SALT LAKE CITY — Make room for another mantra in the BYU-Utah football rivalry
Add "The Block" to recent additions like "Harline is still open," "Fourth-and-18," and "George is still running."
This time, however, it was Utah and not BYU celebrating a dramatic victory in the hotly contested series.
With time expiring, Utah's Brandon Burton blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt by BYU's Mitch Payne as the Utes held on for a 17-16 victory over the Cougars at chilly Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"When I felt something sting my hand, I didn't know if it was the cold air or the ball," Burton said. "But then I looked up and the ball was rolling and I said 'We got the win.' "
The victory, he added, was worth the pain he endured.
"My (left) hand hurts real bad but it never felt so good," Burton said as Utah fans stormed the field to celebrate the outcome. "... I take pride in special teams play. So when my number was called to make the play, I did it."
The block capped a wild sequence down the stretch that allowed Utah to take its first and only lead and hold onto it.
Trailing 16-10 and forced to punt with 6:24 left to play, the Utes got a break when the ball bounced off the leg of BYU's B.J. Peterson and was recovered by Greg Bird near midfield.
The Cougars experienced even more misfortune two plays later when cornerback Brandon Bradley intercepted a pass by Utah's Jordan Wynn and headed up field. Tight end Kendrick Moeai, the target of the throw, caught Bradley and forced a fumble. Moeai then recovered it on the BYU 38.
The Utes eventually cashed in on the exchange and took the lead when Joe Phillips added a PAT to a 3-yard touchdown run by Matt Asiata with 4:24 remaining.
More drama — much more drama — followed on the ensuing possession by the Cougars.
After covering 54 yards on 11 plays, BYU moved into position for what would have been a game-winning field goal. Following a timeout with four seconds left to play, the teams lined up, the ball was snapped and Burton's heroics followed.
"It was a hard-fought game that came down to the last play and we just couldn't make it happen," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "There were a lot of mistakes on our side, but I have to credit Utah with playing a game. It was a hard situation to be in. We fought all the way to the end. But we just couldn't get that final field goal."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged it was interesting the way things unfolded.
"That's football and that's the way this series has gone," he said. "There's been so many dramatic events occur in the series, and tonight was just another chapter in the story."
The bottom line, Whittingham noted, was simple.
"We made one more play than they were able to make and that turned out to be the difference in the ballgame."
It was that kind of game. A fitting finale, perhaps, in the Mountain West Conference swan song for both teams. Utah (10-2, 7-1) is headed to the Pac-12 next season and BYU (6-6, 5-3) is going independent.
"This is the definition of our rivalry. It is just what we expected against BYU," said Utah center Zane Taylor. "This game was a dogfight and both teams gave it their all. It's a great feeling to win on the last play."
The rivalry, which has been decided by a touchdown or less in 12 of the past 14 years, will continue. The game, however, will be played in September instead of November from now on. Games have already been scheduled for the next two years.
A fitting encore, though, will take some work. Then again, that was the case after BYU's 26-23 win over Utah last year in Provo, when Andrew George scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
This one started off slowly with neither team able to muster much offense early.
BYU led 6-0 at halftime after Payne connected on field goals from 43 and 37 yards out. Utah had an opportunity to score in the second quarter, but a 45-yard kick by Phillips was wide right.
The Cougars kept the Utes in check by allowing just 11 yards rushing on 12 carries in the first half. Utah's passing game was also ineffective. Aside from a 60-yard completion to Jereme Brooks, Wynn was just 7-of-17 for 63 yards over the first two quarters.
Backup Terrance Cain started the second half. He was intercepted, however, on consecutive drives before Wynn was reinserted.
Cain's second pick led to the game's first touchdown. BYU middle linebacker Shane Hunter returned it 46 yards deep into Utah territory.
Three plays later, BYU quarterback Jake Heaps teamed with McKay Jacobson on a 21-yard scoring strike. Payne added the PAT as the Cougars extended their lead to 13-0.
It stayed that way until a 70-second stretch early in the fourth quarter.
Utah climbed back into contention on a 40-yard field goal by Phillips and a 37-yard touchdown pass from Wynn to DeVonte Christopher. Defensive end Junior Tui'one set up the latter by recovering a fumble on a botched handoff by Heaps.
The Cougars responded to the outburst with a 42-yard field goal by Payne to make it 16-10 entering the game's pivotal stretch.
"I challenged my players to play the game from beginning to end, and in the end we weren't able to do it," Mendenhall said.
The Utes and Cougars have now split six meetings since 2005 when Whittingham and Mendenhall became head coaches.
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