BYU beat Utah! Before you go any further, just say that a few times to yourself. It feels good, doesn’t it?
Head coach Kalani Sitake and his staff created a beautiful game plan and it was executed to near perfection. How did BYU beat Utah 26-17? Let’s break down five reasons why BYU finally broke the streak after nine games and 12 long years.
The name of the game has been turnovers in this rivalry of late. That was no more apparent than when BYU turned the ball over five times in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, spotting the Utes a whopping 35 points in the first quarter. Jaren Hall and his supporting cast did a fantastic job of taking care of the football, even as the rain began to pour for part of the fourth quarter.
Not turning the ball over meant that Utah did not get extra possessions and extra chances to chip away at the lead. Let’s face it, we all were cringing, waiting for Utah to get their yearly defensive score. It never happened and it made a huge difference.
Jaren Hall’s athleticism
It’s amazing that a year after BYU lost its highest NFL draft pick ever in Zach Wilson at quarterback, they might have found an even better athlete to play the position. Yes, what made Wilson a truly great signal caller goes beyond his athleticism. However, what Hall showed on Saturday against the Utes is a skillset that few BYU quarterbacks have ever had.
Hall ended up with 92 rushing yards on eight carries. It could’ve been a lot more had his shoe not grazed the sideline during a run that looked like a game-sealing touchdown. It wasn’t just rushing yards. Hall consistently avoided the pass rush but kept his eyes downfield as he moved around the pocket, creating time for receivers to get open.
Is it just me or did defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki dial up more blitzes against Utah than he had in all his other games at the position combined? There was a clear game plan to be more aggressive against Utes quarterback Charlie Brewer and it worked like a charm. The Cougars sacked Brewer twice, forced an interception, and limited him to less than 150 yards passing.
Brewer eventually got skittish in the pocket and that may be what led to his poor throw on fourth down in the waning moments of the game that sealed the deal for BYU.
The game was truly decided on third downs. Just look at how each team did, and it is extremely easy to figure out who won. BYU’s defense held Utah to just 2 for 10 on third down conversions. Getting off the field after getting Utah to third down situations was absolutely vital to BYU winning the game.
Just as important was the BYU offense converting third down after third down. The Cougars converted a whopping 11 out of 19 third down situations, extending drives and turning it into points. Many of those are thanks to Hall’s athleticism extending pass plays or getting out to the edge with his legs, and the sheer violence in which Tyler Allgeier ran the football, which he did for 109 yards.
Pat yourselves on the back, Cougar nation. The ROC and the rest of LaVell Edwards Stadium was at their peak performance. The game was loud and all that raucous led to multiple mistakes for Utah. For a time, Utah struggled mightily to get an offensive playcall in within the play clock time limit, which led to a delay of game penalty and what turned out to be a crucial timeout burned in the third quarter. It was very clear that the Utes were bothered by the crowd noise in the stadium. The fans could feel it and it energized the BYU players and dejected and distracted Utah.
At long last, the losing streak is over. Enjoy it, Cougar fans.