PROVO — Up until he threw the dramatic game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass to Andrew George, the Utes had done an outstanding job containing BYU quarterback Max Hall.
It was hardly any consolation to the Utes that they continued to mostly have Hall's number for the third straight year in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Cougars on Saturday. That last pass Hall threaded to George in double coverage will sting Utah for a long time.
"I told you it was going to be a spectacular-type of ending," said Utes linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. "It's tough."
Still, the Utes were in position to pull off the road upset because of the job they did against Hall. BYU's senior quarterback completed just 12 of 32 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The Utes sacked him four times, and Hall's longest pass went for 25 yards, which was to George on the final play of the game.
Last season, Hall threw five interceptions and fumbled once against the Utes and completed 21 of 41 passes for 201 yards. Hall didn't play all that great against Utah as a sophomore either, but ironically made a play late in the game — on fourth-and-18 — to help the Cougars to a 17-10 victory.
Hall looked like he was going to turn the tide in his personal rivalry with the Utes and had BYU's offense clicking in the first half on Saturday. Hall had success running the ball against Utah early on, but the Utes eventually snuffed that out and he gained 19 yards on 11 carries.
After Hall threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Manase Tonga to give BYU a 20-6 lead with 10:11 left in the third quarter, the Utes shut the Cougars down until overtime.
"Our defense stepped up in the second half," said Utes linebacker Mike Wright. "They weren't really successful doing anything on us. Going into overtime up by three, we felt pretty good about it."
The Cougars showed the Utes' defense some respect late in the game after the Utes tied it at 20-20. BYU had all of its three timeouts remaining with 29.3 seconds left in the game with the ball at its own 20. The Cougars, however, didn't want to risk a turnover and were content to play overtime. They called one running play and then let the clock run out.
"It didn't seem wise to risk an interception at that point. That's why we played to overtime," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It was one of the best defenses we faced all season."
The final play of the game will also bother the Utes for quite a while because they had shut the Cougars' tight ends down and had the right coverage called to stop them on what was a third-and-long play. They just didn't execute the coverage correctly and let George slip through their grasps. George had two catches for 43 yards and Dennis Pitta was held to two receptions for 31 yards.
"We had brackets on both tight ends but we got there late and they split the bracket," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I was proud of our defense though."