11,000 capacity stadium that was just south of Presidents Circle on campus, no longer met Utah's needs. The stadium was part of a larger trend of universities building larger stadiums during the 1920s. Ute Stadium initially had a 20,000 seat capacity and a cost of $125,000.[15]

After the 1949 season, Armstrong accepted a job at University of Minnesota as their athletic director.[16] In 1957 Armstrong was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.[17]

Fifties and Sixties[edit]

Under "Cactus" Jack Curtice, head coach from 1950 to 1957, Utah enjoyed moderate success. During his eight seasons as Utah head coach, the Utes compiled a record of 45–32–4 (.580)[11] and won four conference championships in the Skyline Conference.[2]

In contrast to his predecessor Ike Armstrong, Curtice focused his attention on offense and continually tinkered with his split-T offense.[19] His teams are perhaps best known for popularizing the Utah Pass, which is an overhand forward shovel pass of the ball.[20] The play is commonly used today by teams which use a spread offense. Quarterback Lee Grosscup caught the attention of the east coast press when he and the Utes had a close 33–39 loss to top ten program Army at West Point, New York. Grosscup threw for 316 yards against a tough Army defense in an era where most teams seldom passed the ball. Despite losing, Curtice referred to the game as "The time we beat Army."[19]

After Curtice left to coach Stanford, Ray Nagel took the helm. He coached for eight seasons from 1958 to 1965 before leaving for Iowa. During his tenure, the Utes had a record of 42–39–1 (.518)[11] and were co-conference champions of the Western Athletic Conference in 1964.[2] As a reward, the Utes garnered an invitation to Atlantic City to play in the 1964 Liberty Bowl, which was the first major college football game held indoors. Utah dominated the game against West Virginia from start to finish and won by the score of 32–6.[21] Utah finished the season ranked #14 in the Coaches' Poll.[22]

Nagel's replacement, Mike Giddings posted a record of 9–12 (.429)[11] during the 1966 and 1967 seasons before resigning. Bill Meek, coach from 1968 to 1973, failed to substantially improve the Utes, and they went 33–31 (.516)[11] over his six seasons before he was fired.

Seventies and Eighties[edit]

Utah replaced Meek with Tom Lovat, who has the lowest winning percentage among coaches of the Utah football program (with the exception of Walter Shoup who only coached one game in 1895.) During his tenure from 1974 to 1976, his teams posted a 5–28 record (.152),[11] and had a 0–6 record against in-state rivals Utah State and Brigham Young (BYU). To make matters worse, these years coincided with the emergence of BYU football under the tutelage of LaVell Edwards.

Next in line was Wayne Howard, who coached from 1977 to 1981. He performed substantially better than his predecessor and his Ute teams posted a record of 30–24–2 (.554).[11] Despite a record of 8–2–1 in his final season and being in contention for the Western Athletic Conference Championship, Howard resigned at the end of the season. He cited several reasons for leaving, but he particularly disliked the Utah–BYU rivalry.[24]

The Utes lost whatever progress they made under Howard during the Chuck Stobart years, 1982–1984. During his tenure, the Utes compiled a 16–17–1 record (.485),[11] and saw hated rival BYU earn a National Championship.

The program regressed further during the Jim Fassel era from 1985 to 1989, with a 25–33 record (.431).[11] His teams were marked by high scoring offenses and abysmal defenses. In 1989, his final season, the Utes scored 30.42 points per game, but allowed 43.67 points per game.[25] The lone bright spot of his tenure was a 57–28 upset of nationally ranked BYU to end the 1988 season, which was dubbed by Ute fans as The Rice Bowl.

1990–2002: Ron McBride rebuilding[edit]

See also: Ron McBride

After a twenty-eight year stretch of not playing in a bowl game, Utah football experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s under head coach Ron McBride. After Armstrong, McBride has the most wins for a Utah head coach, compiling a record of 88–63 (.583)[11] and leading the Utes to six bowl games in which the Utes went 3–3. The Utes ended their bowl hiatus by playing Washington State in the 1992 Copper Bowl, losing to the Cougars 31–28.[27]

They reached their peak under McBride when they finished the 1994 season ranked #10 in the AP Poll and #8 in the Coaches' Poll[22] and recorded a 16–13 victory over Arizona in the Freedom Bowl.[28] That season, the Utes beat four teams who ended the season ranked: Oregon, Colorado State, BYU, and Arizona.[29]

In 1995, Utah was co-champion of the Western Athletic Conference, which was the first time in thirty-one years Utah had been champion or co-champion in football. In 1999, Utah was again co-conference champion, this time in the Mountain West Conference (MWC).[2]

McBride also coached the Utes to a 10–6 victory in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl over Southern California, which was quarterbacked by Carson Palmer and coached by Pete Carroll.[30]

2003–2004: Urban Meyer years[edit]

See also: Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer joined Utah for the 2003 season. In his inaugural season, the Utes showed a knack for winning close games. He implemented the spread offense and with quarterback Alex Smith led Utah to a 10–2 record, an outright MWC championship,[2] and a 17–0 victory in the Liberty Bowl over Southern Miss.[32] They finished the season ranked #21 in both major polls.[22] He also earned honors as The Sporting News National Coach of the Year, the first Utes' coach to do so.[33]

Utah fans carry the goalpost after the Utes completed a perfect regular season.

