Our time!: BYU football ends streak by beating Utah at its own game
During more than a decade of success in the BYU-Utah football rivalry, the Utes set certain standards in how they played against the Cougars:
– Force key turnovers.
– Play physically at the line of scrimmage.
– Get the lead and force the other team to rally.
– Make the big play at the end.
In 2021, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake finally got his team to flip the script.
This time it was the Cougars who did all of things above and the final result showed it as BYU ended it’s nine-game losing streak to Utah with a 26-17 victory Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 63,470 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“There was a huge sense of urgency from the fanbase,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said after the game. “It was nice to get the win for the fans and for our players. I’m just really proud of them. It was a great night. It was a good game. We’ve been on the other side of these games. We feel really fortunate and really happy that we got the win.”
Cougar fans in the stadium and throughout the country almost couldn’t believe it was happening, since for so long they had endured seeing their team make the big mistakes or fail in key moments.
This time, however, BYU proved it was the better team.
The Cougars never trailed the Utes (for the first time in the rivalry matchup since 1998), had no turnovers (for the first time since 2009), and surrendered no sacks (for the first time since 2008).
Those successes, however, didn’t mean BYU had it easy. The home team still had to come up with big plays with the outcome still in doubt.
The Cougars had a 23-7 lead going into the fourth quarter but Utah kicker Jadon Redding drilled a 47-yard field goal early in the final period and — after a Ute defensive stop — added an impressive 22-yard touchdown run by running back Micah Bernard.
That made it a one-score game with 9:31 left, which was plenty of time for the visitors to complete the rally.
The BYU offense, however, was determined that it wasn’t going to happen this time.
“Utah did a good job bouncing back and scoring,” Cougar quarterback Jaren Hall said. “Our defense did a great job all game. I don’t think the momentum really felt like it switched at all. We were confident, we knew our game plan, things were simple and sure enough, we went ahead and marched down and executed to secure the win.”
BYU running back Tyler Allgeier gained nine yards on two carries, then Hall appeared to have scored a touchdown on a third-down run. But the officials said Hall had stepped out after an 18-yard gain, taking the TD off the board.
“I didn’t think I stepped out,” Hall said. “I’ll have to go back and watch it on film to see whether I did.”
In other seasons, that might have killed the Cougar momentum but this BYU squad just went back to work.
A 4-yard run, a 9-yard swing pass, a 10-yard run, a 15-yard run, a 5-yard run, a 1-yard pass, a 5-yard run … the methodical BYU march down the field not only got the Cougars into scoring position but also drained the clock, running off more than six minutes of game time.
“I liked the way we ended the game,” Sitake said. “We went down on that drive and ended up kicking a field goal. I like the way we ran the clock out. Tyler Allgeier, Lopini Katoa and the offensive line, those guys were physical. We had the tight ends and receivers blocking downfield. It was very promising for me as a head coach to see that in my team.”
BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd calmly made the 21-yard field goal, giving the Cougars a two-possession lead with just 3:17 left in the contest.
But strange things have happened in this rivalry game, so BYU still had work to do on defense.
Utah made it to the BYU 48-yard line but a drop on third down and an overthrown pass on fourth down turned the ball over and allowed the Cougars to run out the clock.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Cougar linebacker Payton WIlgar said. “It was awesome, an amazing feeling. It’s huge to win it on defense with a stop like that. We take a lot of pride in that.”
A few plays later the final gun sounded and BYU fans poured onto the field to celebrate.
“Being on the field with the fans was priceless and I am so happy for each and every one of them and all the help they’ve given us,” Hall said “It was fun to celebrate out on the field with them. The locker room wasn’t everyone, but it was all smiles and dancing. We were all very proud of each other and relished in the moment.”