Dick Harmon: Put this U.-BYU game into the 'Amazing' file
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Place this one in the time capsule with the others. It was a classic football game in which both critical and fluky plays, laced with breathtaking dramatic momentum shifts, elevated the victor and body-slammed the loser.
Witnessed it before. Like a year ago in Provo.
How does a rivalry get any more drenched in lore-making entertainment? Utah beats BYU 17-16 with Brandon Burton's block of a Mitch Payne field goal in the closing seconds of a game the Cougars appeared to have tucked safely away.
Add a train of huge plays that went Utah's way after trailing 13-0 heading into the fourth quarter and you've got it suitably pegged: This is the most dramatic series between two football programs in all of college football the past 13 years.
Since 1997, BYU and Utah have had more games decided by seven points or less than any other two teams in America.
"Sometimes it makes you wonder why we even play the game because in the final seconds, it's like one is predestined to win no matter what you do, no matter what happens, no matter who may seem to be the winner," said Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake.
"It's a beast, just a beast," said BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman. All Doman did is watch his freshman quarterback Jake Heaps shake off mistakes, look far more poised than he should have been in a hostile setting, place the Cougars in position to pull off an upset of No. 20 Utah with a 16-10 lead with four-and-a-half minutes left in the game.
Even trailing 17-16, Heaps drove BYU into position where Payne could win it with a 42-yarder. He had already kicked field goals of 43, 37 and 42 yards in the game.
No-brainer. Just kick the ball and leave Dodge.
"We didn't call any special play for Burton to do what he did," said Sitake.
"They'd blocked well for Payne all game long, and we weren't expecting to do anything special, and Burton just came off the edge and made the play. It's the only thing we could do. BYU's done that when they beat Washington, they did it when they beat UCLA; it's just the one thing that's left for you to try, and it worked."
To get to Burton's heroics, Utah needed a shanked Utah punt to take a weird bounce and crawl its way on the artificial turf to where it grazed Cougar receiver BJ Peterson and Greg Bird recovered for the Utes, trailing 13-10.
And that set up another incredible situation when BYU corner Brandon Bradley intercept a Jordan Wynn pass, ran about 10 steps and then fumbled it to Kendrick Moeai to set up Utah's winning Matt Asiata touchdown with 1:21 to play.
Crazy as acorns.
But it happened just like in the movies.
And it was Utah's turn to capture one of these set of miracle plays and then end it all with a legendary Burton mega-play.
"I always said it would be close," said Sitake. "I think you're going to be right 100 percent of the time if you say that. Our goal was just to keep fighting. The ball just bounced our way this time.
"This is what makes this rivalry what it is. It's easy to go through it when you win, but we've been in this position and lost before. BYU has nothing to be ashamed of."
Doman and Sitake met and exchanged hugs after the game outside locker rooms.
The former teammates had plenty to praise one another for after an intense, hard-fought battle.
Utah's defense didn't deserve to lose the game, neither did BYU's offense. Both defensive coordinators, Bronco Mendenhall and Sitake called great games in what became a defensive face-off.
It was a chess match with BYU creeping up 13-0 only to have Utah scream back with a 17-point fourth quarter.
You take the stats and they read about the same.
"When you are in somebody else's stadium and you don't get the calls you think you should get, it's just a part of the nature of this beast," said Doman, whose had his share of big plays in the series including a last-gasp drive for a win in 2000 in LaVell Edwards' final game.
"But credit Utah," said Doman. "I felt we outplayed them for the game and they, doggone it, just finished. They kept fighting, fighting and fighting and it's a credit to their players and coaches to never give up and make the block at the end."
File Utah 17, BYU 16 in the folder labeled A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
Another one for the ages.
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