Utah Turns BYU Into A Band of Blunders

Utes Capitalize On Turnovers, Mistakes To Dismantle Cougars...

On 4th down from the BYU 3 yard line, Utah Kicker Coleman Peterson lined up for a 20 yard field goal. The kick was blocked, but somehow still managed to find its way through the uprights.

It was just that kind of night for the Utes.

It was the kind of night where everything seemed to go Utah's way. A night that started with hype that only the Holy War can conjure up, but ended with a near-empty Lavell Edwards Stadium whose only remaining were fans wearing red.

Utah was the better team at the end of the night, make no mistake. The offense improved once again and the defense showed any remaining doubters that it is every bit as good as their pre-season hype built them up to be.

The game was marred with turnovers from beginning to end. Utah scored its first touchdown of the game on BYU's third offensive play when the ball was snapped over Quarterback Jake Heaps' head and recovered by Utah Defensive End Derrick Shelby in the end zone. Little did we know at that point that that was just the beginning of what would end up being seven BYU turnovers.

Utah struggled to convert two more early turnovers into points and saw BYU come back to take the lead when Heaps found Cougar Wide Receiver Ross Apo down the sideline for a beautiful 39-yard touchdown. Any momentum Utah had created in its favor up to this point of the game seemed lost after the score and it looked like we had another Holy War classic on our hands.

The touchdown would end up being the Cougars last, however.

With just over two minutes remaining in the half the Utes and Quarterback Jordan Wynn did something many doubted it could do. After falling behind for the first time in the game and the clock running down the Ute offense put together a 6-play 63-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 30-yard scoring pass from Wynn to freshman Tight End Jake Murphy. The Utes reclaimed the lead with just 26-seconds remaining in the half and quickly stole the momentum back in their favor.

The Utes never looked back.

On its first possession of the second half the Utah offense drove down the field and scored on a beautiful 59-yard catch and run by Wide Receiver Dres Anderson. On a back-breaking 3rd-down from the Utah 41 yard line Anderson was able to get behind the coverage and then made some nice moves to dance around a few Cougar defenders. Anderson wound up scoring his first touchdown of the year and put the Utes up 21-10.

Though this wasn't the final score of the game, at the time it felt like the dagger that killed any hope BYU had of turning the game around.

BYU turned the ball over four times in the second half, six if you count their failed 4th-down attempts, and the Utes converted each of those Cougar turnovers into points. A game that started with so much pomp, so much nervousness and excitement, quickly turned to a blowout and sent some BYU fans to the exits before the start of the fourth quarter.

This game was bigger than the seven Cougar turnovers though.

Both sides of the ball for Utah silenced critics in their own way tonight. Wynn took yet another step forward as he continues to work his way back from off-season shoulder surgery. He led the offense on sustained drives and made several difficult throws. He's becoming more confident and more comfortable as the season moves along. His poise in the pocket throughout the game was noticeable amid heavy pressure from the Cougar defense.

Running Back John White IV was held in check in the first half but was able to break free in the second as the BYU turnovers continued to mount. On back-to-back plays White rushed for touchdowns of 62 and 35 yards as the Utes put the game out of reach. White finished with 174 yards after rushing for just 9 in the first half.

Utah's offensive line obviously worked hard this week after surrendering two sacks against USC. They didn't allow BYU to get to quarterback Jordan Wynn and wore down the Cougar front 7 in the second half as they broke the run game open. They entered the game surrounded with questions, but answered just about every one of them by the end of the game. Their much-improved play is a good sign for the Utes heading forward.

The defense was flat-out dominant. Derrick Shelby made a name for himself in this game taking control from the very beginning and making his presence felt until he was pulled late in the fourth quarter. The defensive line and entire defense in general surrendered just 11 rushing yards to BYU and forced turnover after turnover, never allowing the Cougars to sustain any kind of momentum.

Utah Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow made great adjustments at halftime. Early on the Cougars stacked the box against Utah and were successful in stopping the run and forcing Wynn to make difficult throws. In the second half, Chow adjusted by spreading the Tight Ends out which gave Utah more room to operate in the run game and softened the pressure faced by Wynn. His play-calling was once again excellent. By the second half the Utes had set up multiple plays and began hitting consistently for big gains that were almost non-existent in the first.

Utah's speed on both sides of the ball was apparent throughout the game, even garnering attention and mention from the TV broadcasters as the game went on. The defense flew around the ball, dominating the BYU run game and containing BYU's passing game to short underneath routes for the majority of the game. The Utah secondary did get beat deep a couple of times, but that can be attributed more to the play-action set up by the Cougars than lack of defensive speed from the Utes.

Utah got very strong performances from Trevor Reilly, Michael Walker, Quade Chappuis, and Jake Murphy. After having relatively quiet weeks in the first two games these players stepped up and each had a big impact on the game in their own unique way. Their growth in this game should go a long way in strengthening both sides of the ball for the Utes.

As I said earlier on, this game was about more than just turnovers. They played a major part in the final score, no doubt, but Utah was clearly the better team against BYU and were definitely better than they were last week against USC. They have improved each week and really look to be hitting their stride heading into their only bye week of the season.

After the bye, Utah will face a tough two-game home stand against Washington and South Division favorite Arizona State. Washington will be Utah's first Pac-12 home opponent and I expect Rice-Eccles to be jumping with excitement after their dismantling of BYU. After playing the Huskies and Sun Devils the Utes will head out on the road to play Pitt and Cal. This is probably the most difficult four-game stretch for the Utes this season. If they fare well, they will very much be in the running for the Pac-12 South crown and will have a shot at the inaugural Pac-12 Conference Championship Game. It all depends on how the Utes capitalize on this game and this momentum.

If things go well, this could turn out to be a special season for the Utes after all.

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