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SALT LAKE CITY — It's never an easy battle between the University of Utah and BYU. And the 2012 matchup between the two teams was anything but conventional. If anything, it was absolutely bizarre. Nevertheless, the Utes managed a 24-21 win over the ranked Cougars.
For anyone that missed this insane game, it had highlights of nearly every season played between these two teams. From turnovers to penalties and blocked kicks to amazing fourth downs, the BYU-Utah game had everything. But honestly, how many times do you get to see the field rushed three times in one game? After a blocked kick, Utah fans almost changed the outcome of the game with their second attempt at rushing the field, giving BYU a second field goal attempt. Fortunately, for Utah fans (and Kyle Whittingham), BYU place kicker Riley Stevenson hit the goalpost for a would-be tie ballgame.
You can't script an ending like that. It's moments like these where you wonder if it's a good thing or bad thing the rivalry will take a break after next season.
Penalties, penalties, penalties.
It was bound to happen in a rivalry between the Utes and Cougars. These two teams have a tendency to get physical and emotional, with penalties accumulating for both teams. But Saturday's matchup saw flags fill the air. Between the two teams, 22 penalties were called, resulting in a total of 181 yards.
While BYU accumulated seven false start penalties, which only added up to 35 yards, Utah easily had more severe penalties, giving the Cougars better field position. Personal fouls killed the Utes. While some of the calls can be excused on the rivalry environment, the team needs cut back on penalties and become more disciplined. It's not like a Kyle Whittingham team to give up so many serious offenses.
John White IV was a major absence in Saturday's game. Although the Utes managed to pull out a victory, it was clear the team needed a better rushing game. Jarrell Oliver and Kelvin York added to the offense, but were not as explosive as White, who is able to pick apart the defense and turn on the speed. As a result, the Utes utilized five different players to get the run game moving, but only managed 49 yards collectively.
Although having White out didn't hurt the Utes this week, it's hard to see the Utes offense moving forward against Pac-12 teams in the coming weeks. The competition will only get more intense, with defenses forcing Hays to make plays in the air.
While play calling was much better against the Cougars, Utah still has a ways to go before they can out-coach an opponent. One of those areas is the use of freshman quarterback Travis Wilson. In the little minutes he gets, his impact is little. He has yet been given the chance to really show off his arm. The last throw he had was a touchdown pass in the Utah State game. While not all passes will be a touchdown, handing off the ball every play won't either. Maybe a few more in-game reps will give Utah fans a taste of his talent.
Nevertheless, Jon Hays has shown a much-improved arm this season. Hays did a good job finding his receivers Saturday night, going 18-of-27 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. While consistency is key, Hays has definitely improved and can likely be relied upon to lead the team this year. His never-give-up attitude is just one reason why he's making it work.
Utah's defense continues to be tough, particularly Star Lotulelei. As a whole, the Utes defense held the Cougars in key moments of the game, which ultimately helped the win. The defense is not perfect by any means, but is looking to have another big year. The return of Brian Blechen and Eric Rowe will be a much-needed improvement to the defense.
The several missed tackles accounted for some of the biggest marks against Utah's defense. Additionally, had Utah's defense been able to capitalize more on BYU would-be turnovers, the game would have likely not come down to a last-second field goal attempt.