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Utah Utes, BYU: Three keys to a dramatic rivalry finish

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 6:39 a.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) during the first half as the University of Utah and BYU play football Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) during the first half as the University of Utah and BYU play football Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

A low-scoring, low-excitement level first half proved to be a faulty indicator of what would turn out to be one of the most dramatic finishes the BYU-Utah rivalry game has ever witnessed. The following are three keys to what fueled the tension-packed photo finish this year as the series will take a two-year hiatus.

1. Turnovers always play a significant role in any contest, especially in a game that is within three points on the final play. What made the 3-0 turnover margin especially devastating for the Cougars was their direct link to points on the board for the Utes. After an early third quarter interception by Riley Nelson, Utah promptly moved the ball down the field and converted a field goal attempt to give Utah a 10-7 lead.

Things didn't get much better for BYU on the ensuing possession. An unexpected snap went past Nelson waist-high with his head turned, and Mo Lee scooped up the loose ball taking it all the way back for a 47-yard touchdown to push Utah's lead to a 10-point margin.

Utah Utes wide receiver Reggie Dunn (14) runs by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Spencer Hadley (2)   in Salt Lake City  Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Reggie Dunn (14) runs by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Spencer Hadley (2) in Salt Lake City Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

2. The big play opened the floodgates for the Utes just long enough to give them all the points they would need to hang on for the win. Utah capitalized off Nelson's interception and scored 17 points over the final seven and a half minutes of the third quarter, building up a 24-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

3. To say the kicking game was a key to the final outcome would be an understatement and not for only one side. BYU was within striking distance on the final play of the game due in large part to a blocked field goal just before the end of the second quarter by Russell Tialavea.

Justin Sorensen missed a 44-yard attempt shortly into the second quarter that would prove to be costly as the Cougars found themselves down by a field goal on the final drive.

Utah fans storm the field after the Utes beat BYU in Salt Lake City  Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah fans storm the field after the Utes beat BYU in Salt Lake City Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The final play would have been a blocked field goal attempt by the Utes had their fans not stormed the field a few moments too soon. After the officials sorted out the mess and the final play was completed, a right-footed Sorensen boot arched from the right hash-mark and kept hooking until it connected with the left upright, bouncing harmlessly to the turf and sealing the Cougars fate and a 24-21 Utah win.

Jonathan Boldt is the Editor-in-Chief of the UVU Review at Utah Valley University and can be reached at jonboldt@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @jboldt24. www.uvureview.com

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