Stanford and Utah have only played six times in college football history, but the last three contests have all been decided by a touchdown or less. Here is a look back at those exciting contests:
1995: Cardinal prevail in “Rocky Mountain High” battle
Stanford helped then-first-year head coach Tyrone Willingham notch a 2-0 record to start his Cardinal coaching career with a 27-20 win over the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. While Stanford quarterback Mark Butterfield had a forgettable day through the air, completing only 12 of 22 passes for 117 yards with two interceptions, the Cardinal dominated the ground game. Running back Anthony Bookman rushed for 153 yards on 27 carries in the game, just a portion of Stanford’s 212 team rushing yards.
In a game that featured four lead changes, Stanford scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to help turn 13-10 halftime deficit into a 24-13 lead. From there, the Cardinal leaned on their defense, which held the Utes to only seven second half points — the Card recorded six tackles for a loss, blocked a punt and notched two interceptions to help see off Utah.
1996: Utah exacts revenge at Stanford Stadium
After a trip to the Liberty Bowl and a 7-4-1 record in Willingham’s debut campaign, Stanford started the 1996 season with a dud at home against Utah. The Cardinal offense struggled mightily for most of the game, as they were held scoreless through the first three quarters, allowing Utah to jump out to 17-0 lead.
Stanford quarterback Chad Hutchinson tried to a lead a late fourth quarter rally against the Utes, as he found Troy Walters on a nine-yard touchdown strike with 8:42 to go in the game. And kicker Kevin Miller later added a 23-yard field goal with 2:59 left to make it a one-score game. However, Utah held on to steal a victory over a Pac-10 foe for the Western Athletic Conference.
2013: Stanford’s national championship aspirations take a major hit in Salt Lake City
After nearly twenty years between contests, Stanford and Utah resumed their series as Pac-12 conference opponents. To this day, that October contest is a game that Stanford fans would love to forget, as then-No. 5 Stanford suffered a stunning loss to unranked Utah. While the Utes ultimately finished with a 5-7 record and missed the postseason, Utah notched the defining win of its season and its best victory as a member of the Pac-12 by shocking the Cardinal.
After Ty Montgomery electrified Stanford fans following a Utah scoring drive with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give the Card a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, Stanford’s offense went completely dormant, going 43 minutes without scoring as the Utes opened up a 27-14 advantage. Stanford’s vaunted defense struggled to contain Utes running back Bubba Poole, as Poole averaged five yards per carry while posting 111 rushing yards and 75 receiving yards on seven receptions.
Poole’s nearly 200 all-purpose yards along with quarterback Travis Wilson’s steady play, proved to be too much for Stanford to overcome. While Devon Cajuste hauled in a seven-yard touchdown reception with 9:22 left in the game to cut the deficit to six, Stanford’s late offensive surge in the fourth quarter died at the Utah six-yard line.
With two downs to go, and the Card in need of two yards to keep their drive alive, Stanford attempted to pass both on third-and-two and fourth-and-two from the six. However, incompletions to Charlie Hopkins and Devon Cajuste led to a turnover on downs, and allowed Utah to run out the clock. The Utes fans capped the 27-21 monumental upset win by storming the field.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.