SALT LAKE CITY — Utah and BYU wrote another chapter in the Rivalry Game Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This time, the Utes posted a 35-27 come-from-behind victory over the Cougars — rallying from a 20-point deficit late in the third quarter.
“I hope everyone got their money’s worth out of that one. That was another Rivalry Game for the books,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “What would you expect? So many times there are so many storylines. The constant has been a great game.”
In winning for the eighth straight time in the long-running series, Utah (9-3) managed to get past a strong showing by BYU quarterback Zach Wilson. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards, plus ran for a game-high 74 yards.
“He’s crafty. Give him credit. He played well,” said Utah linebacker Chase Hansen. “He made plays when they needed to.”
Hansen, who finished with a game-high 13 tackles, praised Wilson’s toughness for taking a lot of shots.
Utah quarterback Jason Shelley, meanwhile, overcame a slow start to complete 19 of 28 passes for 141 yards. He also led the Utes with 61 yards on the ground.
Whittingham said the redshirt freshman was “unflappable and nothing seems to bother him.”
It was truly a tale of two halves that lifted Utah to a 9-3 record heading into Friday’s Pac-12 Championship Game against Washington at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The winner is headed to the Rose Bowl.
BYU (6-6), meanwhile, awaits word on its possible bowl destination.
On Saturday, the Cougars jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the opening quarter. They capitalized on a muffed punt return by the Utes to set up their first score. The ball bounced off the turf, into the chest of Utah’s Jameson Field and was then recovered by BYU’s Dayan Ghanwoloku on the 33-yard line.
Five plays later, BYU capped a short scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Neil Pau’u. The PAT attempt by Skyler Southam that followed was wide left.
Leading 6-0, the Cougars added another touchdown with 3:57 remaining in the first. That’s when Wilson teamed with tight end Matt Bushman on a 26-yard scoring strike. This time, Southam added the extra point.
BYU finished the first quarter with big advantages in total offense (153-15), plays (24-9) and first downs (8-0).
After opening the game with four consecutive punts, Utah’s offense moved into scoring position midway through the second quarter. However, a 54-yard field goal attempt by Matt Gay was blocked by Khyiris Tonga of BYU.
The Cougars then embarked on a 14-play drive that covered 64 yards and took 6:22 off the clock. Matt Hadley finished things off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Southam followed with the PAT to make the score 20-0 late in the second quarter.
At the half, BYU had 247 yards of total offense ad13 first downs. Utah countered with 86 yards and four first downs.
Wilson was extremely effective over the first two quarters. The freshman completed 11 of 16 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a game-high 57 yards.
Shelley, meanwhile, completed 6 of 12 passes for 49 yards. Armand Shyne had a team-high 15 yards rushing for the Utes.
There was a momentum shift, of sorts, when played resumed. Utah scored a touchdown on a 27-yard interception return by Julian Blackmon less than 3½ minutes into the third quarter. Gay connected on the PAT as the Utes cut the deficit to 20-7.
An exchange of punts followed, including a rare 10-yard boot by Mitch Wishnowsky. The latter gave BYU possession on the Utah 44. A 23-yard pass from Wilson to Bushman opened a drive that led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Hadley on fourth down with 5:28 left in the third. Southam contributed the PAT as the Cougars extended their lead to 27-7.
By quarter’s end, though, Utah responded with its first offensive score — a 10-yard TD throw from Shelley to Samson Nacua. Gay kicked the PAT to pull the Utes to within 27-14.
It stayed that way until a 15-yard punt by BYU’s Rhett Almond gave Utah the ball in Cougar territory early in the fourth quarter. The Utes took advantage of the field position and wound up closing the gap to 27-21 with 10:53 to go after a 2-yard run by Shyne.
The junior made major contributions on Utah’s next possession as well. He ran for a first down off a direct snap on a fourth-and-1 at midfield. The game-winning drive featured a 37-yard pass from Shelley to Siaosi Mariner before Shyne rushed for a 5-yard touchdown. Gay then followed with the go-ahead extra point.
BYU’s ensuing drive ended with a loss on downs when Riley Burt was tackled for a 1-yard loss by Utah’s John Penisini and Cody Barton with 1:53 remaining.130 comments on this story
The Utes iced the outcome on the next play when Shelley ran 33 yards for a touchdown. The Cougars had an additional loss on downs with 21 seconds to go.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys played. We brought a lot of energy,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “We played extremely hard but we just couldn’t finish the deal.”
Rivalry Game streak
2018 — Utah 35, BYU 27
2017 — Utah 19, BYU 13
2016 — Utah 20, BYU 19
2015 — Utah 35, BYU 28
2013 — Utah 20, BYU 13
2012 — Utah 24, BYU 21
2011 — Utah 54, BYU 10
2010 — Utah 17, BYU 16