UTAH WON. It was one of the oddest endings to a game we have seen this season, but after three "final plays" Utah emerged victorious 24-21 over BYU. It was the Utes' third straight victory over their rivals in "The Holy War," and involved three instances of fans storming the field. The first being premature, the second being penalized, and the third signifying a victory for Kyle Whittingham and Co..
HOW UTAH WON: Utah's defense was stellar against Riley Nelson and a talented BYU offensive unit. The Cougars entered the game averaging 479 yards of total offense per game, but the Utes held them to just 303 yards and - perhaps most importantly - only 6 for 17 on third down conversions.
It was the first game for Utah since starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced the end of his career - a decision that came after the juniors' fourth shoulder surgery. There was talk about the big freshman Travis Wilson getting some time, but senior Jon Hays was everything the Utes needed under center. Hays completed 18 of 27 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, leading a Utah offense that struggled to find any kind of rhythm against BYU. The most energy on both sidelines turned around after Utah's Mo Lee scooped a BYU fumble and ran it 47 yards for a touchdown to put the Utes up 17-7. After that play late in the third quarter, things got a little crazy.
WHEN UTAH WON: BYU kicker Riley Stephenson had two opportunities to send the game to overtime, after Riley Nelson's Hail Mary found wide receiver Cody Hoffman 47 yards down the field on fourth down. The first kick, from 51 yards, was blocked at the line of scrimmage after a terrific push by Utah's defensive linemen. The Utah fans rushed the field before the play was dead, resulting in a 15 yard penalty against the team - giving BYU a second chance to kick the game-tying field goal from an even shorter distance. Stephenson's second kick from 36 yards clanked off the left goal post, allowing Utah's fans to rush the field without penalty and celebrate the victory.
WHAT UTAH WON: A much-needed victory against quality competition. After falling to Utah State in overtime, the Utes will benefit from this victory over the next few weeks. Utah opens Pac-12 play next week at Arizona State, then faces USC - on a short week, and UCLA on the road. Holding off BYU late in the game should give this team a boost of confidence they will need for the tough road ahead.
WHAT BYU LOST: Third consecutive game to their hated rivals. Especially in the midst of their newfound independence, the fan base cherishes this rivalry. Other than Notre Dame, this was probably the biggest game on the Cougars' schedule. The loss didn't really "expose" BYU in any way. They were a fringe Top 25 team that lost to a competitive rival early in the season. The Cougars still have all of the same opportunities for the season that they had before kickoff.
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