Inability to score dooms BYU in loss to Utah

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The University of Utah came to Provo and beat BYU for the fourth straight time Saturday in a low-scoring football affair.

“We lost this game because we weren’t effective running the football,” said BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae. “They were better than we were. Their defense beat us.”

The first half belonged to Utah. The Utes put 13 consecutive points on the board in the first 30 minutes and went into the locker room with the lead. Quarterback Travis Wilson completed 14 of 20 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown.

Taysom Hill lobs the ball to a wide receiver during Saturday's game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Photo by Sarah Hill.
Taysom Hill lobs the ball to a wide receiver during Saturday’s game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Photo by Sarah Hill.

The offensive attack BYU showcased against Texas in week two was nowhere to be found in the first half. Utah shut down BYU’s run game, holding the Cougars to only 71 yards on 21 attempts. Although the offense struggled, BYU still had a chance to score on a 34-yard Justin Sorensen field goal that sailed wide left. It was his first missed field goal this season.

BYU’s first points of the game came on a 32-yard field goal by Sorensen on the team’s opening drive of the second half. Sorensen would kick another field goal later in the third quarter, this time from 31 yards.

Just before the field goal, BYU’s offense suffered a huge blow. Running back Jamaal Williams was injured with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter while converting on fourth and one. The stadium fell silent as Williams’ face mask was removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. He was taken to Utah Valley Hospital in Provo to be checked for spine and shoulder injuries.

“Our hearts go out to Jamaal,” said BYU safety Daniel Sorensen. “We were all scared for him. I hope he’s OK.”

Williams was released Sunday morning under greatly improved condition after suffering a concussion and a severe nerve injury in the neck.

Utah threw its second touchdown pass with 12:44 left in the fourth quarter and never looked back. BYU answered with a Michael Alisa one-yard touchdown with five minutes left but was unable to score again despite a punt return to its own 12 yard line by receiver JD Falslev. BYU had one last chance to tie the game after getting the ball back with 32 seconds left but was unable to complete a pass.

“We put ourselves in a lot of third and longs,” said BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. “At the end we started to find the gaps, but it’s something we needed to get to sooner.”

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson finished the game completing 24 of 35 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. His team won the game despite only converting one out of 14 third-down conversions. Utah has a bye next week.

BYU has a short week to bounce back from the disheartening loss; it plays Middle Tennessee State University Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“Our next game is a huge game,” Anae said. “I’m confident that our players and our coaches will work hard.”

The Blue Raiders are coming off a wild overtime victory over Florida Atlantic and are 3-1 on the season. Middle Tennessee’s only loss came in week two to North Carolina.

Mendenhall said the team will need to practice hard next week to shake off the disappointment and reset their focus on the Blue Raiders.

“I’m looking forward to working with my team again on Monday. Certainly they’re disappointed and we’re disappointed. I’m anxious to see the resiliency and the resolve and to get back to work.”

Anae said the team will need to improve its offensive line play going forward. After setting a school record for rushing yards against Texas, the Cougars managed only 183 yards on 47 carries. Hill was also sacked five times.

“Our focus is to continue down the path that we’re going,” Anae said. “We got beat tonight in the trenches, and that’s something that we’ve got to simply get better at.”

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