SALT LAKE CITY – The BYU football team fell on the road to Utah 20-19 in the Holy War on Saturday night.
Utah started off the game with a bang on defense. Linebacker Sunia Tauteoli picked off Taysom Hill’s pass on the first play of the game and returned it 42-yards for a touchdown.
“It is what it is,” Hill said. “We can’t change what happened, so I wasn’t going to let that dictate how we played in the future.”
BYU would come back strong with a fumble forced by Francis Bernard and recovery by safety Kai Nacua. The first fake field goal of the year lead to a first down catch by Corbin Kaufusi. But the Cougars failed to reach the end zone and the drive ended with a 43-yard field goal by Jake Oldroyd.
Yet another forced fumble – this time by Harvey Langi – led to a Dayan Lake recovery and put the Cougars into Utah territory. After a short drive of 12 yards, Oldroyd nailed a 42-yard field goal for BYU to make it a one-point game, 7-6.
The second quarter started off similar to the first as Nacua picked up his second interception of the season, but the Cougars couldn’t translate the turnover into points.
Nacua intercepted QB Troy Williams once again midway through the second quarter. Williams evaded several BYU defenders going for the sack and threw right to the devious safety waiting in the end zone.
“I think our defense played well,” said linebacker Butch Pau’u. “We knew it was going to be a defensive battle, so at the beginning of the game we kept reminding each other that it’s us that’s going to have to make the stop.”
An 80-yard drive was capped off by a 39-yard run by Hill for the BYU touchdown. After an extra-point by Oldroyd, the Cougars took the first lead of the game 13-7. It was their first lead in a game against Utah since 2011.
Utah would come back furiously before the end of the half, with Williams throwing a 21-yard touchdown pass to cap off a strong Ute drives. Utah led at the half 14-13.
A score for either team didn’t come in the second half until midway through the third quarter. Andy Phillips just barely snuck a field goal through the uprights for three Utah points, making it a Ute lead of 17-13.
A Sunia interception in the third quarter gave Utah the ball near the 50-yard line. Strong BYU defense would force another punt, only for Hill to throw another turnover.
Nacua was thrown out of the game at 2:20 in the third quarter after a questionable targeting call. This ejection fired up head coach Kalani Sitake, drawing another flag for the Cougars.
Coach Sitake commented on the ejections during a post-game interview.
“I will always fight for my guys,” Sitake said. “They know that.”
An interception by Francis Bernard was followed by yet another targeting penalty called on BYU to end the strange series of plays. Cornerback Austin McChesney was subsequently ejected.
A muffed punt return by Utah gave BYU the ball back around the 50-yard line toward the end of the third quarter.
Utah spent most of the final quarter running down the clock, executing a drive of 21 plays that took 11:28 and finishing with a 29-yard field goal.
Hill lead a resurgent offense down the late fourth quarter stretch, finishing a 75-yard drive by calling his own number for the score.
The BYU quarterback tried a similar play for a two-point conversion, but failed. A failed onside kick attempt and a knee from Utah would end the game at 20-19.
Despite the loss, Sitake wasn’t down on his team.
“It was a hard fought game, and it was very entertaining.”
The loss drops BYU to 1-1 on the season.
The Cougars host UCLA in their home opener Saturday, Sept. 17. The Bruins defeated UNLV 42-21 on Saturday.