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Utah Football: Utes cap 10 win season with win over BYU, 35-28

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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 20 Utah Utes (10-3) beat the BYU Cougars (9-4) in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl to achieve their first 10-win season since 2010. The first quarter for the Utah football team couldn't have gone any better, as they forced 5 turnovers (3 interceptions and 2 fumbles), scoring 35 points off those turnovers against their rival, the BYU Cougars. As for the next three quarters, not much went well. BYU scored 28 unanswered points to end the game.

Tevin Carter, the Las Vegas Bowl MVP, had two interceptions in the first quarter, one for a touchdown, and the other down to the one yard line. Dominique Hatfield had one pick of his own, while Gionni Paul (the defensive MVP) had a fumble recovery, and Kylie Fitts and Lowell Lotulelei each had a forced fumble.

For most of the game, especially to open, the Utah defense was hounding the BYU offense, as the Cougar offensive line had a hard time with the content pressure by the Utah front. Utah registered 4 sacks on the night, and the pressure rattled BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, who finished the game with 315 yards on 25-56 passing (44%). BYU head coach (now former coach) Bronco Mendenhall said in the post game that the Utah pressure by the front four was faster than Mangum was comfortable with, thus creating the opportunities. Utah had more opportunities for take aways, but couldn't capitalize, and boy, they would have been helpful the last half of the game.

Utah's offense, to their credit, capitalized on every turnover they were allotted, which was a problem a few weeks back, out side of that, not a lot of good from the offense. On the night, they only had 197 total yards, with 126 coming on the ground. Joe Williams, the offensive MVP, led the attack with 91 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries. Travis Wilson struggled through the air, with only 71 yards, and was sacked 3 times. He did pick up 50 yards on the ground (only 23 net due to sacks), and scored a touchdown of his own.

Utah's offense, which was very bad overall, did find a way to convert a couple first downs to put the game away, after BYU pulled the game to within a touchdown at 35-28. Joe Williams picked up two of those first downs on third downs at the end of the game to seal the win. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called the effort in the third and half of the fourth quarter "pathetic" as his team allowed BYU to claw back into the game.

At the end of the day, while Utah did almost blow a five touchdown lead (which would be the biggest blown lead ever in a bowl game), they got the win, which as Coach Whitt said in the post game, is all that matters. The Utes have now won five straight against BYU and finish the season with 10 wins, their highest since joining the Pac-12. Utah was led by an amazing group of seniors and will look to reload next year with a talented recruiting class coming in.