Apart from the 2 week struggles with TCU and Notre Dame, Utah had a great season.
The Utes were only unranked in the preseason rankings, based on the amount of talent that headed to the NFL last year for the Utes, but they proved they belonged with the best in the nation.
Utah had just one more item on their checklist this season before the bowl game and that was the “Holy War“.
BYU entered the game Saturday riding the momentum of a 4 game win streak.
For the 3rd time in 4 games, the offense was stagnant and play calling was predictable. Long passing plays were available time and time again but reads were missed and throws were off as well.
The Ute defense really held Utah in this game as Utah didn’t register a point until a field goal early in the 4th quarter from Joe Phillips cut the Cougar lead to 13-3. The very next possession, a hand off by Jake Heaps was fumbled and Utah recovered the ball on the Cougars 37 yard line.
Utah called DeVonte Christopher‘s number on a fly route that Christopher circus-caught in the end zone. The Utes pulled to within 3 at 13-10 with 13:46 remaining.
Both offenses struggled punting away their next 2 possessions, until BYU once again converted a FG to make their lead 16-10 with 7:38 remaining.
Utah’s next possession started slow and forced Utah to punt away to the Cougars. Luckily for Utah, the ball bounced into a BYU players leg and Greg Bird recovered for the Utes.
The play went under review to see if the ruling on the field (fumble after interception and recovery by Utah) was correct. Official review could not determine beyond a doubt that the ball carrier was down prior to the balk being loose, so Utah retained possession.
Two plays later, Utah had a first and goal at the 3 yard line. Matt Asiata capped off the bizarre drive with a TD rush to put the Utes up by 1 at 17-16.
BYU used almost all of the remaining 4:24 on the game clock.
Heaps led the Cougars down the field converting on 3rd and 8 a couple times to set up a 42 yard field goal attempt for veteran kicker Mitch Payne.
Payne had been solid for BYU all night, hitting all 3 of his previous attempts that day.
The Cougars ran the clock down to 4 seconds. Do or die situation for the Y.
BYU snapped the ball and the hold was perfect. The only thing not perfect was the blocking on the right side as Brandon Burton came through and laid out right in front of Payne’s ball and BYU’s hopes of upsetting rival Utah.
Instead, Utah will head out on top (at least in the rivalry). How appropriate that the ending should be an instant classic.
Both Utah and BYU will now prepare for bowl games and big changes to come next season.