Two yards short: Cougars fall to Utes again

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Ari Davis
Taysom Hill talks to Offensive Coordinator Ty Detmer before the game against Utah. (Ari Davis)

SALT LAKE CITY – Two yards. Six feet. Seventy-two inches.

That was all that separated BYU quarterback Taysom Hill from a successful two-point conversion against Utah in the Holy War game and breaking the Utes’ five-game winning streak in the rivalry game.

“They blitzed it,” Hill said after the game. “And I didn’t make it. It was a good play by them.”

To even have the chance to go for two points, the Cougars needed a 13-play, 2:29 drive to go the length of the field. Hill capped it off with a seven-yard touchdown run. It was his second rushing score of the night and it pulled BYU within one point, 20-19.

But Hill didn’t have much time to feel like the hero.

“That was awesome (to score),” Hill said. “Just wish the feeling would’ve lasted longer.”

The Cougars then lined up for a two-point conversion. Head coach Kalani Sitake said the call to not kick the extra point was made before the drive had even started and he’d make the same call again.

“I told the guys that if we score a touchdown, we’re going for two so stay on the field,” Sitake said. “If you notice when they scored the touchdown, nobody ran off to the side. We planned on scoring and we did. We planned on going for two. Utah made a play and we didn’t … I’d do it again.”

Perhaps the decision to go for two was influenced by Utah’s final drive.

After struggling to move the ball for most of the game – and committing six turnovers – the Utes unleashed a 19 play, 78 yard, 11:21 drive that consumed the vast majority of the fourth quarter.

Sitake noted that the Utes started to “run the ball well” and said momentum played into the decision, but despite the loss, Sitake seemed upbeat.

“A lot of great things happened in this game,” Sitake said. “I was really proud of our guys. We just didn’t get the victory. We can’t just squash on everything that was positive. It was just a great game.”

But while Sitake described the game as “great,” that might not be how he’d describe the officiating.

In the third quarter, Utah quarterback Troy Williams connected with Demari Simpkins on a pass over the middle of the field. BYU captain Kai Nacua tackled Simpkins, who lowered his shoulder. The hit look bad at full speed and Nacua was flagged for targeting.

Officials reviewed the play and it seemed to a sold-out crowd at Rice Eccles Stadium that the call should be reversed, but officials confirmed the ruling on the field.

Sitake was irate and stormed onto the field, yelling at officials. It was an emotion BYU fans haven’t seen on the sidelines in a decade and Sitake was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“I’ll always fight for my guys,” Sitake said. “They know that.”

Ari Davis
Kalani Sitake and Kyle Whittingham shake hands after the Utes defeated the Cougars in the Holy War. (Ari Davis)

Linebacker Butch Pau’u, who led the Cougars in tackles for the second straight week, said it motivated the defense.

“It lets us know he really cares for us,” Pau’u said. “He was angry, because he knew it was a bad call. We all knew it was a bad call, but the refs said otherwise. Just to see that fire in him sparked us to play our game and play with even more intensity than we were playing with before.”

Francis Bernard intercepted Williams on the very next play, but another Cougar was ejected.

This time it was freshman Austin McChesney.

As a result, BYU will enter its home opener Sept. 17 against UCLA with Nacua and McChesney suspended for the first half, per NCAA rules.

The Bruins are 1-1 on the season and are coming off a 42-21 victory over UNLV. BYU fell to UCLA last season 24-23.

Sitake said his team will be ready for its first game in Provo.

“We’ll learn from this (loss),” he said. “And we’ll get better.”

BYU and UCLA kickoff at 8:15 p.m. MDT. The game can be viewed on ESPN2.

 

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