Estimated read time: 20-21 minutes
Final - Utah 48, BYU 24
Utah, you did it again. Utah's defense forced 5 Max Hall interceptions and Brian Johnson threw for over 300 yards as Utah defeated their in-state rival BYU. Utah will be heading to their 2nd BCS Bowl in 4 years and will be the only non-BCS team to crash the party twice.
Brian Johnson played a perfect game, completing 30-36 passes for 303 yards and 4 TDs. Utah did not turn the ball over once while forcing 5 BYU turnovers. With the win, the Utes won the MWC title outright and will get 10 points towards the Deseret Duel.
BYU had more offensive yards than Utah (419 to 415), but any time you turn the ball over 6 times it will be tough to win any game.
Congratulations to Utah, your MWC 2008 Football Champions!
End of 4th Quarter
Utah gets down to the BYU 1 yard line on the backs of Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack. There is an injured Cougar down on the field, I didn't see who it was but it doesn't look good. He has been laying on the ground for several minutes now. It was DB Andrew Rich. He was able to walk off the field under his own power.
It took Utah 4 plays to get the touchdown from inside the BYU 4 yard line, but they do get it in. Johnson runs the playaction fake and throws a pass to TE Colt Sampson for the TD.
After the kickoff, Unga ran 13 yards on 1st down, but 2 more Cougars go down. Michael Reed and Harvey Unga are both taken off to the field due to injuries.
3 plays later, Hall throws another interception. He is now up to 5 interceptions. This one was intended for Andrew Gorge, but Joe Dale caught the ball as Gorge dropped it. The Utah coaches have just been doused in a gatorade bath and the Utes are now just running out the clock. Asiata picks up a first down, and now Johnson can take the knee 2 times and this game is over.
Score: Utah 48, BYU 24
7:41 4th Quarter
Harvey Unga breaks off a big run for the Cougars, trying to jump start this offense. Unga picks up 22 on the run, and he is now at 100 yards rushing for the day. However, Utah's defense clamps down and forces BYU into a big 4th down on the 50 yard line. 4th and 7 for the Cougars and they are going for it. Hall completes the pass to Dennis Pitta for 17 yards, and now the Cougars have it on the Utah 32 yard line. Fui Vakapuna is continuing to run hard, averaging over 9 yards a carry to this point. The Utah defense again comes up with a big play, picking off another Max Hall pass. This time it was Sean Smith, taking it back 38 yards down to the BYU 44 yard line. That was Hall's 4th interception of the game. On the interception return, BYU was called for an illegal block, giving Utah 15 more yards down to the Cougar 29 yard line.
Score: Utah 41, BYU 24
12:00 4th Quarter
Utah capitalizes on the turnover, scoring in just 4 plays. Johnson threw a quick pass to Brent Casteel, who ran in the TD from 8 yards out. Johnson went 4-4 for 31 yards on the drive.
BYU is able to pickup a first down, but Hall throws another interception on 3rd and 7 by Paul Kruger who returns it 30 yards down to the BYU 4 yard line. Matt Asiata takes the direct snap, but instead of running it, he throws to Chris Joppru who was wide open in the back of the end zone. That was Joppru's first TD catch, and what a big one that was.
Score: Utah 41, BYU 24
End of 3rd Quarter
BYU is no going in the no huddle offense, and it is working against the Utes. Defensively, the Utes have no idea what is coming at them, and the Cougars are putting an impressive drive together. They now have it first and 10 on their 46 yard line. Max Hall then tries to go deep to Austin Collie, but Robert Johnson makes an acrobatic catch and intercepts the pass, barely getting his left foot in bounds. What a great catch. Utah will take over on their own 22 yard line.
The Utes are trying to establish the run, and it is just not working against the Cougars. The Cougars again force a quick 3 and out. Sakoda comes in to punt, and BYU will take over on their own 22 yard line.
That's when Hall makes another mistake, fumbling the ball in Utah territory after being hit by Koa Misi. Paul Kruger recovers the fumble for the Utes and they will have it on the Cougars 31 yard line.
Score: Utah 27, BYU 24
5:15 3rd Quarter
Facing a 3rd and 10, Utah elects to stack the defense and have 2 covering Austin Collie, leaving TE Dennis Pitta open to make his first catch of the game (16 yards). Utah nearly comes up with another interception as Koa Misi bats Hall's pass into the air. BYU switches out running backs and is going with Fui Vakapuna, and he gains 20 yards on 2 carries. McCain is called for another pass interference, and now the Cougars have the ball on the Utah 14 yard line. A few plays later, Max Hall takes the QB keeper in from 11 yards out, and the Utah lead is cut to 3.
