|Matt Hadley celebrates one of his touchdowns (Source: USAToday.com)|
Forget about the fact that the BYU Cougars haven't beaten the Utah Utes since 2009. At halftime, it looked like BYU was going to do something it hadn't done to Utah since 1996--win by more than seven.
With seconds left in the first half, Matt Hadley capped an over six-minute drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give BYU a commanding 20-0 lead. The Cougars had 247 yards of total offense (Utah had less than 90), and over 20 minutes time of possession in the first half.
Utah had gifted BYU a score with a muffed punt in the first half. BYU had played nearly perfect, including Khyiris Tonga blocking a field goal. A shanked punt by Utah in the second half helped BYU maintain it's 20 point lead, 27-7, with less than six minutes to play in the third quarter.
From that point, Utah scored touchdowns on its next four possessions to claim a 35-27 win.
In the second half, BYU returned the favors as Utah benefited from a touchdown off a turnover (interception return) and a shanked punt. It reinforced what has played out over and over again during this decade. BYU has to play a perfect game to beat Utah.
A missed extra point on BYU's first touchdown also came back to change the game. After Utah scored to go up 28-27, BYU felt the need to go for it on 4th and 1 at its own 34 yard line with 1:53 to play. Had the game been tied, BYU could have punted and played for overtime. Instead, the Cougars lost one yard on the play.
There was also a head scratching play call while BYU still led 27-14 at the very beginning of the fourth quarter. Starting running back Matt Hadley left the game with an injury following a three-yard gain on 2nd and 12.
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson had played well all night, and he was the reason BYU was winning. Yet, the play call on 3rd and 9 was a run with Riley Burt. Utah is one of the best run defenses in the nation. Burt gained just four yards, and BYU punted.
Poor tackling was a problem down the stretch. Time and time again on Utah's scoring drive to take the lead, rather than lower his pad level and have leverage, Sione Takitaki thought he could be a brick wall and stop Utah's running back. Instead, he took a helmet to the gut and was driven backwards. That allowed Utah to convert first downs and score.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Dayan Ghanwoloku recovery of the muffed punt in the first half that led to the first TD.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Zach Wilson - 20-29, 204 yards, 2 TD, 1 int., 14 carries, 73 yards
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