Utah gained an early lead and did enough to stave off the Cougars to win its fourth straight victory in the rivalry.
Here's a look at how the Utes and Cougars graded out in their rivalry game Saturday night.
The Ute offense was composed from the outset and managed 286 total yards along with 13 points in the first half. The first-half effort was highlighted by a 65-yard run by James Poole and a 74-yard reception by receiver Dres Andersen. Both plays resulted in points.
Quarterback Travis Wilson showed great composure and was able to recognize and execute against a variety of blitz packages thrown at him early on. He finished with 24 of 34 passing for 273 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly converted critical situations in the second half to sustain drives and keep BYU at bay.
Utah’s offensive line also played a big part in protecting the quarterback and in providing enough of a rushing attack to keep the Cougars honest.
BYU’s offense was moderately effective distance-wise, but couldn’t maintain any degree of consistency as it finished the half scoreless. Utah stacked the box to take away the run, and quarterback Taysom Hill couldn’t capitalize. He finished the half with 9-23 passing for 146 yards and wasn’t helped by his receivers, who had multiple drops.
The Cougar offense found some life in the second half but failed to convert two early drives into touchdowns, instead settling for field goals. The offensive line, which looked so great against Texas, proved unable to win at the point of attack during critical stages. Overall, the Cougars outgained the Utes with 443 yards, but couldn't prove consistent enough to complete scoring chances.
Utah stacked the box and forced Taysom Hill to use his arm. It worked like a charm. The Utes gave up a good chunk of yardage, but made key plays in key situations to limit the Cougars to just 13 points on the night. Utah’s biggest stop came midway through the fourth quarter when BYU was set up with a prime opportunity to score after a big punt return from JD Falslev. The Utes held on four straight attempts starting from the 15-yard line, which all but put the game on ice.
The defensive line kept the rushing attack in check and the linebackers flowed effectively in open space to limit big runs from Hill. Overall the defense gave up 443 yards, but at the end of the night, points are all that matters.
BYU’s defense was effective, but was gashed by two aforementioned big plays in the first half that gave the Utes their early lead. BYU limited Wilson’s run opportunities but allowed him to pick apart its coverages while failing to mount much of a pass rush.
Overall, the Cougars allowed 403 yards of total offense, but yielding too many plays and a fourth-quarter touchdown ultimately did them in.
Andy Phillips connected on both his field goal tries to give Utah an early 6-0 lead. Punter Tom Hackett averaged just over 45 yards per punt, which played well in the field position battle. Utah’s kick and punt return generally didn’t play a factor.
BYU’s special teams work was beset by critical penalties — one of which nullified a 102-yard kickoff return by Adam Hine. Justin Sorensen converted on two of his three attempts while punter Scott Arellano averaged just over 42 yard per punt. JD Falslev provided a big punt return midway through the fourth quarter, but the offense failed to capitalize.
The Utah coaching staff again prepared its team well to play in the rivalry game. The Utes looked well-prepped from the outset in limiting BYU’s read-option — forcing Hill to beat them with his arm, which he never proved able to do.
The defense was well-prepped for Utah's attack, but the offense sputtered out of the gate, which allowed Utah to build an early lead. The play-calling in the red zone was questionable at best.
The Utes again proved better prepared for the rivalry game and earned their fourth straight over the Cougars. It was a necessary win for a team about to enter a brutal stretch of Pac-12 conference games. The Utes left little question Saturday night of which is the superior team in-state.
The Cougars blew opportunity after opportunity to come up just short again against their bitter in-state rival. Yards were made, but key plays during critical stages were not. The team now has two years to lick its wounds before trying to prove Utah's equal in 2016, when the rivalry game renews.