James Durrant, UteZone

Film Room: Utah vs. BYU

UteZone breaks down the decisive plays in Saturdays 20-19 win over BYU

This week in the ‘Film Room’, UteZone will be analyzing four offensive, and three defensive plays that helped shape the outcome of a 20-19 win for the Utes over BYU. The following are key plays throughout the game, both good and bad, that made a noticeable difference on the game.


1.  2ND Quarter – 3rd and 6 at BYU’s 28-yard line

With time winding down in the half, and within kicker Andy Phillip’s range, it appears that the Utes are playing for the field goal, as they have run two run plays previous to this play and have two timeouts remaining in the half. After a BYU timeout, Utah comes out lined up in a bunch (three receivers grouped tight like a triangle formation to the left, and Zack Moss off to the left of Troy Williams. BYU is in a 4-2-5, and expecting a pass play, their linebackers are lined up 6 yards off the ball.

One of the odder things about this play is how Garret Bolles seals the defensive end. Bolles takes a step up with his left foot, and seals off the edge with his back. This seal creates a nice hole for Moss. Left guard Isaac Asiata combo blocks the defensive tackle with JJ Dielman, and then peels off for the middle linebacker. Harrison Handley has the job of blocking the other linebacker, and doesn’t actually get there in time. No problem though, as Moss uses speed to beat the linebacker, then lowers his shoulder for the final 2 yards and a first down.


2. 3RD Quarter –1st and 10 at Utah’s 21-yard line

Utah calls timeout following the first down run by Moss, and decide to take a shot at the end zone. BYU has been playing mostly Cover-2 throughout the game, and give another Cover-2 look at the snap. Utah is in their base 11 personnel (1 TE, 1 RB) with Handley offset of Sam Tevi.


BYU only sends four on the rush. Tim Patrick at the bottom of the picture takes an inside release on the snap, but then works to get outside leverage against BYU cornerback Dayan Lake. Since they’re not in man coverage, Lake give up the leverage willingly, as he’s not following Patrick any deeper than he already has. BYU stays in their Cover-2 look that they showed at the snap, but with a wrinkle. The middle linebacker drops back in to the deep third once he sees the Utah tight end and running back staying in for pass protection. Utah’s route scheme is intended to beat Cover-2, as Demari Simpkins in the slot runs a skinny post (more shallow than a typical post route), and Patrick is running a corner route to the front corner of the end zone. This route structure is a Cover-2 buster because it forces the deep safety to choose between covering the post or corner.

Not seeing the additional help he has towards the middle of the field, the BYU safety cheats towards the post route, leaving Patrick open on the corner. Troy Williams delivers a perfect ball to the outside shoulder of Patrick, which is exactly where you want that pass thrown, so that the safety has no shot at getting to it. A good play design, and minor mistake from the BYU safety, lead to 6 points for Utah.


3. 2nd Quarter – 3rd and goal at BYU’s 4-yard line

Bunch formation for the Utes again, as Handley, Simpkins and Singleton are split to the left. McCormick off sets Williams to the right, and Patrick is split wide right. BYU sticks with its 4-2-5 defense, and only sends four in pressure while showing a zone coverage look.


The play doesn’t have a lot of help to begin with, as the defensive tackle for BYU is able to easily bypass center JJ Dielman, who appears to be thinking that he has backside help from Salesi Uhatafe. Without knowing the exact blocking scheme it’s impossible to say who made the mistake here, but the pressure forces Williams to leave the pocket. It’s a really a shame too, as Williams would have had an easy touchdown pass to Demari Simpkins, who ran a great angle route. Singleton pulls the linebacker away from coverage while running a drag route, and Simpkins was wide open as he turned to the end zone. Williams does a great job of evading pressure though and gets out of the pocket. That’s where things go wrong.


Having just escaped another tackle, Williams is trying to desperately extend the play and find an open man, but has little time to do so. What you can see below is four BYU defenders guarding three Ute receivers, plus another defender guarding Handley just off screen in the back of the end zone.  This is where Williams needs to eat the play, and either throw it away or run out of bounds. Live to fight another day, and let Andy Phillips hit an easy field goal. Instead, he tries to force a pass to Handley, and it’s easily picked off by Kai Nacua.


4. 4th Quarter – 1st and 20 at Utah’s 10-yard line

After back to back pass interference penalties, one against BYU and one against Utah, the Utes face 1st and 20 deep in their own end of the field. They weren’t able to get anything going on the ground in the past 3 plays, but bring in the bruising true freshman running back Zack Moss. It’s more base 11 personnel for Utah, with Moss and Handley off set to the right of the formation. BYU is again in the 4-2-5 with a stand up defensive end.

