BYU falls to No. 17 Utah in Holy War

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Abigail Keenan
Former teammates Corbin Kaufusi and Francis Bernard greet each other after the 27-35 loss to Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium. (Abigail Keenan)

With a seven-game losing streak on their minds, the Cougars fought hard but lost 27-35 to No. 17 University of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Rice-Eccles Stadium was electric, with 46,017 fans in attendance for Utah Football’s 57th straight sell out.

All eyes were on Zach Wilson — the true freshman quarterback whose family were Ute fans until Wilson signed with the Cougars in 2017 — for his first Holy War football game.

BYU started the game with possession but couldn’t convert their first down after a strong defensive showing from Utah’s Bradlee Anae. However, things immediately went in the Cougars’ favor.

A fumbled punt was recovered by junior defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku, putting BYU at Uta35-yard line. A series of rushes by Matt Hadley put the Cougars in the red zone for the first time of the night.

Neil Pau’u secures the ball for a big catch against the Utes. Pau’u had four receptions this game. (Abigail Keenan)

A 10-yard catch by wide receiver Neil Pau’u put points on the board for the Cougars, with 10:55 still left in the first quarter. This marked Pau’u’s first touchdown of the season. After Skyler Southam’s field goal attempt was tipped, the score was 6-0 for the Cougars.

The Utes started their second drive of the night with quarterback Jason Shelley, who filled in for injured Tyler Huntley, converted the third down, and BYU took over once again.

Wilson started the play with a first down conversion off a 12-yard rush, and the momentum carried on from there. After a 13-yard pass to Micah Simon, BYU was at the 39-yard line. However, Utah’s defense proved to be too much for BYU’s run game, forcing BYU to punt.

A 48-yard punt by Rhett Almond landed Utah on the 10-yard line, and put BYU in a good position to stop Utah’s forward drive. Corbin Kaufusi, who was out last game against New Mexico, came out strong with his first solo tackle of the game.

Kaufusi maintained three season-ending injuries that kept him out against New Mexico but still played in his final game against the Utes. He proved himself on the field, racking up seven tackles throughout the game. Kaufusi will get surgery for those injuries next week.

A 25-yard pass from Wilson to Matt Bushman got BYU a first down, and a consecutive 11-yard run by Hadley kept the Cougar fans cheering. Another 26-yard pass to Bushman sealed the deal, and the Cougars picked up six more points in the end zone. A successful field goal by Southam made it 7, bringing the score to 12-0. The four play, 66-yard drive took only 1:34 minutes to complete.

With a tackle for 4 yards loss by Ghanwoloku to start Utah’s possession, the Cougars forced Utah to punt. BYU kept the ball in their control and held Utah to only 3:47 seconds of possession in the first quarter.

The second quarter started off with the same momentum as the first, with plays seeming to swing BYU’s way more often than not.

The small section of BYU fans was loud, and the sound of their chants rang through the stadium as Utah took over once again. However, the sea of red rose up to overpower the Cougars’ fan section and their band as Shelley and TJ Greene’s pitch play brought Utah to the 30-yard line, forcing BYU to call their first timeout of the night.

After an exhilarating but unsuccessful drive, the Utes attempted a long field goal. Kicker Matt Gay, reigning Lou Groza award winner, seemed calm and collected, but his attempt was blocked by Khyris Tonga — Tonga’s second field goal block of the season.

With BYU on the 36 yard line and 6:41 left in the quarter, a 24-yard pass by Wilson to freshman Dallin Holker brought BYU into the red zone from the second time of the night, and BYU fans went crazy in the stands. A 1-yard push into the end zone by Hadley brought the score to 20-0 as the half came to a close.

Utah leads the Pac-12 with only 99.5 rushing yards allowed per game. As this first half came to a close, BYU already had 110.

The second half opened with a Utah possession, and things started to look rough for the Cougars for the first time during the game. A pick 6 by Julian Blackmon cost BYU a possession and fired up the Utah sideline. With 11:43 still left in the third quarter, the Utes put their first points on the board and brought the score to 7-20.

A 23-yard snag moved BYU even closer to a touchdown. A last minute substitution of Austin Kafentzis for Wilson facilitated a handoff to Hadley, which gave Hadley his second touchdown of the night, and his sixth of the season.

Once again, to the Utes dismay, BYU held the lead by 20.

After a physical 14 play, 75-yard drive by Utah, A catch by Samson Nacua brought the score to 14-27 as the third quarter drew to a close.

The final quarter of the game began with an early injury to standout Hadley, and he limped off the field after only two plays on the ball. A 15-yard shanked punt by Rhett Almond gave the Utes good field position for their drive.

A critical foul by defensive back Keenan Ellis put the Utes in scoring position and Utah’s Kyle Fulks ran the ball in easily for another touchdown, shortening the point difference to 21-27.

Big tackles by Trajan Pili, Sione Takitaki and Austin Lee started to put the game back in the Cougars’ favor.

However, a completed 37-yard pass to Siaosi Mariner brought Utah to first and goal and the BYU defense couldn’t stop the Utes from putting away another touchdown. After a successful PAT by Gay, Utah took the lead for the first time this game.

With just three minutes left in the quarter, Utah led 28-27.

Abigail Keenan
Zach Wilson had a standout performance tonight, with 204 passing yards and two touchdowns. (Abigail Keenan)

A sidearm pass to Brayden El-Bakri put BYU at 3rd and 1, but an incomplete pass brought the Cougars to their fourth down with just 1:58 remaining on the game clock. A rush by Riley Burt failed to convert, and the Utes took over the ball.

The Cougars put up a fight, but in the end, they couldn’t close the one point deficit and take the win home, even with a dominating shutout in the first half. A rushing touchdown by Shelley cemented Utah’s win and sent the stadium into a frenzy.

BYU has not led by 20 points in a Holy War game since 1996 — securing a 20-point lead twice in this year’s Holy War.

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