Utah did what it does, and that's beat BYU. For the fourth straight year, the Utes took down the Cougars, this time in Provo with a nail biting 20-13 victory when Taysom Hill's hail mary hit the ground along the sidelines. The win sends the Utes to a third victory on the year, and one step closer to bowl eligibility.
A quirky game that saw both offenses come out rather slowly and six punts to start the game, ended with a flurry of action, intrigue, and controversy over the final quarter.
What we saw on the field was a farily accurate depiction on what and who these two teams are. Utah is one of the big boys now. A team with good size, decent speed, and solid coaching that is further separating itself from the BYU. Even on a night when the Utes weren't at their best (see 1 for 14 on 3rd down conversions), they still controlled the game and could have easily run away in the second half.
When it came time to respond, Travis Wilson did what he's done all year. After BYU inched back to within 13-6 following two long drives fueled by the legs of Taysom Hill, Travis Wilson led, what may turn out to be the most important drive of the year for the Utes. A 12 play 79 yard masterpiece that took 4:12 off of the clock, and spanned the 3rd and 4th quarter break. The most important aspect? He kept a gassed Utah defense off of the field, allowed them to catch their breath, and gave them a chance to make adjustments to counter Hill's running ability. As important as the 7 points that resulted in the drive, was the extended breather and time prep the defense received.
What we've seen out of Wilson this season has been remarkable. The confidence, the precision, the command, and the guile to do whatever it takes to get his team the win. Nothing against Jon Hays, but if he's the Utah quarterback this season, the Utes are 1-3. If Travis Wilson 2012 is the Utah quarterback, they are 1-3. It's really that simple.
James Poole had another stellar game, rushing for 96 yards on 18 carries to go along with 5 catches. The 65 yarder was a beaut as the offensive line opened up a big hole, Poole, recognized it, hit the left side and turned on the jets to blow down the field.
Dres Anderson is becoming a star. With 8 catches for 141 yards against BYU, he eclipsed his yardage mark of 2012 already. Kenneth Scott goes down and Dres stepped up. Made a few tough catches last night that really impressed. Sean Fitzgerald has played well beyond the expectations of most and did it again on Saturday night. The receiving corps is becoming somewhat, dare I say it, reliable?
The offensive line? Stellar. BYU's front seven is very good, and Kyle Van Noy is the best player in the state. That kid will play in the league for 10 years, but the Utes did a great job of opening up decent holes in the run game and gave Wilson enough time to throw the ball.
Defensively things looked great. Nevermind the 440 or so yards from BYU. A lot of those were meaningless yards as the Utes really buckled down in the red zone and made plays when they had to. The star of the night? Mike Honeycutt, playing that nickleback roll and getting pressure on the QB. The two sacks were big plays and Honeycutt looked like he deserves more time. Michael Walker and Eric Rowe also had good days. Rowe's penalty to keep a BYU drive alive was pretty dumb, but also a little silly for the ref to throw a flag after all of the jawing and cheapshots I saw on both sides of the ball.
The defensive line played their best game of the year. Trevor Reilly was disruptive and you have to love what Utah got out of Seni Fauonuku. The kid was taking on double teams and still causing havoc. Tenny Palepoi owned the interior. They kept everything in front of them and were a huge reason that BYU couldn't get anything going in the first half.
Lastly, Jason Whittingham and Jacoby Hale. Wow. Great game by those two. Hale was all over Hill and Whittingham has transitioned from a defensie end to a one handed middle linebacker without issue. If these two continue to develop, they could be very good by the end of the season.
The Utes now have a bye week to rest up, get healthy (need the tight ends), and focus on Pac 12 play. Up next, a Thursday night tilt with a UCLA team that could be in the top 10 by game time. The Bruins weren't very good against New Mexico State, and still won by 46. Then comes a top 5 ranked Stanford team that blew the doors off of a ranked Arizona State squad in a game that was never as close as the final score might indicate. Utah wants to prove that they belong? Beat a top tier Pac 12 team. Do it. Do it now. Show you belong and take one step closer to the ultimate goal of Pac 12 heavyweight.
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