Right guard Salesi Uhatafe pulls at the snap, and is followed by Harrison Handley. Uhatafe’s job on this play is to kick out the defensive end lined up over Jackson Barton. Barton releases inside at the snap, comboing with Asiata, then peeling off for the far linebacker in the formation. Uhatafe does his job, creating a hole for both Handley and Moss to follow. Handley then blocks the inside linebacker, sealing off the edge.


Barton and Handley make perfect blocks on both the linebackers, and this frees up a lot of space up the seam for Moss, who is able to rumble for 17 yards before being tackled. This was the key play that got started the 9+ minute drive for the Ute offense.



1.  2nd Quarter – 2nd and 4 at Utah’s 39-yard line

Utah lines up in a five-man front, with one linebacker and five defensive backs, as BYU lines up with trips to the right, and Jamal Williams offset to the left of Taysom Hill.  

BYU runs a read option, keying on Pita Taumoepenu as the read man. Pita T doesn’t bite on the potential hand off to Jamal Williams, which would usually mean the QB hands the ball off. However, Taysom likes the one on one matchup he gets with Taumoepenu and keeps it. Good thing too, as the rest of the Ute defensive line got great push up front, which would’ve likely stopped Williams for a short gain. So now you got Taysom Hill one on one with Taumoepenu. Not a bad a match up for the Utes, but the execution just isn’t there. Instead of taking an aggressive angle at Hill’s outside shoulder, which would result in a tackle or forcing Hill back inside towards the rest of the defense, Taumoepenu hesitates. This gives Hill the edge he needs to beat Pita round the corner.

Not ideal, but the Utes still have a free safety and corner on that side of the field. Surely they should be able to tackle Hill, right? Wrong. Brian Allen is the corner, and having been in man coverage, follows BYU receiver Jonah Trinnaman down field. By the time he realizes it’s a run his way, Allen plants to get up field, but slips. This allows Trinnaman to get an easy pancake block, removing Allen from the equation. What about All PAC 12 free safety Marcus Williams? It seems he may have underestimated Hill’s speed a bit, and takes a direct angle to try and run him down. Can’t do that against an athlete like Hill, and he’s able to easily break the arm tackle of Williams, running up field for a touchdown.


2.  3RD Quarter – 1st and 10 at BYU’s 46-yard line

Utah sits back in their base 4-2-5, showing a man coverage look at the snap. BYU has even receivers to both sides of the formation, and Jamal Williams to the left of Hill. 

Hunter Dimick gets a great jump off the snap and is able to beat the offensive tackle with a speed rush. Utah drops in to a Cover 3 zone look, with the two corners and free safety covering the deep thirds of the field. Sensing the pressure, Hill steps up in the pocket and gets ready to throw. He wants to go deep to Trinnaman on a skinny post. Dimick is able to get home with the rush though, and hits Hill’s arm as it’s going forward, sending the ball up in the air.

The ball floats up in the air, going right towards the position Sunia Tauteoli vacated at the snap. The ball hangs in the air long enough for Tauteoli to get a run at it, and does his best Gionni Paul impersonation, completing laying out for the interception, his second of the day.  

3. 4TH Quarter – 2pt Conversion Attempt

Now on to the play of the night. Having just scored on the previous play by evading pressure and scrambling, Taysom Hill and the Cougar offense line up to try and take the lead, rather than play for overtime. BYU is late getting a receiver out on the field, but eventually lines up with two receivers split to each side, and a fullback next to Hill. Utah lines six players up at the line of scrimmage, with linebackers Cody Barton and Sunia Tauteoli on the edges. Marcus Williams follows the fullback in motion, giving Hill an indication that Utah is playing straight man to man. A bold choice by Utah, as it relies on tight coverage in the event of a pass.  


Utah sends all six players at the line of scrimmage on a blitz, and BYU keeps their fullback in to block. It appears that BYU has given Hill the option to run or pass, based off the look they got pre-snap, and Hill decides it’s run all the way before the play even starts. In fact, BYU really only has one receiver running an actual route on the play, as Laulu-Pututau runs a corner, being guarded by Chase Hansen. Pita Taumoepenu gets a great jump at snap and beats the left tackle to the inside, leaving Cody Barton unblocked coming in off the edge. Had Hill tried to pass to the corner route, he likely would have been sacked or hit as he was throwing it. Instead, he pulls down the ball and is hit by Barton three yards behind the line of scrimmage.


Barton’s hit actually jars the ball loose in Hill’s hands, and he has to try and regain his grip on the ball. Barton can’t finish the tackle, but the initial hit is enough to both slow down Hill and jar the ball loose, giving the rest of the defense time to rally towards Hill. Tauteoli and Dimick are both able to shed their blocks, and Marcus Williams has a free run at Hill seeing as his assignment stayed in to block on the play. 3 on 1 is a bad combination for the Cougars, and the trio are able to drop Hill around the original line of scrimmage, sealing the victory for Utah.


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