The Cougar Curve: BYU vs. Utah

BYU eked out a win in what may have been the greatest game in the history of a rivalry series that was already loaded with outstanding contests. The game was far closer than most prognosticators predicted, but the final result was still the anticipated Cougar victory. It was quite a way for BYU to end a four-game losing streak to their archrivals.

Quarterback: A

John Beck had some bad throws and was not himself for two quarters. He missed passes that he usually makes in his sleep. Beck had single coverage match ups on the outside all game long, and while he recognized the coverage and made the right read, his passes were not always where they needed to be.

What Beck did do was lead a 75-yard touchdown drive in the last minute and change of the game. Beck proved as cool under pressure as can be expected from any senior quarterback in what will go down in the minds of most BYU fans as his career-defining drive.

In a game where a lot of things went wrong for BYU's offense, Beck was able to make plays. He was at his best when moving in and out of the pocket, buying time, and picking up receivers. The poise he showed on his final touchdown pass to Harline is what legends are made of. Beck today solidified his spot as a BYU quarterbacking legend in the class of McMahon, Young, Detmer and the rest.

Running Backs: C+

The running backs were pretty much non-factors during yesterday's game. Curtis Brown was held in check running the ball and did not catch the ball much coming out of the backfield. Brown did have a good play every now and then, but yesterday's game was a substandard outing for young man who is arguably BYU's best running back of all time.

The same would hold true for Fui Vakapuna and Manase Tonga. Vakapuna has not been the same since sustaining his high ankle sprain. A month of rest between now and the Las Vegas Bowl will likely help get Vakapuna back to his pre-San Diego State form.

Wide Receivers: B-

Like the Cougar running backs the Cougar wide receivers were not big factors in the outcome. Michael Reed was shut out of the box score, and Zac Collie, Matt Allen and McKay Jacobson were held in check. Utah defensive backs played press-coverage the entire game and were very physical. They used their hands to slow the Cougar wideouts down and it worked out well for the most part.

Tight Ends: A+

Jonny Harline and Daniel Coats each individually had career days, and collectively, they had the best single game of any Cougar tight end tandem since Chad Lewis and Itula Mili. Harline and Coats were primary options and the only consistently effective options for the Cougar offense during the game. The dynamic duo accounted for 4 touchdowns between them. The two seniors could not have imagined a better end to their final regular season. BYU does not come close to winning yesterday's game without the play of Harline and Coats.

Offensive Line: C+

There was no semblance of a running attack in the game and the O-line had a hard time picking up the Ute blitzes, forcing offensive coordinator Robert Anae to go max-protect on most passing plays during the middle quarters. Subsequently, the Cougar running backs were not able to run underneath the coverages for the gains BYU has been making all season long.

Defensive Line: B

The Cougar defensive front did not allow Utah to mount a good run game of their own. The DLs also put decent pressure on Ratliff throughout the game. It was not a dominating performance by any means, but a solid one for what is a very young Cougar defensive front with four freshmen in the rotation.

Linebackers: C+

The Utes were consistently able to break containment which is something opponents have been unable to do all year against BYU's linebacking corps. Subpar games were had almost across the board as the plays the Cougar linebackers make routinely were not made throughout the course of the game.

The linebackers did account for some sacks and a huge stop on a fourth and short. It was just not the performance that Cougar fans have grown accustomed to from their stellar linebacker corps.

Cornerbacks: C

Granted that every single BYU cornerback was battling injuries throughout the game, the Cougar corners got beat consistently by the Ute wideouts the game. It is hard to be too tough on them considering their injury situation, but few plays were made by this unit.

Safeties: C+

Ditto for the Cougar safeties. They missed many plays and were beat on crossing routes consistently throughout the game. Missed tackles and over-pursuit popped up time and again in this game, which simply has not happened so far this season.

Special Teams: C-

It was the special teams that again almost blew the game for BYU. One could argue that special teams play has lost every game this season and it almost did so again with yet another failed extra point attempt, which forced Beck to go to the end zone to pull out the game at the end.

Six failed extra point attempts on the year is simply inexcusable. What is also inexcusable is the return team allowing Sakoda to run free without any outside containment on a fake punt that should have been easily defended. Until that point, BYU had all the momentum and lost it up until the last touchdown pass from Beck to Harline due to that single play.

Kickoff and punt return coverages were again very good, however, saving the special teams from a D or even an F grade for their performance today. It is a unit that has been bittersweet for BYU this year, and today saw more of the bitter.

Offensive MVP: John Beck

With Jonny Harline and Daniel Coats both receiving strong consideration, the MVP is Beck, who goes out in a style that few could hope to surpass. Beck put his mark in BYU football lore as only the second QB to throw a game-winning touchdown pass with no time left on the clock.

Defensive MVP: Bryan Kehl

In a day of defensive dogs Kehl made several nice plays on the edges and had a sack.


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