PROVO — Dres Anderson’s smile said it all. The Utah wide receiver told reporters it was going to be on his face forever following Saturday night’s 20-13 victory over BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Coming out on top is just the best feeling in the world,” he explained after the Utes defeated the Cougars for the fourth consecutive time — in the final meeting before the long-running series takes a two-year hiatus beginning next season.
“I’ve never lost to BYU,” Anderson said. “I’m happy about that and I can say that for years and years and years on. So, I mean, it’s great.”
Anderson made eight catches for 141 yards in the late-night affair, including a 74-yard reception that set up the game’s first touchdown just before halftime — a 1-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson to Anthony Denham with 1:17 left to play in the second quarter.
Utah led 13-0 at the break, adding the TD to earlier field goals by Andy Phillips. The freshman connected on a 36-yarder in the first quarter and a 32-yarder in the second.
“That guy has been lights out in four games,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who called the kicker by the nickname of “Automatic.”
While Utah’s offense did put points on the board over the first two quarters, Whittingham traced their source to the other side of the ball.
“That was really due to plays being made on defense,” he said. “We kept getting the ball back to our offense.”
Utah’s defense rose to the occasion against a BYU offense that blasted Texas for 679 yards, including 550 on the ground, just two weeks earlier. The Utes held the Cougars to 443 yards of total offense and only 183 yards rushing.
“I’m very proud of our entire football team, coaches and players — great job by our defensive staff putting a plan in place to slow down the offense and make play after play after play,” Whittingham said. “I couldn’t be more proud of a defense and a defensive staff — coach (Kalani) Sitake and all those guys.”
Whittingham added that the offense did just enough to win the game and praised Wilson and the others for taking care of the football and not turning it over.
Wilson wound up completing 24 of 35 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. After BYU cut Utah’s lead to 13-6 in the second half, the sophomore teamed with Karl Williams on a 1-yard scoring strike as the Utes built their biggest lead at 20-6 with 12:44 left to play in the fourth quarter.
From there on out, however, Utah was reliant on its defense to finish things off. While the offense was forced to punt four times down the stretch, the defensive unit fended off challenges that included the surrendering of a touchdown with a little more than five minutes remaining. The drive was kept alive when Eric Rowe was flagged for a personal foul following an incomplete pass on third-and-long.
“We did some silly things,” said Whittingham, who acknowledged that Rowe told coaches that his emotions got the best of him on the play. “We had some penalties and some things that weren’t so smart, but overall when you look at the game in its entirety I thought we played very solid start to finish.”
Two of BYU’s fourth-quarter possessions ended with a loss on downs and another on an interception by Michael Walker.
“We had a good game plan going in,” said nickel back Mike Honeycutt. “I’ve got to say this defense has a heart and I can feel it when I’m on the field. We play as a unit.”
As such, Honeycutt said he knew the Utes were going to make plays when needed.
Linebacker Jared Norris, who topped Utah with nine tackles, noted that the effort followed what was probably the best week of practice all season.
Whittingham and others agreed.
“We just wanted to win badly,” Walker said. “That’s all. We just wanted it.”
Following a 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State the previous week, the Utes were determined to bounce back.
“From this we’ve just got to keep on moving forward and make sure we keep on getting better, too,” Wilson said.
Utah (3-1) has a bye this week before resuming Pac-12 play Thursday, Oct. 3 at home against UCLA. The Utes host Stanford the following week.
EXTRA POINTS: Tight ends Jake Murphy and Westleee Tonga were injured in the game. Whiitngham, though, expects both to play against UCLA on Oct. 3. ... Utah prevailed despite converting on just 1 of 14 third-down situations. ... Three Utes — Trevor Reilly, Jacoby Hale and Honeycutt — were credited with two tackles for loss. ... Bubba Poole finished with a team-high 96 yards rushing. ... Tom Hackett punted the ball 11 times, netting 486 yards. ... Cornerback Keith McGill had three pass breakups. ... Utah’s defense had five sacks, while the Utes’ offensive line surrendered just one. ... Walker’s interception was Utah’s first of the season.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @DirkFacer
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company