In his second season as head coach, the Utes repeated as conference champions.[2] They were a high scoring team; they scored 544 total points on the season, which is a team record, and averaged 45.33 points per game.[34] They played key out-of-conference games against Texas A&M, Arizona, and North Carolina, and they won every game by at least two touchdowns (14 points). After completing an undefeated season, Utah became the first team from a non-automatically qualifying BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl. The Utes played Big East Conference champion Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, winning 35–7. The Utes finished the season ranked #4 in the AP poll.[22]

Later that year, Alex Smith, who during the 2003 and 2004 seasons compiled a 21–1 record as a starting quarterback, was drafted #1 by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft. He became the first player from a college in the state of Utah to ever be drafted first.

After two years with Utah, Urban Meyer left after the 2005 Fiesta Bowl to coach Florida. His record at Utah was 22–2 (.917), which is the highest winning percentage among Utah head coaches.[11]

2005–present: Kyle Whittingham[edit]

Utah offense versus New Mexico in 2009

Utah is currently coached by Kyle Whittingham, who was promoted from defensive coordinator following Utah's undefeated 2004 regular season. Whittingham served as the co-head coach in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, helping Utah to defeat Pittsburgh.[35]

During Whittingham's first eight years as head coach, the Utes recorded a 70–32 (.686)[11] overall and 42–24 (.636) in conference play. Under Whittingham, the Utes have won six of their seven bowl games: the 2005 Emerald Bowl, the 2006 Armed Forces Bowl, the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl, the 2009 Sugar Bowl, the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, and the 2011 Sun Bowl. Utah lost the 2010 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. Prior to his tenure as head coach, Whittingham worked for eleven years as an assistant coach at Utah; the final ten years were as the defensive coordinator. Thus far, in his 19 years with the program, Utah has compiled a 156–73 record (.681), played in 13 bowl games (winning 11), captured five conference titles, and finished in the Top-10 three times.

In 2008, Utah posted a record of 13–0 on their way to winning the MWC Championship, and they were the only undefeated team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. During the regular season, the Utes beat Michigan on the road and Oregon State, TCU, and BYU at home. Their undefeated 2008 season resulted in an invitation to the 2009 Sugar Bowl, which made them the first non-BCS school to be invited to a second BCS bowl; Utah won the Sugar Bowl and beat heavily-favored Alabama by a score of 31–17. Four of the teams Utah beat ended the season in the Coaches' and AP Polls: Oregon State, TCU, BYU, and Alabama. Both TCU and Alabama ended in the Top-10.[35] In the final Coaches' Poll and AP Poll, Utah finished at #4 and #2, respectively, for their highest ranking in each poll ever.[22]

Current coaching staff[edit]

Name Position
Kyle Whittingham Head Coach
Kalani Sitake Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
Dave Christensen Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach
Morgan Scalley Recruiting Coordinator/Safeties Coach
Aaron Roderick Quarterbacks Coach/Special Teams
Ilaisa Tuiaki Defensive Line
Dennis Erickson Running Backs Coach
Jim Harding Offensive Line Coach
Sharrieff Shah Cornerbacks Coach
Taylor Stubbelfield Wide Receivers Coach

Stadium[edit]

Rice–Eccles Stadium
Main article: Rice–Eccles Stadium

Utah's home games are played at Rice–Eccles Stadium. In 1998, the university completed a major renovation and gave the stadium its current name. In 1927, Ute Stadium opened with a Utah win over Colorado Mines. In 1972, the stadium was rechristened Rice Stadium in honor of Robert L. Rice, who had donated money for a recently completed renovation. Spence Eccles gave money for the 1998 renovation, which expanded the number of seats to its current capacity of 45,017 and improved the press box, so the university added his last name to the stadium's name.[36]

Notable players[edit]

Years in parentheses are the years the player lettered in football with Utah.[37]

Achievements[edit]

The Utah Utes have played in 17 officially NCAA sanctioned bowl games. Their 13–4 record gives them a winning percentage of .765, which is the highest in the Football Bowl Subdivision among teams with at least ten bowl appearances.[5] The Utes also lost the 1947 Pineapple Bowl, which the NCAA did not sanction as a bowl game and counts as a regular season game in official NCAA statistics.[61] They have won twenty-four conference championships in five different conferences during their history,[2]

Rivalry games[edit]

BYU[edit]

The Holy War specifically refers to the annual football game within the larger Utah–BYU rivalry. Despite its religious overtones, fans and journalists continue to use the name, and it was recognized by SI.com as the #6 best nickname for a rivalry game.[64] Utah leads the all time series against Brigham Young (BYU) 57–34–4 (.609).[65] BYU does not recognize the first six meetings that were held 1896–1898, which the schools split 3–3.[66][67] BYU argues that because it was then known as Brigham Young Academy those games do not count in the series record. However, BYU recognizes its founding date as October 16, 1875.[68]

