SALT LAKE CITY — Their starting quarterback of multiple seasons may have retired this week. Two of their starters, including a record-breaking offensive weapon, surprisingly may not have been on the field.
In a seemingly never-ending finish, that didn't stop the Utah Utes, despite unnecessarily allowing BYU to make it a game late, from defeating their arch-rival -- again.
Offense: It led Utah to its third straight win over the Cougars, going 18-of-27 for 198 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. With only 55 yards on 34 carries, the seven Utes who received the call to rush the ball did not exactly assume John White IV's role ideally, but no fumbles went a long way. However, Utah was out-gained 303-247 and converted just 4-of-15 third downs. The Utes were given the good fortune of having their nine penalties more than offset by BYU's 13 in the process of building a large enough lead to buoy them in advance of a wild finish. GRADE: C+
Defense: They gave up a deep completion on 4th-and-12 with less than a minute left, giving BYU a chance (twice) to knot the game at the end of regulation. But this side of the ball did just enough in holding Cougar signal-caller Riley Nelson to a below-50 percent completion rate, while causing an interception from the senior who will end his career without the signature win. Nelson was also restricted to just two yards per carry on 14 attempts, as BYU mustered just 98 total rushing yards while losing a fumble. GRADE: A-
Special Teams: The blocked kick of Riley Stephenson's first attempt to send the game into overtime would hold more merit had the Cougars not received another easier opportunity. It certainly helped this grade, given that Utah kicker Coleman Petersen went just 1-of-2, although his 48-yard conversion proved to be the difference. Charles Henderson proved valuable in the punt return game, with 83 total yards on four returns. With a low punting average (38.3 yards), punter Sean Sellwood wasn't super, but pinning the Cougars at their own six-yard line on the final drive of the game proved critical. GRADE: B+
Overall: Hey, it's the rivalry game. The Utes will take it however it comes. With that said, the victory -- their eighth in 11 games against BYU -- will go a long way to propelling their momentum as they focus more on the Pac-12 and less on Jordan Wynn's retirement, let alone White. GRADE: B
Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. He's previously been an intern for the Deseret News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilkl
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