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BYU, Utah Utes football: George takes Hall pass to the house as BYU wins in OT

Published: Sunday, Nov. 29 2009 1:11 a.m. MST

BYU tight end Andrew George (88) celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning touchdown in overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo Saturday. BYU won 26-23.

August Miller, Deseret News

PROVO — For the past three years, BYU tight end Andrew George has played in the large shadow cast by his teammate, Dennis Pitta, who happens to play the same position.

But after Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, George is no longer anonymous.

The senior from Englewood, Colo., etched his name in rivalry lore by scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Max Hall in overtime — the last play of the contest — to defeat Utah, 26-23.

Taking his place alongside Jonny Harline and Austin Collie before him, George is the latest BYU hero to help lift the Cougars to victory over their archrivals in dramatic fashion. For George and the rest of the seniors on the Cougar roster, it was a fitting conclusion to their final home game at BYU.

"It's an honor to be a part of that. I've worked so hard in my career at BYU," George said. "To have a play like that to end my career, especially at home and against Utah, it's unreal and something I'll never forget."

While it was a classic ending, the game itself was far from a classic. For much of the contest, it didn't look like a matchup between a pair of 9-2 teams. On a day filled with miscues and penalties, BYU — clad in throwback royal blue jerseys to honor the 1984 national championship team — watched Utah rally from a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter deficit in the fourth to tie the score in the final minute of regulation.

But in the end, the No. 18 Cougars (10-2, 7-1) won for the third time in the last four meetings against the No. 22 Utes (9-3, 6-2).

"Both programs really care about this rivalry. The fans certainly do," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "For it to come down to overtime, it was the perfect scenario, I think, for a great college rivalry."

And for BYU, it was the perfect ending.

After Utah kicker Joe Phillips connected on a 29-yard field goal on its first possession in overtime, the Cougars faced second-and-10 from the 25. Hall dropped back and threaded a pass in between two Ute defenders — linebacker Stevenson Sylvester and safety Joe Dale — to George, who cradled the ball and raced untouched into the end zone for the score.

That game-winner capped yet another dramatic contest in this series and fans stormed the field, partying like it was 1984.

George was mobbed by jubilant fans and teammates before he knew it, he was stuck in the bottom of a pile.

"It was painful. I couldn't breathe. My shoulder was up by my head. But it's awesome," George said. "If that's what happens when you catch a game-winning touchdown, that's fine with me."

Pitta enjoyed watching his good friend receive some glory. "He gets overlooked a lot," he said. "He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves. I'm happy for him."

BYU took a 20-6 lead early in the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown catch by Manase Tonga. From there, however, BYU's offense sputtered, gaining only one first down the rest of the game.

Heading into overtime, it looked like the Cougars wouldn't be able to get into the end zone against a stifling Utah defense.

For the contest, BYU gained only 265 yards of total offense and Hall had a career-low 12 completions on 32 attempts for only 134 yards. But he did throw two touchdowns and didn't have any interceptions.

"I give Utah a lot of credit. I was very impressed with the way their defense played. I think it was the best defense that's been played against us the entire year," Mendenhall said. "I also give our team credit for the perseverance, the grit and determination and execution at critical times to win the game."

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