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Friday, September 14, 2012

Remembering the Rivalry: Magic Trumps Missed Opportunities

Editor's Note: To prepare for the BYU-Utah rivalry game, each day this week BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL will take a look back at one of the Cougars' great wins against Utah. To read additional installments of this feature, visit the “Remembering the Rivalry” page.

In 2007, when the Brigham Young Cougars faced their archrival Utah, BYU was clearly the better team. The stat sheet said it, and any unbiased fan in the stands would have said it. With 1:34 left in the fourth quarter, the scoreboard did not say it. Missed opportunities by BYU had allowed Utah to stay close enough to take a 10-9 lead late in the game.


Early on, this game was a defensive slug fest. Neither offense could get much traction. Utah couldn’t even score after an interception set them up at the BYU 16-yard line. Unheralded senior cornerback Corby Hodgkiss intercepted a Utah pass at the 5-yard line to get the ball back for BYU.

Following the Hodgkiss interception, the BYU offense finally broke through. Harvey Unga ripped of a 44-yard run on the first play of the series. He then converted on fourth down with a run of five yards. A sack set up 2nd and 19. Unga then ran for 16 yards. BYU gave Unga the ball again on the next play, and just as he was about to get the first down, the ball was knocked loose at the Utah 25-yard line. Utah recovered.

BYU moved into scoring range again at the beginning of the second quarter following a Utah punt, but the Cougars missed the field goal attempt.

It wasn’t until 4:47 was left before halftime that BYU scored the first points of the game. A second interception by the BYU defense, this time by Matt Bauman off a pass tipped by Kellen Fowler, gave the BYU offense the ball at the Utah 40-yard line. BYU nearly pulled of a trick play with wide receiver Austin Collie throwing a deep pass to Matt Allen. Allen was open, but there was too much air under the ball, and the Ute defense had time to catch up and break up the pass. The drive eventually stalled at the Utah 4-yard line, so Mitch Payne came on and kicked a 22-yard field goal.

On BYU’s next drive, a long touchdown pass to Collie was called back for offensive pass interference. Another missed opportunity. BYU had to punt with just 20 seconds remaining before halftime, and the score remained 3-0.

Utah moved the ball for the first time on the first possession of the second half. The Utes were poised to have 1st and Goal at the 1-yard line, but a holding penalty negated the play, and moved the ball back to the 16. The Cougar D pushed Utah back 10 yards on the next two plays to force a field goal.

With the game tied 3-3, BYU and Utah traded punts. Then, the BYU offense found its rhythm again. They drove into scoring territory on the next two drives, but BYU was unable to score touchdowns. Payne did convert on two more field goal attempts to give BYU a 9-3 lead with 13:48 to play in the game.

The BYU defense forced another stop, and the offense took over at their own 20-yard line. Max Hall connected with Collie for 44-yards on the first play. Unga got open deep, behind the defense, twice. Both times, however, Hall and Unga were unable to connect. That gave the ball back to Utah with 8:45 to play at the Utah 31-yard line.

Utah took 15 plays and 7:11 to relinquish the ball, and they did it only after scoring a touchdown. The Utes now led 10-9 with just 1:34 to play. BYU had gone from controlling the game to desperately needing a score.

BYU lost eight yards on first down after a fumble. Two incomplete passes followed, and it was quickly 4th and 18. Hall took the snap and was flushed out of the pocket from the defensive pressure. He scrambled right and heaved the ball deep. Wide open waiting for the ball was Collie. He caught it for a 49-yard gain.

BYU was back in business. Utah had lost composure. The Ute defense committed two 15-yard penalties to help BYU move to the 14-yard line.

Needing just a field goal, BYU gave the ball first to Manase Tonga, and then to Unga to run out the clock and set up a field goal. When Unga took the handoff and headed for the right side of the offensive line, a chasm opened up. Unga ran through it and all the way to the end zone. He punctuated his run with an exclamation mark by steamrolling a Ute defender at the goal line.

Hall completed a pass to Collie for a two-point conversion to make it a 17-10 game with 38 seconds left.

BYU out gained Utah in total offense by 180 yards, 424 to 244. Unga had an impressive 141 yards rushing on 23 carries. Collie had 126 receiving yards on just 5 receptions. Kelly Poppinga led the defense with 12 tackles.  

The win gave BYU the outright Mountain West Conference championship for the second consecutive year.

Following the game, Collie uttered the immortal words when asked about what happened on the final drive. Simply put, he said, “magic happens.”

Magic did happen, and outweighed all the missed opportunities earlier in the game.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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