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Piled-up mistakes result in BYU's loss to Utah

Piled-up mistakes result in BYU's loss to Utah

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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Though the scoreboard didn't reflect last year's 54-10 game between BYU and Utah, it sure felt like it.

In a case that could be easily titled as their first real game this season, the BYU Cougars faced rival Utah Saturday evening, ending with a heartbreaking 24-21 loss.

Mistakes scattered throughout truly defined the final score, as well as the comparison between this year's loss and last year's: six turnovers to 2011's seven, five fumbles lost to last year's six fumbles lost, and one interception from both last year and Saturday night, as well as miscommunicated snaps and lack of composure.

"Our team didn’t play clean enough football today to win the game," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I really liked their heart, how they fought back, how they played until the last second and gave us a great chance right until the very last play. But (we made) too many mistakes from the beginning of the game through (the end) to have a clean enough victory, and Utah capitalized on them to their credit."

Though the two teams headed into halftime tied 7-7, the third quarter proved fatal for the Cougars.

Of the three separate times Utah scored in the third quarter, two were the result of mistakes by BYU. Be it an interception by Utah's Ryan Lacy to lead into a field goal, a bad snap skidding past BYU quarterback Riley Nelson and resulting in a Utah recovery for a 47-yard touchdown or the 39-yard touchdown pass from Utah quarterback Jon Hays to Dres Anderson, it seemed most of BYU's third quarter concentration was turned to digging its own grave.

The number of mistakes by a team with 14 returning starters even shocked Mendenhall: "Completely surprised me, especially with the maturity of our team. I didn’t expect it. A lot of similar mistakes too. It wasn’t in a bunch of different areas."

One of those mistakes was set into motion long before the game even started, and that was BYU's lack of preparation for the Utah fans' noise levels.

A mere 5 minutes into the game resulted in two false starts by BYU players who weren't able to pinpoint the start of the play, thanks to the incessant cries of the home team crowd.

During the third quarter, BYU even managed three false starts within 30 seconds.

Despite the continuous stream of silly mistakes, BYU pulled together during the fourth quarter and managed to score two touchdowns.

The game ended with another what-if mistake by BYU. After the Utah fans had rushed the field twice — once because they hadn't realized there was still one second on the clock, the other because BYU managed to pick up the ball after a blocked kick and fans weren't aware the play was still in motion when the field was rushed — BYU had an ideal set up: a chance for a 36-yard field goal to tie the game 24-24 and enter into the overtimes that the BYU-Utah games are often known for.

But BYU kicker Riley Stephenson's attempt at the 36-yarder was not meant to be. The ball hit the upright and bounced away as Utah fans finally and properly rushed the field.

"I’m disappointed," Mendenhall said of the missed field goal. "That won’t be the reason the game wasn’t won. There were plenty of mistakes leading up to that. But when you have a chance to make a play, at any position, that’s what you would hope."

Utah, which lost to in-state foe Utah State last weekend, was able to sum up its win pretty easily:

“Where do I begin?" Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham asked. "I couldn’t be more proud of our team tonight. We were tough, resilient and bounced back from a tough loss last week and played with grit and determination. As a starting point for this game, there were a lot of positives. The defense played well, but couldn’t recover a fumble. (BYU) put the ball on the ground about five times, but we couldn’t get one. The offense didn’t get a lot of yards, but didn’t turn the ball over either. You’re not going to lose a lot with no turnovers. There were so many story lines in the game, but the bottom line was that we got what we wanted.”

Notwithstanding the recent push by both universities to tone down the rivalry, a crowd of people rushing the field three separate times says it all: this was a huge win for Utah, and BYU players felt it, too.

"The only thing that hurts is my heart right now," Nelson said, dubbing Utah's defense as the best BYU's played thus far this season. "This is week three, and we fully intend on playing the ball game. We have 10 more games, and if we let it, this game can ruin our season, or it can help us turn it for the better. So let's go play."

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Alex Hoeft


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