Utah Utes, BYU football: Utes edge Cougars, 24-21 in wild encounter
Leading 17-7, the Utes added another score before the quarter was complete. One play after forcing BYU to punt, Hays teamed with Dres Anderson on a 39-yard scoring strike. Petersen followed with the PAT to make it 24-7.
The Cougars responded early in the fourth quarter with an eight-play drive that covered 75 yards, culminating with a 7-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Williams. Stephenson added the extra point to close the deficit to 24-14 with 13:43 left to play.
The score was cut to its final margin with 3:39 to go when Nelson and Kaneakua Friel hooked up on a 1-yard touchdown toss.
Utah came out with plenty of surprises, the most notable being the absence of running back John White and a 3-4 defense.
Both led to punts on initial offensive drives. The second one, however, featured a 57-yard return by Utah's Charles Henderson and set up the game's first score — a 17-yard touchdown pass from Hays to tight end Westlee Tonga with 9:12 to go in the opening quarter.
Utah's 7-0 advantage held firm until 4:40 remained in the half. That's when BYU cashed in on prime field position following a 23-yard punt by the Utes. A 10-yard scoring strike from Nelson to Hoffman capped a four-play drive that began on the Utah 33.
Besides a 7-7 tie at halftime, both teams had nine first downs at the break. The Utes held a wide advantage in time of possession (18:48-11:12), but managed only 23 more yards of total offense (142-119) despite running nine more plays in the first half. They converted on 3-of-10 third-down situations, while BYU succeeded on just 1-of-7 opportunities.
By game’s end, however, the Cougars wound up with more yards (312-245), first downs (25-14) and third-down conversions (6-4) than the Utes.
Without White, who dismissed reports about an ankle injury by telling the media on Wednesday that he was "100 percent" and ready to pound the Cougars, Utah had just 30 yards rushing at halftime. Redshirt freshman Jarrell Oliver started in place of White and netted 24 yards on 11 carries.
The Utes wound up finishing with just 49 yards rushing in the game. A decision on whether White would play was not made until 20 minutes before kickoff by the trainers.
The outcome left both teams with 2-1 records. BYU visits Boise State on Thursday, while Utah opens Pac-12 play Saturday at Arizona State.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DirkFacer
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