Game Review: BYU at Utah

The third time is the charm for the Utes as a bizarre ending caps another classic rivalry matchup.

What went right:
Jeremiah Poutasi was great at RT for the entire game
Jon Hays proved critics wrong with great throws and fantastic decision-making
Backups subbed beautifully for injured, tired, and underperforming starters

What went wrong:
Blown coverage on 4th and 12
Special teams was attrocious
The running game never got going


Well where do I begin?

As ugly as this game was, anybody who expected something more than a knock-down, drag-out, back-street brawl for four quarters including blown coverages, bad calls, turnovers, great defense, blocked kicks, fan interference, and everything in between doesn't know this rivalry.

It's hard to say Utah deserved to win the game when all of their mistakes, penalties, and missed opportunities are taken into account, but I think it's safe to say that despite all of those miscues Utah did deserve to win. It wasn't their cleanest effort in recent memory, but it was an effort good enough to win the game.

Utah can leave this one with their heads held high. They played without their two starting Freshmen All-American safeties, their starting all-conference running back, their starting quarterback, and still found a way to win despite 10 penalties for 112 yards, a blown 17 point lead in the 4th quarter, and penalties and botched officiating that gave the Cougars 3 chances to tie the game in regulation.

If you didn't watch the game, you missed a classic.

Many players contributed in the win. Jon Hays, the offensive line, Quade Chappuis and Tyron Morris-Edwards, the list could go on. None, however, were more important or more impactful than Star Lotulelei. He was flat-out unblockable for four quarters and his intensity along with his strength and skill blew up countless BYU plays which allowed other Utes to make sacks, stops for loss, or force incomplete passes or short gains. Star deserves the game ball more than any other Ute.

Others deserve credit too, though. Like I said, players like Jon Hays and the new group of offensive linemen including freshman Jeremiah Poutasi made this offense much more dynamic and capable than we saw in Logan last week. Utah dared to test the Cougar defense deep and it paid off on multiple attempts. The offense tried new things like rolling the pocket, play-action, and a variety of bubble screens as different way to move the ball while keeping Hays out of trouble as much as possible. The final stats aren't spectacular by any definition but the offense on the field played much better overall than the final numbers show.

The defense was as good as expected, maybe better. Star's play has been discussed, but the fire and intensity displayed by the other 10 starters and just about everybody that came off the bench was a great sight for Ute fans. Players like Boo Anderson, Seni Fauonuku, and Tenny Palepoi saw a lot of time in this game and they all came up with big plays. The leaders in the secondary may be been out of the game but others stepped up in their place. It seemed like a wake-up game for this defense. Everybody played for each other and their combined effort produced game-changing results. Last night's defense is the D Ute fans expected to see in 2012 and it looks like it may have arrived just in time for Pac-12 play to start.

The Utes made a number of mistakes in the game that shouldn't be ignored. 10 penalties for 112 yards (11.2 yard average/flag) is not only too many penalties but way too many BIG penalties. The total flags nearly average out to a personal foul on every flag. The Utes struggled with flags against Utah State and rather than getting better this week they got worse. Kyle Whittingham teams are rarely this undisciplined but after back-to-back games it seems like the issue isn't being taken serious enough and will need major attention this week if the Utes hope to get a win in Tempe.

The Utah wide receivers didn't have a big enough impact in the downfield passing game. Dres Anderson made a nice touchdown grab in the third quarter but his first half was abysmal filled with drops and missed opportunities. There are too many playmakers at wideout for the Utes not to be able to create something at that position.

The special teams issues also can't be ignored. Sure they made a few good plays in the game: Charles Henderson's punt return that set up Utah's first score, the successful fake punt, and the overall punting and kicking from Sean Sellwood and Coleman Peterson were all highlights of the game. But for each of those highlights there were an equal number or more lowlights: the blocked field goal, the blocked punt – or what we'll call a blocked punt because Sellwood had no time to even get the kick away, poor return coverage on both kicks and punts. Jay Hill's seat should be awfully warm after these last two performances. The issues the Utes keep facing are happening much too often and if they don't get better soon Utah should begin the search for a new special teams coordinator.

But lets not focus on the negative. Utah won and that's all that anybody cares about today, right? It wasn't always pretty, but it was a lot prettier than what fans saw last week which means the team is improving. That's important. The loss to Utah State was ugly but Utah responded against a better team.

While USU and BYU mean nothing to Utah when it comes to their Pac-12 Championship hopes, wins like this are important for the team's confidence and getting a win like this heading in to conference play could be the jump-start this group needed after week 2.

Utah's win was their 8th against BYU in 11 meetings and their 3rd straight in the series. Utah will now face BYU one last time in Provo before the Holy War takes a two year break in 2014 and 2015.

This series has long been known for it's down-to-the-wire finishes and last night was no different. I've sat through 17 Holy War's now as a season ticket holder and witnessed the Kaneshiro donk, the Doman prayer, Harline and Collie. I watched in person as Andrew George ran into the end zone and Luke Staley danced down the sideline. I've seen games that I'll never forget and last night may have been the topper to top them all.

Most memorable ending(s) in the history of the rivalry? I'd say so.


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