PROVO — On a night when BYU's offense failed to rack up the yards it normally does, and quarterback Max Hall completed a career-low 12 passes, the Cougar defense came to the rescue.
Including overtime, Utah got to the red zone six times. On five of those possessions, however, the Utes had to settle for only a field goal.
"Our whole job is to force field goals and get a chance to block it," BYU defensive coordinator Jaimie Hill said. "We weren't able to block any, but just forcing them into field goal situations is what kept the game close."
Perhaps the biggest statistic that shows why Utah only scored one touchdown, and took more than 50 minutes to do so, was BYU's defensive prowess on third-down situations. The Utes converted only 4-of-18 third downs.
"I just knew that the defense was going to have to play big today for us to have a chance to win because I knew that this was going to be a defensive battle," Cougar defensive end Jan Jorgensen said.
Field position, set up by BYU's defense whenever the Utes faced a key situation, was really a big reason the Cougars came out on top. The Cougars' final score right before halftime was set up by Andrew Rich's 52-yard interception return.
"As a defense, we know that we've got to step up and make plays. We can't always wait for our offense to make the plays," linebacker Jordan Pendleton said.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said BYU's defensive game plan was to put "extreme" pressure on Utah freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn, and to give him multiple looks scheme-wise to confuse him. Sometimes, when the Cougars showed pressure up front, they'd drop eight men into coverage. Other times, when they showed more pass coverage, they'd rush at Wynn instead.
"The intent was to confuse him enough to make sure they weren't consistent," Mendenhall said.
On Utah's second play from scrimmage, Wynn connected with David Reed for a 14-yard gain down to BYU's 20-yard line. But Wynn paid the price for the completion when Pendleton popped him hard from the blind side just as he released the ball. Wynn was down for a while and sat out the next play.
"I think that really sent a message," Pendleton said.
Jorgensen added, "He took a lot of hits from a lot of our guys."
Even with all of BYU's focus to pressure Wynn, the Cougars also shut down Utah's running game. Despite a couple of fourth-quarter breakdowns that led to Utah's only touchdown, the Utes rushed for only 97 net yards on 30 carries. At halftime, Utah had only nine yards rushing and only 42 yards on the ground through three quarters.
"We're very good against the run, and it's allowing us to be more coverage-focused," Mendenhall said. "So we felt like we'd be able to hold up in base defense without doing anything extra, and it worked very well."
Time and time again, the Utes tried to pick on BYU's 5-foot-7 cornerback Bryan Logan. But the Cougar corner rose to the occasion with several key deflections and several open-field tackles. The junior college transfer was also BYU's calming force on defense, and when he left the field briefly after being shaken up in the third quarter, fans chanted "L-o-o-o-gan, L-o-o-o-gan."
"It's interesting that the fans would be yelling his name and kind of paying tribute to him, when they had a different perspective at the beginning of the year, but I think he's earned that," Mendenhall said.
Surely, Logan will never forget his first experience in a Utah-BYU rivalry game.
"He's going to go away from this a new man for sure," Pendleton said.