Dick Harmon: Credit Coug defense for win over the Utes
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The amazing thing about BYU's 26-23 win over Utah Saturday?
It wasn't that the Cougars should have salted it away long before overtime.
It wasn't that Max Hall found Andrew George — half of a tight-end tandem he'd made a living off his entire BYU career — for the game-winning touchdown pass.
It wasn't that the big Hall-to-George play was directed right at Ute safety Robert Johnson, whom the Cougars had tried to avoid all day.
It wasn't that Hall went off on Utah's program and fans in the pressroom. Or that some BYU fan allegedly hit Jamie Whittingham, Kyle's wife, in the lip and someone else reportedly sucker punched his son, Tyler, in the massive assembly of bodies on the field afterward.
It wasn't that a higher-ranked and favored Cougar team finished second and Utah third in the MWC as picked by the media last July.
It wasn't that this game went down to the final play for the fourth time in five games.
No, it was the way BYU's so-called non-athletic, slow-of-foot defense dealt with Utah's blazingly speedy backs and receivers.
Some argued it just couldn't be done.
But when all was said and done, Utah had outstanding field position most of the first half and managed only two field goals. For the game, the Utes settled for five field goals, the last one in overtime. Utah's only touchdown came on a 1-yard Eddie Wide run with seven minutes to play in the game.
That was amazing.
It has to go against some law of physics.
The glory in BYU's 3-point win over Utah might go to Hall and George. But in my book, this win belonged to the Cougar defense.
In fairness, part of it was BYU luck in facing a Ute freshman QB.
But when BYU's offense looked like it had hoisted a white flag and gone into a protective fetal position after leading 20-6, it was BYU's defense — guys like tiny Brian Logan — who shouldered up and controlled this game.
The Cougars blitzed more against Utah than they had all season, said Bronco Mendenhall. BYU tried to hurry up Wynn, and make him uncomfortable. Give him a look and then switch coverage while playing that famous, often=criticized soft zone.
When Rich picked Wynn and returned the interception 51 yards to set up BYU second field goal of the afternoon, that gave the Cougars a 13-6 lead and — at the time — all the momentum.
Speed. So much speed it was supposed to be silly, against BYU's clod hoppers. Or so went the a lot of the pregame hype on Utah's matchup against BYU's defense.
Utah freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn may have great faith in David Reed and Jereme Brooks, but on Saturday he could have used world 100-meter record holder Usain Bolt. And Bolt would have been pressed to catch up with some of Wynn's windups.
The scouting report on BYU's defense called to go bombs away. Saturday, it didn't work.
Of all the players on BYU's defense, none were as gutsy in this game as Logan, the 5-foot-7 guy every team loves to pick on. The guy made hits. He made big tackles in the open field. He stopped big plays from developing in a Ute offense that is designed to bust things apart.
Logan came to BYU as the Cougar quick-fix answer at cornerback. A junior college guy, he caught the ire of BYU fans during the Florida State game when he got called for pass interference and a bigger receiver made plays on him on fade routes.
But in BYU's win over Utah, it was Logan — who's only been on campus since summer — who got in the faces of Cougar players, trying to calm them down, breaking up the banter and pushing that led to a parade of penalties.
"I couldn't be more proud of the way our guys worked and played," said Rich, a junior safety.
In the end, Mendenhall, as usual was candid and frank in praising his team and crediting Utah for a hard-fought effort.
Asked how he felt when Hall hit George for the winner, he didn't hesitate to say, "Relieved."
It couldn't have been more so for Logan and Company.
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