BYU's kickoff is a short one, and after a 27 yard return the Utes have it on their own 44. Utah can't capitalize on the great field position and force the Utes to a quick 3 and out. Sakoda's punt goes into the end zone and the Cougars will have it on their own 20.
Score: Utah 27, BYU 24
10:52 3rd Quarter
BYU switches up the offense a little, trying to get the ball to Austin Collie any way they can. Collie takes a direct snap and a pitch, just in the first 3 plays of offense. The direct snap was successful, but the pitch was not. On third and 8, Hall was hit by Greg Newman and Paul Kruger as he was throwing, and the pass goes incomplete. BYU was able to manage 1 first down, but Utes will have the ball on their own 20 after a 62 yard punt by CJ Santiago.
Today's official attendance is the 2nd largest in stadium history (46,488).
Utah's first 2 plays are in 5 wide receiver sets, and both are passes to Freddie Brown. The first goes for 15 and the second goes for 16. After getting into Cougar territory, the offense stalls at the 44 and Louie Sakoda comes on to try to pin the Cougars deep. Sakoda's punt is fair caught at the 17 yard line.
Score: Utah 27, BYU 17
Halftime - Utah 27, BYU 17
Utah's offense has played one incredible half of football. The Utes have scored on every possession but one. Utah has 286 first half yards, compared to 194 for the Cougars. Brian Johnson has taken control of the Utes, throwing 21-25 for 228 yards and 2 TDs. Offensively, Utah is simply trying to find mismatches and use speed to beat the Cougars.
The bright spot for the Cougars has been the play of the nation's #1 WR, Austin Collie. He has caught 4 Max Hall passes for 58 yards, and also took a kickoff 70 yards down to the Utah 30 yard line. Harvey Unga is also having a big game, gaining 60 yards on only 8 carries, including 2 TDs. This has been a surprise considering the Utes came in ranked 7th in the country in rush defense.
For Utah, they need to continue to let Brian Johnson throw the ball. On the 1 drive that stalled, they tried 2 runs and only 1 pass. Continue to spread the field with 5 wide receivers.
For BYU, they need to settle down and control their emotions. I'm so used to seeing BYU playing under control and with composure, so the 2 first half personal foul penalties were really unexpected, especially the one by Max Hall.
The interception at the end of the first half was a costly one for the Cougars. Instead of possibly taking the lead or tying the game at 20, Utah is able to score another TD and push the lead up to 10.
0:14 2nd Quarter
Utah will start the drive on their own 25. The Utes are mixing in a little no huddle offense to catch the Cougars off guard. Bradon Godfrey just got rocked as he tried to catch a pass from Johnson by Andrew Rich, and Rich is penalized 15 yards for the helmet to helmet hit. I know Rich was just feeding off the emotions of the game, but you can't tackle with your helmet. The Utes are now in the red zone on a 7 yard run by Darrell Mack. However, facing a critical 3rd and 3, Johnson runs the option to the left and is stopped for no gain. Sakoda comes on for a 36 yard field goal attempt, and his kick goes right through the uprights to give the Utes the lead.
Max Hall is having all day to throw the ball now. Utah isn't able to penetrate this BYU's big O-line. Hall completes 2 passes to Collie and already they are in Utah territory. Max Hall nearly throws one interception on a pass intended for Austin Collie, and on the next play he throws an interception and honestly, I didn't see any BYU receiver anywhere near where Hall threw the ball. Safety Joe Dale comes up with the big interception. Max Hall then commits a personal foul penalty, giving the Utes the ball near mid-field with over 30 seconds remaining. Wow.
There is no doubt in my mind that Brian Johnson is the best 2 minute drill quarterback in the west. After a few quick sideline passes to move downfield, Johnson throws a strike to David Reed for the touchdown from 32 yards out. Johnson already has over 225 passing yards. The drive covered 44 yards in just 3 plays, taking only 21 seconds off the clock.
Score: Utah 27, BYU 17
6:26 2nd Quarter
That last touchdown was a total momentum boost to the Cougars as they force the Utes to a 3 and out. Sakoda's punt goes 51 yards with no return.
BYU will take over on their own 25 yard line. Max Hall is now looking like the Brian Johnson off old, scrambling downfield for a gain of 25. The Cougars have all the momentum now and have taken the fans out of the game. BYU goes for it on 4th and inches from the Utah 46 yard line and easily convert on a Max Hall keeper. Michael Reed makes a great catch for 30 yards over Brice McCain, and now the Cougars have it inside the 15 yard line. Brice McCain is then called for a huge pass interference penalty on a third and 10, now the Cougars have it first and goal at the 2. Another very costly penalty against the Utes. BYU goes to the trick play bag as Unga takes the direct snap and the Cougars have tied this game up.
