SALT LAKE CITY — When Mitch Payne saw his potential game-winning boot sail off of Brandon Burton's hand as time expired Saturday, he knew what was coming next.
Immediately dejected, the pain was deepened quickly as he was swarmed by hundreds of jubilant Utah fans, and even a couple of confrontational Utah players.
Without Payne's foot, however, the Cougars never would have been in position to win Saturday's game against the once No. 5-ranked Utes. Payne, prior to that final kick, was perfect on the day.
He gave BYU a 6-0 halftime lead with 43-yard and 37-yard field goals. Both split the uprights and both were far from chip shots. In fact, the 43-yarder was his second-longest field goal of the season. His 42-yarder midway through the fourth quarter, his third field goal of the game, gave BYU a 16-10 lead and forced Utah to have to score a touchdown.
"I felt really in the groove today," Payne said. "Everything that left my foot was going through."
That kind of confidence is why BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall settled for a game-winning field goal attempt on the final drive with three straight rushing attempts after the Cougars got inside Utah's 30-yard line.
"We felt really comfortable for Mitch Payne once we were inside the 30-yard line that we'd be good from there," Mendenhall said.
Payne says he had his thoughts in order prior to his final try. Utah had no timeouts left to freeze him.
"Just stay calm," Payne was thinking. "It's something I've done millions of times. I was just trying to keep my breathing normal and just focus on the fundamentals."
Blocked field goals are seldom blamed on the kicker. Because of the great play made by Burton, we'll never know if Payne's final kick on Saturday from 42 yards out was accurate enough or not. Payne, however, liked the kick when it first left his foot.
"I felt some pressure coming off the right side. I felt like I kicked it well," Payne said.
Despite the disappointing result, the senior from Weber High is glad he got the final chance in a rivalry game that means so much to so many players and fans in the state of Utah.
"It was a dream. That's something I've wanted my whole life, was an opportunity like that. I wish I would have gotten to see if it would have gone through those pipes," Payne said.
Payne finishes the regular season by scoring 40 points for BYU in the Cougars' last four games.
BOWL IMPLICATIONS: Surprisingly, no representatives from any bowl game were in attendance at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday. No one from the Mountain West Conference was represented either. Some speculated that the winner of Saturday's game would have the upper hand for a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl. Now it appears the Utes will get that invite and BYU will play in either the New Mexico Bowl or the Armed Forces Bowl.
PUTNAM ALL OVER: BYU defensive end Matt Putnam got injured in fall camp and struggled at the start of the season, but he's steadily improved since and was all over the field against Utah in the Cougars' regular-season finale.
Putnam recorded a 9-yard sack and impressively had three pass breakups to keep Ute QB Jordan Wynn on his heels.
FIGURING THINGS OUT: The Cougars, after their offensive struggles early in the season, have now scored in 18 straight quarters.
STINGY DEFENSE: The Cougars, heading into Saturday's game, have been very tough on the run in first quarters. Nothing changed Saturday. In the past six games, San Diego State rushed for minus-10 yards against the Cougars in the first quarter, TCU 20 yards, Wyoming minus-31, UNLV 0, Colorado State 8 and New Mexico 30 yards. Utah had only 8 yards on nine carries in the first quarter Saturday.
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