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With 1:09 left, it looked as if the dagger had been placed in BYU's chest. Heavily favored going into the game, and even after jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead, suddenly BYU found themselves trailing Utah 31-27 after Utah scored on a screen pass that went for a touchdown.
Argue all you want, but I submit that until you experience the BYU-Utah rivalry first hand, you haven't seen what a college rivalry is all about. Bad blood runs deep - I hate to use the word "hate", but that's all there is to it. A loss to Utah isn't something you completely get over after a weekend, or even with a victory the following year. The sting can last forever. And with 1:09 left, that sting was beginning to set in.
BYU had pummeled just about all of its opponents all year, but suddenly, BYU found themselves in a rare spot - trailing, on the road, and not just on the road, but in hostile territory at Rice Eccles Stadium. All the odds seemed to stack against BYU, which is why the next 1:09 was so phenomenal.
The stage was set. On a cold November afternoon, with everything on the line, BYU lined up and took control. Led by Mountain West Conference Player of the Year John Beck (QB), BYU marched quickly down the field, firing shot after shot to his receivers, picking apart the Utah defense. Beck led the offense down as far as he could, and with a mere 3 seconds remaining on the game clock, BYU found themselves on the Utah 12 yard line, and down 4, in need of a touchdown. With the final timeout called, BYU huddled on the sidelines, drawing up some sort of play to get to the endzone. And somehow, for some reason, I just don't believe what the drew up looked even remotely close to what took place next.
Here it was - one play for it all. Score now and win, or come up short and fail. Both teams lined up, adrenaline overpowering the cold air. Beck took the snap. With great protection from the offensive line, he looked toward the endzone. Nothing. Beck slowly rolled to his left out of the pocket, hoping to find someone open. Still nothing. Time was ticking, the pressure was coming. Suddenly, a Utah defender came up out of the secondary, pressuring Beck back to his right. Scrambling, he raced to avoid the sack. Another Utah defender came at Beck from the other side, this time a lineman. And then, with the lineman in his face, off his backfoot and across the entire field, Beck hurled the ball.
"Caught for the touchdown! Caught for the touchdown! Caught for the touchdown!" was the radio call. There he was, the tight end Johnny Harline, all alone on his knees in the endzone with the ball cradled in his hands. The pass had sailed across the entire field, and the sliding on-his-knees catch was made by a wide open Harline. The defense had shifted with Beck, leaving Harline to himself. He jumped to his feet, throwing his hands over his head, as the Cougars swarmed the field, silencing the home crowd and sending the BYU fans who had made the trip to Salt Lake into an absolute craze. Final score: BYU 33, Utah 31.
I will never forget where I was at when I witnessed that comeback. I will never forget the feelings I had watching something truly remarkable, by anyone's standards. I experienced every emotion, from overwhelming sadness watching Utah score only minutes prior, to worry and anxiety watching BYU march down the field, and finally to complete euphoria when the pass from Beck found Harline, on his knees, in the endzone. It was, in fact, the answered prayer.