The history between the BYU Cougars and Utah Utes is quite unique as even the schools do not agree on the win-loss record. According to the University of Utah, the teams started playing in 1896 when BYU was still Brigham Young Academy. If we count these games the record stands at 58-34-4 for Utah. According to BYU the first game was in 1922 which would put the series at 55-31-4 for Utah. Regardless of the actual number, the series has been a long standing tradition in the state of Utah. The Utes dominated the series early by winning 41 of the first 53 games. Next came the Lavell glory years from 1972-1992 where BYU won 19 of the 21 meetings. Since 1993 the Utes have taken back control of the series by winning 15 to the Cougars 7 with a 5 game win streak going into Saturday's game. The largest margin of victory for the teams is only separated by one point. In 1922 the Utes beat the Cougars by 49 with a score of 49-0 and in 1980 the Cougars beat the Utes by 50 with a score of 56-6.
Provo, UT 2013 (20-13 Loss)
The Cougars fell at home to the Utes as they fought back from a thirteen point deficit but couldn't make the plays in the fourth to tie or win the game. Utah scored the first 13 points on two field goals and a touchdown in the first half. BYU would finally get on the board on their first drive of the second half, but had to settle for a field goal. After another field goal by BYU, a drive that proved costly as Jamaal Williams was lost to injury, the Utes added a touchdown in the fourth. Losing 20-6 the Cougars put together a scoring drive, helped by a Utah penalty, that pulled them within seven again. Although the defense did their job, the offense couldn't capitalize and their last two drives stalled for the 20-13 loss. Taysom Hill would rush for 99 yards in the game but would only complete 18 of his 48 passes in the loss.
Las Vegas, NV 2015 (35-28 Loss)
In a game that wasn't supposed to happen based on schedules, the Cougars and Utes ended up meeting in the Las Vegas bowl to end the 2015 season. The first ten minutes of the game would b a nightmare for the Cougars as they turned the ball over five times and gave up 35 points. The first turnover was a fumble by Tanner Mangum that led to a short field for the Utah offense. The next possession turned into a pick six as the ball was tipped. With a 14 point lead the Cougars weren't ready to stop giving away points as the next two possessions turned into interceptions. One was a pick six and the other was returned to the one-yard line. One more turnover led to one more touchdown for the Utes and the game seemed to be over.
The Cougars would finally score on the last drive of the half on a 97 yard touchdown drive. The Cougars would dominate the second half as they scored on their opening drive of the second half to pull within 21. With just over 10 minutes left in the game the Cougars would once again score put a touchdown on the board and the score stood at 35-21. After stopping the Utah offense again the Cougars drove down and scored on a 4-yard rush by Mangum with just over three minutes left in the game. With the game on the line the Cougars defense just couldn't get a stop and after two first downs the Utah offense ran out the clock, putting a stop to the Cougars comeback. Mangum would finish the game with 315 yards passing and two touchdowns after his nightmare start.
The Cougars showed some promise in their season opener but showed signs of the growing pains that are expected when breaking in new schemes. The Cougars did enough to win the game but could have, and should have, put the game away much earlier. The offense struggled at times and the defense gave up key plays that kept the game close. The Cougars need to correct some issue quickly with the rivalry game coming up but Kalani Sitake and company started off the new era with a win.
Jamaal Williams put on a show in Arizona and proved he belongs on the field, even after taking a year off. Williams was really the majority of the Cougars offense as he managed 162 rushing yards with another 50 or so called back due to penalties. Williams reminded everyone why he was so fun to watch and brought the swag back to the Cougars running game.
Once again the Cougars kicking game was hard to watch. Rhett Almond made his only field goal attempt, a 24 yarder that looked uglier than a loss to Utah, and missed an extra point attempt. The missed field goal put the Cougars in a position to go for two on their last touchdown which they failed to convert. The missing three points on the board caused the Cougars enough heartburn that Sitake elected to go with a freshman kicker, Jake Oldroyd, for the 33 yard game winner. Maybe Oldroyd solidified the job after the one kick, but with one or two points being the difference in a game the Cougars better figure it out.
The Cougars defense against the Utes running game:
BYU will be facing another offense that has the running game as a strength. Against Arizona the Cougars gave up 138 yards to Nick Wilson who broke off a couple of long runs including a 49 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Cougars will need to solidify the run up the middle and it will be interesting to watch the battle up front as the Utes work to run on the defense.
The Keys to Watch
When the Utes have the ball:
Watch for new starters Troy Williams and Joe Williams to carry the bulk of the offense. Against Southern Utah the Utes had a very vanilla game plan as they didn't want to tip their hand in a game they would win with ease. In that game Troy Williams threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns while completing twenty of his thirty five passes. Joe Williams started the game and ended up with 12 carries for 49 yards before handing the reigns to Troy McCormick. Watch for the Utes to use their entire playbook against the Cougars, including trick plays in an attempt to catch BYU off guard.
Watch for the Cougars to trust their secondary and look at stuffing the run with the front seven. The secondary will need prepare for the talented wide receivers such as Tim Patrick (105 receiving yards against SUU) and will need to play a great game in order to keep them in check. The front seven will need to shore up the middle as they gave up a bunch of yards to Arizona in that area. Watch for them to focus on this adjustment and force the Utes to become one dimensional.
When the Cougars have the ball:
Watch for the Cougars to continue to incorporate their catching tight end into the offense. Against Arizona the tight ends caught four of the 21 completed passes. As the team becomes more comfortable in the Ty Detmer offense it will become more difficult for defenses to defend all aspects of it. This will allow the tight end to be more of a factor. Watch for Hill to become a bit less conservative and make a few of the runs he didn't make against Arizona. It appears that he may have lost some of his speed but he is still a running threat that can play heavily into the game plan. With Hill and Williams combining for almost 200 yards of rushing offense, the Cougars will rely on them to keep the defense honest.
Watch for the Utes to focus on stopping Williams and allowing their spy to take care of Hill. The Utes are always confident in their defense, with good reason, and so they will have no concerns with their secondary matching up with the Cougars receivers. Watch for the Utah front seven to attack the offensive line as they pick and probe for weaknesses that can be exploited. Watch for the physical play to show up from the get go and to go through the last whistle. The hope is to wear down the offense and throw off timing and routes in pursuit of winning the game.
The next meeting will take place on September 10th, 2017 at Lavell Edwards Stadium.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 5:30 pm MDT
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium-Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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