New season begins with same old story: Mistakes fatal as BYU looses to Utah

Credit: Colter Peterson, Deseret News

The hopes that come with a new football season were quickly shattered for the BYU Cougars as arch-rival Utah did the same thing it has done all decade. The Utes capitalized on BYU turnovers to win their ninth straight in the series.

BYU received the opening kickoff to start the game. Matt Bushman made an exciting catch for 26 yards on 3rd and 7 to move the Cougars into Utah territory. The drive stalled four plays later as BYU turned the ball over on downs.

Utah moved right down the field and kicked a 41-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

Back-to-back penalties on 3rd and 1 killed BYU's next drive, including negating a 17-yard run by quarterback Zach Wilson. Things didn't look good when Utah returned the BYU punt 40 yards to the BYU 33-yard line, but the Cougar D stood strong. Utah turned the ball over on downs four plays later.

Wilson then led BYU on a methodical 12-play drive. Highlighted by graduate-transfer Ty'son Williams' 18-yard run to the Utah 17, BYU tied the game 3-3 with a 32-yard field goal less than a minute into the second quarter.

A favorable bounce on the ensuing kickoff allowed BYU to pin Utah back at the five-yard line. Five plays later, Utah punted and BYU took over at midfield. It was starting to feel like BYU had the upper hand.

Two plays later, that feeling was completely eradicated. Under pressure, Wilson tried to throw the ball away, while falling to the ground, to avoid a sack. His pass was intercepted by BYU transfer Francis Bernard, and returned for a touchdown.

The extra point was blocked.

Unfazed, Wilson drove the Cougars quickly to the Utah eight-yard line. A bad shotgun snap on 3rd and 3 resulted in a 12-yard loss. BYU had to settle for a field goal to cut the lead to 9-6.

Neither team was able to score in the final 5:52 of the half. BYU had significant advantages in plays and time of possession in the first half. If sustained in the second half, BYU could wear down Utah and take control. It was the season opener, so the Utes probably weren't at peak conditioning levels.

The exact opposite happened after halftime. Utah drove 75 yards for a touchdown to start the second half. That extended the lead to 16-6.

BYU had the ball one time for five plays in the third quarter.

The Cougar defense was poised to get the ball back on Utah's second possession in the third quarter. However, rather than decline a holding penalty that would set up 3rd and 16, BYU coaches accepted the penalty making it 2nd and 29. Two plays later, BYU was penalized, after making the third down stop, giving Utah an automatic first down.

That Utah drive ended with a missed field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. While the penalty didn't cost the Cougars any point, directly, it allowed Utah to chew up over four minutes of game clock, and further fatigued the Cougar D. The lost time became even more critical when the game was stopped for a weather delay with just a little more than nine minutes left in the game.

Before the weather delay, the BYU offense committed two more killer turnovers.

Two plays into its next drive, BYU fumbled on a handoff exchange. Utah recovered at the BYU 22-yard line and scored a touchdown three plays later. Two plays into BYU's ensuing drive, Wilson threw another interception. It, too, was returned for a touchdown.

Utah now had a commanding 30-6 lead.

BYU was able to respond with a nine-play, 75-yard drive. It ended with a 10-yard touchdown run by Williams.

It was now 30-12 with 9:19 to play.

BYU would not get the ball back. The lightning delay came one play into Utah's next drive. When play resumed, the Utes ran out the clock.

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