BYU vs. Utah: Mo Moments

The Brigham Young Cougars and Utah Utes football game was decided on the final play of the game, a 36-yard field goal attempt with one second left, but the momentum changing plays during all four quarters of the game are what led to Utah leaving 24-21 winners.

Here are the “Mo Moments” for game three.

Mo Moment 1
On its opening drive of the game, BYU had 4th and 1 at its own 29-yard line. In a risky move, BYU didn’t punt. Riley Nelson took a quarterback sneak off the right side of the line and got the first down. A false start penalty on the left side of the BYU line, however, negated the play. Facing 4th and 6, BYU decided to punt. Riley Stephenson made a nice 50-yard punt, but it was returned 57-yards.

Momentum swing! The long punt return gave Utah the ball just 17 yards away from the end zone. Two plays later, Utah had a 7-0 lead.

Mo Moment 2
Utah was in complete control of the game. Following the touchdown, the Ute defense forced BYU to punt without converting a single first down. The Utah offense then moved the ball down the field, including a fake punt at their own 24-yard line, to get into field goal range. The Utah field goal attempt from 37-yards was blocked by Russell Tialavea.

Momentum shift! Following the blocked field goal, the BYU offense came to life. Except for a facemask penalty on Utah, BYU had not gained a first down all night. The Cougars got three on the drive following the blocked field goal. The drive ended in a missed field goal, but BYU now had the upper hand.

Mo Moment 3
Although the field goal missed, BYU could now play the field position game. After trading punts, Utah had the ball again, but they were pinned back at the 1-yard line. The Cougar D forced Utah to punt without gaining a first down. Punting deep from his own end zone, the Utah punter shanked it. The punt traveled just 23 yards.

Momentum boost! BYU now had a short field. Four plays and 33 yards later, BYU had tied the game, 7-7, with only a few minutes to go before halftime.

Mo Moment 4
Utah intercepted a Riley Nelson pass on the Cougars’ second drive of the second half, which led to the Utes taking a 10-7 lead, but it didn’t cause much change in momentum to constitute a Mo Moment. When BYU got the ball back, the offense continued to roll. BYU moved 50 yards in 11 plays and had a 1st and 10 at the Utah 20-yard line.

A false start penalty on BYU moved the ball back to the 25, but it was a bad shotgun snap that doomed BYU. After BYU failed to recover the ball, Utah picked it up and returned it 47-yards for a touchdown.

Momentum shift! BYU was poised to take its first lead of the game, or at least tie the game again, but now it was a 10-point Utah lead. BYU lost composure. A personal foul penalty on the kickoff pushed BYU back to the 17. Two false start penalties moved BYU back 10 yards, and eventually the Cougars were punting from the 7-yard line.

Mo Moment 5
A 46-yard punt by Stephenson, with zero return yards, seemed to get BYU out of a jam, but a holding penalty moved the ball back a little further. Stephenson got a longer punt away, but with the second chance, Utah returned the ball 18 yards to the BYU 39.

Momentum boost! Utah went for the knockout punch. A 39-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive gave Utah a commanding 24-7 lead with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.

Mo Moment 6
The BYU offense punched right back. The third quarter ended with Nelson completing back-to-back passes to his tight ends to move the ball across midfield. Three plays later, Nelson completed another pass to his tight end for 16 yards. A 15-yard personal foul penalty made it a 31-yard play. 

Momentum shift! BYU has often been victimized in this rivalry by losing composure, including earlier in this game. Now, it was Utah’s turn. This personal foul penalty moved the ball to the 14-yard line. Two plays later, it looked like BYU would have a 3rd and 10, but another Utah personal foul penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal, and gave BYU a fresh set of downs. BYU scored a touchdown the very next play.

Mo Moment 7
BYU stopped Utah’s offense. The Cougars offense, however, was unable to score. The BYU defense made another quick stop, and Utah was going to punt. A bad snap resulted in the Utah punter being tackled 6-yards behind the line of scrimmage. BYU took possession of the ball at the Utah 14-yard line.

Momentum boost! It appeared BYU’s comeback bid would be too little too late. There was just a little more than five minutes to play. Trailing by 10, BYU didn’t have the time to travel the length of the field twice. Utah’s special teams miscue allowed BYU to score another touchdown in just 1:26. It was now a 24-21 game with 3:39 to play.

BYU got the ball back with 1:11 to play, and was able to get into position to attempt a potential game tying field goal on the last play of the game. Had that field goal been good, BYU would have ended the game will major momentum.

From past observations, including the 2009 BYU-Utah game and a game earlier in the day between Auburn and Louisiana-Monroe, momentum doesn’t carry over very well, or at least not consistently, from the end of regulation into overtime. The break in play to have a coin toss and starting at the 25-yard line are possible contributing factors for momentum being lost.

Therefore, I don’t know how much the momentum of overcoming a 17-point deficit to force overtime would have impacted the overtime period.

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