Score: Utah 17, BYU 17
10:38 2nd Quarter
Utah is penalized for only having 6 men on the line, so instead of 2nd and 7 its now 2nd and 12. It doesn't matter though because Johnson throws to Freddie Brown for a gain of 11. Matt Asiata then does the rest of the work for the Utes as he takes the direct snap in for a touchdown from 5 yards out.
BYU's two kick returners have impressed me so far, as they continue to give BYU great field position. Both Austin Collie and O'Neill Chambers are very fast. Max Hall is able to quickly get the ball out quickly against an aggressive Utah defense. Hall tries to hit Collie in the end zone, but Sean Smith makes a great play to break up the pass an nearly intercept it. A huge penalty against the Utes as they sack Max Hall at the 35, but the Utes are called for offsides. BYU is able to easily convert the third down as Harvey Unga takes the pitch to the left 23 yards for the touchdown. That was a very costly Utah penalty.
Score: Utah 17, BYU 10
End of First Quarter
On Utah's kickoff, Utah LB Nai Fotu was injured on the play. Not sure exactly what happened, but it looks like an ankle injury the way he limped off the field. He might be done for the day. BYU will start on their own 20. BYU is able to get 2 first downs on the drive, but a 3rd down pass attempt by Hall falls incomplete. CJ Santiago's punt is returned by Casteel for 14 yards, and the Utes will have it on their own 34 yard line.
Injury update: I just learned that Nai Fotu has a left knee sprain and is out for the rest of the game.
Utah tries a deep pass to Freddie Brown, and the Cougars are called for pass interference (David Tafuna). The Utes now have a first and 10 on the Cougar 25. The slant over the middle continues to work for the Utes as they are getting a speedy wide receiver matched up against a LB. Utes face a 2nd and 6 when the 2nd quarter begins.
Score: Utah 10, BYU 3
4:25 First Quarter
BYU's kick goes into the end zone for a touchback. Brian Johnson hits Brent Casteel for a slant route over the middle of BYU's 3-4 defense for 10, followed by a a quick run towards the left for Casteel. Utah is trying to utilize the speed of its offense against the Cougars by running plays towards the sidelines. Utah is able march down the field for a touchdown, capped off with a 16 yard TD pass from Johnson to Casteel towards the left front corner of the end zone. This place is rocking. Whoever said that on KSL's comment boards that BYU was going to have 10,000+ fans here are sorely mistaken, this place is full of crimson red. Utah's drive went 10 plays in 80 yards taking up 4:02 off the clock.
Score: Utah 10, BYU 3
8:27 First Quarter
BYU won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Utes will get the ball to start the game. Trying to disrupt BYU's pregame Haka routine, the whole Ute team walks over and yells at the Cougar players. Wow. And the game hasn't even started yet. This is why it is such a heated rivalry.
Kickoff goes into the end zone and Utah will start 1st and 10 on their own 20. On the 2nd play, Johnson throws a screen pass to Jereme Brooks for a 25 yard gain, and the Utes now have it at mid-field. On a third and 6, Johnson scrambles to the right sideline for 7 and a first down. Great read by Johnson. On third and 7, Johnson throws it to Freddie Brown for a 13 yard gain and now the Utes are down on the Cougar 23 yard line. A nice drive for the Utes, but they are unable to punch it in the end zone as the Cougars hold the Utes to a 3 yard gain on 3rd and 10. Louie Sakoda comes on for a 37 yard field goal attempt, which is right down the middle.
Austin Collie takes the Utah kickoff 70 yards down to the Utah 30 yard line, setting up the Cougars with great field position to start the game. He ran towards the middle of the field, drawing the defense in, then sped towards the sideline and turned on the burners. The Utes' defense holds the Cougars to a 3 and out though, and Mitch Payne comes on for a 40 yard field goal attempt, which he puts in.
Score: Utah 3, BYU 3
**Key Match-up** BYU's passing offense (#7 NCAA, 318.4 YPG) vs. Utah's pass defense (#35 NCAA, 189.8 YPG)
The wait is over; the game is finally here. Is this the biggest rivalry game ever played between the Utes and Cougars? Maybe. For Utah, the stakes are a 2nd BCS berth in 4 years and an outright MWC title, while BYU is playing for a share of the title and a chance to extend their winning streak over the Utes to 3 games while keeping their slim BCS bowl hopes alive.
