There were ups, there were downs, there was eruption, there was silence, but in the end, there was pandamonium and there were eight straight victories.
The Utes tamed the Brigham Young University Cougars, 35-27, in a game in which they didn’t lead until the fourth quarter. The Utes didn’t score a point until the third quarter, and went 2-7 on third down conversions in the first half. Armand Shyne led the team in rushing with 15 yards going into halftime, and Jason Shelley had only thrown for 49.
What brought the eighth straight victory home was a 21-point fourth quarter, where Utah accounted for 131 of their 296 total yards (44.5%).
After being baffled by freshman passer Zach Wilson throughout the first half, Utah’s defense sparked the enormous comeback. After a sloppy first half, the Utes began to get some stops, and it culminated in Julian Blackmon’s pick-six in the third quarter. The play revamped an otherwise-silent Rice–Eccles Stadium crowd and gave the team something to rally around. Blackmon spoke about the impact of the interception.
“I knew I could jump the slant they called,” Blackmon said. “Their quarterback put it right in my pocket.”
Blackmon, along with linebacker Chase Hansen, praised Wilson for his elusiveness both in and out of the pocket, which is what contributed to BYU’s ability to stifle Utah’s defense.
“He was crafty,” Hansen said. “He played well and converted a lot of third downs.”
Wilson had 204 passing yards and went 20-29-1 on the day. He was able to convert on a lot of deep balls, with a 7.0 average yardage per pass attempt. He threw for two touchdowns and his only real blemish was the pick-six.
Jason Shelley ended his third straight start with a win and has yet to turn the ball over. Head Coach Kyle Whittingham spoke of his poise in big situations.
“There is no stage too big for him,” Whittingham said. “Jason is unflappable and nothing seems to bother him. He has a short memory.”
Both quarterbacks were effective in the red zone, as neither team kicked a field goal in the entirety of the game. The only attempt was Matt Gay’s 54-yarder in the second quarter, which was blocked.
Points aside, this was a game for the ages. The Utah team looked gassed going into the second half and didn’t really get things going offensively until the fourth quarter.
“It says a ton about these guys all year long,” Whittingham said. “I cannot remember a team handling slow starts and things not going their way to fight through it like this one.”
Rivalry aside, and the season behind them, the Utes now look to continue their dominance on the road, when they face off against the University of Washington next week in the Pac-12 Championship game. The game will be held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Friday, Nov. 30th.
There is a championship game on the horizon, but for now, rest up and enjoy the moment. It’s not too often — is eight considered “often?” — that one can claim victory over their bitter rival.