In a game that was a microcosm of the season, the Utes, after a terrible start falling behind 20-0 in the first half, the Utes rallied in epic fashion to beat BYU for the 8th straight time 35-27.
The game could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Utes. The defense managed to force a three-and-out, but a short punt hit Jameson Field, and BYU recovered. The Cougars would take advantage of the short field with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Zach Wilson found Neil Pau’u. BYU would miss the extra point though, giving the Cougars a 6-0 lead. The Utah offense failed to get a first down on their ensuing drive. BYU’s next drive would stall after two first downs. The Utah offense, starting from their own 10-yard line after a 48-yard Rhett Almond punt, would again fail to get a first down. Mitch Wishnowsky managed to flip the field with a 54-yard punt. Wilson would find tight end Matt Bushman for a 25-yard gain, moving the ball into Utah territory. Wilson would again find Bushman for a 26-yard touchdown pass two plays later to give BYU the 13-0 lead. Utah again had no response on offense with their third-straight three-and-out to start the game. Utah ended the first quarter without a single first down.
Utah got the ball at the start of the second quarter after a BYU punt and finally recorded a first down. But Utah would not get another first down and had to punt yet again. Wilson would scamper for a 31-yard gain to midfield on BYU’s next drive. The Utah defense would step up, and Pita Tonga would record Utah’s first sack of the game, forcing a BYU punt. The Utah offense would hit their first big play of the game when Jason Shelley II found Solomon Enis for a 25-yard gain on third and long. Shelley would then gain 11 on a rush after hurdling a BYU defender. T.J. Green took an option pitch for 11 yards on the next play to get to the BYU 33-yard line. Utah would go backwards on the next two plays with a holding call and a loss on a run. A 10-yard pass to Cole Fotheringham set up Matt Gay for a 54-yard field goal, which was blocked by BYU. BYU managed to drive the field and score a touchdown right before halftime to take a 20-0 lead into the break.
Utah finally got things going in the second half. Their offensive drive stalled, but the defense stepped up and made a play. Julian Blackmon picked off Wilson and took it 27 yards to the house to cut BYU’s lead to 20-7. The Utah defense would for a stop on BYU’s next drive. a 32-yard punt would set up Utah at their own 39-yard line, but Utah could not capitalize on the good field position. Wishnowsky’s put only went 10 yards, so BYU started their next drive at the Utah 44-yard line. BYU would capitalize on their good field position, getting a one-yard touchdown on fourth and goal to take a 27-7 lead. The Utah offense finally mustered a response. They drove 75 yards in 14 plays to score a touchdown, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass to Samson Nacua to cut the lead to 27-14 right before the end of the third quarter.
Utah started off the fourth quarter right. The defense forced a BYU three-and-out, and BYU manage just a 15-yard punt, giving Utah the ball at the BYU 45-yard line. This time, Utah took advantage of the short field. Armand Shyne found the end zone from two yards out to cut the game to six, 27-21. The Utah defense got another stop on BYU’s ensuing drive.
On the shoulders of redshirt freshman Jason Shelley, the Utes drove down on the field on an impressive 10 play, 70 yard drive to take the 28-27 lead. The play of the drive was a 37 yard pass play to Siaosi Wilson when a BYU defensive back fell to the turf. He rumbled down to the 5 yard line to setup an Armand Shyne touchdown run. Shyne’s touchdown run was beyond impressive, as he was stood up and shook off multiple tackles to fall into the end zone.
As Holy War history has shown, the game isn’t over, so I’m sure most fans thought Utah fan Zach Wilson was going to drive BYU down the field for a game winning drive. It all came down to a 4th and short, and for some reason BYU wanted to run up the gut — into the teeth of Utah’s defense — and they were snuffed in the backfield. Probably should have punted with three timeouts, but that was Kalani’s call.
Taking over on the 33 yard line, Utah was already in field goal range, but Shelley wanted more, so much more. On the first play of the drive, Shelley took a speed option to the outside, juked a BYU defender out of their jock, stiff armed the safety and took the ball to the house to give Utah the 8 point lead.
Of course, like most fans were probably thinking, here we go again. BYU took over at the 25 yard line and picked up a first down to move the chains. The following four plays, Utah bowed up. They brought Wilson down for a big sack and then on a scramble 4th down play, Wilson found his favorite target Matt Bushman (who had 92 yards on the game), but Chase Hansen wasn’t having any of it, he dropped Bushman a yard short of the line to gain ending the game.
The Utes never gave up, and played one of their worse games of the seasons for about two and a half quarters, but the talent eventually took over, and they put the Cougars away.
Jason Shelley finished 19 of 28 for 141 yards and a touchdown, and most importantly no turnovers. He also led the team in rushing with 61 yards. Shyne was ok on the night, after coming back from concussion protocol and put up 47 yards, but it was tough sledding for him. TJ Green had a nice night, with 45 yards on 8 carries, but a couple of drops out of the backfield really derailed a couple of Ute drives.
Utah only gained 296 yards, but 200+ of those came in the second half. BYU gained 357 yards, with most of those in the 1st half. Utah ended the game with 9 TFLs and 3 sacks, but they let Wilson squirm out of many more.
The Utes shot themselves in the foot a lot tonight, and they tried to give Utah the game, but they put their foot down in the 4th.
Now the Utes move on to the Pac-12 Championship game against Washington next Friday for a chance to go to the Rose Bowl.