I think BYU will come out firing, playing with the same swagger they did in the second half of their game last week against Air Force. I don't know if Utah's defense will be able to match up with and slow down BYU's efficient air attack. After BYU scores on a few early possessions, I think Utah will make adjustments on defense. Brian Johnson will take control of his team and lead the Utes down to tie the game late. If this one comes down to the last 2 minutes, I like Utah's chances.
MY PREDICTION: Utah 34, BYU 31. Let me know what you think. Post your predictions/questions in the comment board.
Keys to the Game for Utah
- Pressure Max Hall - The Utes will need to blitz and get to BYU QB Max Hall early to pressure him into making quick decisions.
- No turnovers - the Utes will need to play clean, error free football
- Win the field position battle on the foot of King Louie - make BYU have to earn every yard
Keys to the Game for BYU
- Air it out - Max Hall will need to stretch Utah's defense with the deep ball to Austin Collie.
- Force 3 and outs - BYU's defense will need to force a few quick stops to keep Utah's offense out of rhythm.
- Score early and set the tone for the game - take the fans out of the game.
Utah Miscellaneous Stats
- Utah is ranked in the top-15 in the nation in six defensive categories. The Utes are seventh in rushing defense (94.9), ninth in opponent first downs (169), 10th in opponent third-down conversions (30.1%), 11th in total defense (284.7), 13th in scoring defense (16.6) and tied for 14th in opponent fourth-down conversions (30.8%).
- The Utes rank second in the league in seven defensive categories: scoring defense (16.6), rushing defense (94.9), total defense (284.7), pass efficiency defense (113.5), opponent first downs (169), tackles for loss (6.82) and opponent third-down conversions (30.1%). Utah leads the league in opponent fourth-down conversions (30.8) and is third in sacks (21).
- Utah has a trio of all-conference candidates on the defensive line in ends Koa Misi (57 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks), Paul Kruger (50 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks) and tackle Greg Newman (44 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks).
- Utah is tied for the longest win streak in the nation with Texas Tech and Alabama. Dating back to last year's Poinsettia Bowl victory, the Utes have won 12 straight games. Utah has won 19 of its last 20 games.
- Utah is averaging a school-record 45,352 fans to its home games this season—drawing over-capacity crowds against TCU (45,666), UNLV (45,587), Weber State (45,117) and Oregon State (45,599). With the home finale against BYU sold out, the 2008 Utes are guaranteed to break the school attendance mark of 44,112, set by the 2004 team.
- Senior Brian Johnson is the winningest quarterback in school history. Johnson, who is 24-7 as the starter, broke the record set by Alex Smith (21-1 in 2003-04).
- Johnson has 20 touchdown passes this season and 50 for his career, which ranks second all-time at Utah. With five touchdown throws against San Diego State, Johnson passed both Alex Smith (47 from 2002-04) and Mike McCoy (49 from 1992-92) to move into second place. The record of 69 is held by Scott Mitchell (1987-89).
- Nineteen Ute seniors will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony: Freddie Brown, Brent Casteel, Terrell Cole, Robert Conley, Bradon Godfrey, Dustin Hensel, Brian Johnson, Darrell Mack, Brice McCain, Clint Mower, Greg Newman, John Peel, RJ Rice, Deshawn Richard, Louie Sakoda, Colt Sampson, Corey Seiuli, Ray Stowers, Aaron Tonga.
|\#7 Utah||\#14 BYU||Edge|
BYU Miscellaneous Stats
- After Saturday's win over Air Force, the Cougars are 148-42 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. With the win, a ranked BYU team has won 17 of its last 18 games, dating back to 2006.
- Junior Austin Collie broke the 100-yard receiving mark for the ninth straight game with 130 yards on seven catches against the Falcons. Collie's nine-consecutive games extend a MWC record he broke three weeks ago against UNLV. The record was previously held by SDSU's J.R. Tolver (2002) with five.
- With his 130 yards receiving against Air Force, Austin Collie now has 3,032 career-receiving yards, needing only 35 more yards to pass Eric Drage (3,066 yards) and claim the No. 1 spot on BYU's all-time receiving list.
- Quarterback Max Hall recorded two touchdown passes against Air Force, giving him 34 on the season. His 34 touchdown passes breaks a single-season MWC record previously held by former Cougar, and current BYU quarterbacks coach, Brandon Doman (2001).
- In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 33-4 when leading at halftime and 32-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.