Utah dominated the early years of the series. From 1922 until 1971, the Utes lost to BYU five times, won 38 times, with four ties.[65] That changed when BYU hired LaVell Edwards as head coach. From 1972, Edwards' first year as head coach, to 1992, Utah went 2–19 against BYU. Since 1993, Utah has beaten BYU 14 times and lost seven times. Also, the recent games have tended to be close, with the final score of 16 of the last 21 games being within a touchdown or less. Utah has not lost to BYU since 2009.[65]

Utah State[edit]

The Battle of the Brothers refers to the rivalry between Utah and Utah State. The two teams have a long running football series, which, at 111 games, is the twelfth most played rivalry in the nation.[69] Utah leads the series 78–29–4 (.725). Both programs played their first game in history by playing each other on November 25, 1892, a game which Utah State won 12–0. The teams played every year from 1944 to 2009, but the series took a two year hiatus for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The teams have 1 more game scheduled in 2015. Utah won the last game in the 2013 season, 30-26 at Rice Eccles Stadium. Utah has won 21 of the last 24 games.[70][71]

Colorado[edit]

Main article: Rumble in the Rockies

Despite not having played each other in nearly 50 years prior to the 2011-12 season, Utah and Colorado maintain a storied rivalry that was reignited with the admission of both teams into the Pac-12.[72] Prior to the discontinuance of the rivalry in 1963, the two teams had played each other 57 times beginning in 1903, with Colorado leading the rivalry 30–24–3.[73] This included an upset by Utah in 1962, when Colorado was ranked #8 in the nation.[74] The two teams have discussed creating a trophy to "speed up" the development of the rivalry.[75] In the 2011 game, Colorado defeated Utah 17–14, denying the Utes an opportunity to play for the Pac-12 Championship. Utah exacted its revenge on the Buffaloes in 2012, defeating Colorado 42-35 in Boulder in a bitterly fought game that further cemented the rivalry between the two teams.

Traditions[edit]

Crazy Lady (center) dances during Blues Brothers' theme

Blues Brothers' theme[edit]

Just before halftime for each home game, the Utah marching band plays the Blues Brothers (Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose") while a female fan dances in front of them. Originally, the song was played between the third and fourth quarters, but Utah officials moved it to halftime at the start of the 2012 season. The tradition was started by "Bubbles", an elderly fan who danced enthusiastically to the song when the band first played it and thereby helped energize the crowd. The crowd so enjoyed the song and Bubbles' performance that is soon became a tradition.[76] After years of doing her dance, Bubbles retired so "Crazy Lady" took over. Crazy Lady received her nickname from the MUSS, which is the "Mighty Utah Student Section". Before the Blues Brothers' theme begins, the MUSS chants for Crazy Lady to do her dance.[77] Crazy Lady finds her nickname "endearing."[78]

The MUSS[edit]

Utah's Student Fan Club is called the MUSS. In 2004, it was named one of the Top Five Student Sections in the country by ESPN. The name MUSS derives from the school fight song lyrics (... No other gang of college men dare meet us in the Muss). Members also refer to MUSS as an acronym for "Mighty Utah Student Section."

Third Down Jump[edit]

When the opposing team is trying to convert a third down, the MUSS and various other fans jump up and down and make as much noise as possible to distract the opposing team. The MUSS dubbed this the Third Down Jump. The closer the opposition is to their goal line, the more frenetic the fans become. In front of the MUSS is a running tally of the number of false starts the opposition has had during the season.[77]

Ute Thunder[edit]

Since 1968, the University of Utah's Army ROTC department has operated a cannon on the sidelines called Ute Thunder. A few ROTC cadets compose the cannon crew, which is trained to fire the cannon. After each Utah score, the cannon crew fires a 10-gauge shotgun blank. The cannon was built in 1904 and was used during World War I for training. It was refurbished in 2003 to repair the firing mechanism and wooden wheels.[79][80]

Future schedules[edit]

These are the games the school currently has scheduled.[81]

2015[edit]

Date Time Opponent Site Result
September 3 Michigan* Rice–Eccles StadiumSalt Lake City, UT    
September 12 Utah State* Rice–Eccles StadiumSalt Lake City, UT (Battle of the Brothers)    
September 19 at Fresno State* Bulldog StadiumFresno, CA    
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming. All times are in Mountain Time.

2016[edit]

Date Time Opponent Site Result
September 1 Southern Utah* Rice–Eccles StadiumSalt Lake City, UT    
September (probably 10) BYU* Rice–Eccles StadiumSalt Lake City, UT (Holy War (Utah vs. BYU))    
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming. All times are in Mountain Time.

2017[edit]

Date Time Opponent Site Result
August 31 North Dakota* Rice-Eccles StadiumSalt Lake City, UT    
September 9 Brigham Young* LaVell Edwards StadiumProvo, UT (Holy War (Utah vs. BYU))    
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming. All times are in Mountain Time.

2018[edit]

Date Time Opponent Site Result
November 24 Brigham Young* Rice-Eccles StadiumSalt Lake City, UT (Holy War (Utah vs. BYU))    
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming. All times are in Mountain Time.

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