The Holy War. The name alone brings back memories, both good and bad, from both BYU and Utah fan bases. This year’s edition of the most celebrated rivalry in the state has certainly produced more recollections for Ute and Cougar fans alike.
It was a first down and Utah had the ball in good field position after regaining possession. Utah is in the “I” formation and the ball is snapped. Jon Hays fakes a handoff, and tosses the ball deep over the middle and into the endzone, where one of Utah’s best deep threats, Dres Anderson, caught the ball and fell backwards to make the score 24-7 with 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter. With the BYU lack of offense, Riley Nelson’s terribly pessimistic body language, a raucous crowd, and Utah’s stifling defense, things were looking dismal at best for the Cougars. The game, however, was far from over.
After a Jamal Williams score and a Nelson TD pass to Kaneakua Friel, BYU was within 3 points of their arch rival. The Ute offense failed to produce once again, and Utah was forced to punt. BYU had one more chance with little time left. After a miracle 47 yard pass on fourth down and twelve yards-to-go, and an incomplete pass with one second remaining (after which the MUSS, Utah’s student section, stormed the field), BYU had a chance to tie the game with a 51 yard field goal. Junior Justin Sorenson’s kick was up, and blocked by All-American Star Lotulelei. The ball bounced around for a bit, Utah’s student section stormed the field once again, and the BYU player who recovered the ball was tackled.
A 15 yard penalty was called on Utah for interference, and BYU had yet another chance to tie the game, this time from 36 yards out. Riley Stephenson was now the Cougar kicker. The ball was snapped, and with a boom from Stephenson’s big right leg the pigskin went sailing into the black, Salt Lake City night. When first kicked, the ball appeared to be on its way to tie the game at 24. It appeared that way so much, that BYU holder J.D. Falslev started to celebrate prematurely. The ball would go on to thunk against the left upright, game over, students storm the field once again. Utah (2-1) wins 24-21.
Utah State was also in action this past Saturday in what is arguably the hardest place to play in the land. Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin to face defending Rose Bowl champion, the Badgers. The Aggies took a 14-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, but fell down 16-14 late in the game. With time winding down in the 4th the Aggies, led by the electrifying Chuckie Keeton, were storming down the field on their way to victory.
Josh Thompson, a Utah native, came out to try a 37 yard with only seconds remaining. The kick goes up, and floated wide right of the uprights, giving the Badgers their second win on the season, and Utah State their first loss.
So where does this leave Utah starting conference play? How does BYU recover on a short week? Will Utah State avenge a close loss against a rival from last year?
Utah will head down to Tempe, AZ this week to play the Arizona State Sun Devils who gave SEC newcomer Missouri all it could handle last week. Ute coaches and players have mentioned that ASU’s strongest asset is their athleticism on both sides of the ball. Preperation for Utah will also be a little harder this week because the ‘Devils do have a new coach. Last year the “U” played ASU and Pitt, the former school of new Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. They have been, and will continue to look at tape from both games last year to evaluate coaching styles and ASU personnel.
Against BYU, Utah discovered a couple things about themselves.
1. They can’t run the ball. Utah doesn’t have an O-line that can provide enough push, and create holes for its backs, no matter who is carrying the ball.
2. Utah’s passing game is very effective and probably a little underused. Jon Hays completed passes to 11 different receivers on 18 completions, and had more completions on less attempts (18-27) than his counterpart Riley Nelson (17-35). He also averaged more yards per completion (7.3) than Nelson (5.9). Hays is yet to throw an interception this year and has played against two very good defenses.
3. The Ute offense can produce without star running back John White. The numbers may not be gaudy, but they were enough to beat a top 25 team and have many forgetting the Jordan Wynn era already.
Utah is a 7.5 point underdog going into the game vs. ASU. I don’t think this State team is as good as last year’s was, but they are playing at home. Expect a close game in the Valley of the Sun on Saturday.
How does BYU recover from a heartbreaking loss?
It is really hard to say, for a number of reasons. They have a short week with the game on Thursday and are going to play in another rough environment. BYU’s offense was very, VERY unorganized and at times looked lost during the game on Saturday. Have they learned their lesson? Will they deal with Bronco Stadium any better than Rice-Eccles?
I think they will. Bronco stadium won’t/can’t possibly be as loud as Rice-Eccles Stadium was last week. Utah’s volume was produced not just because they wanted a win, but every one of the roughly 46,000 fans there needed a win. Boise State doesn’t have that same feeling towards BYU. The offense should be able to communicate much better, and they will have a fire in their eyes after the loss. BYU wants to prove that they can play with and beat the best. Boise State has been one of the best programs in the nation over the last 10 years, but this year’s team isn’t as good as the teams of years past either. I expect this game to be low scoring, and if BYU scores 21 they should be able to win.
Will Utah State beat soon-to-be conference rival Colorado State?
Ok let’s just throw the numbers out for a second. Utah State is a much better team than Colorado State. Utah State has a better quarterback, running back, defense, and coaches. However, last year this game was lost on special teams. A couple plays bounced CSU’s way, and USU ends up losing. I don’t see that happening this year, especially after the Auburn 2.0 game for the Aggies.
A Utah State fan sent in a question on Twitter (follow me @crackalacka22) about the Utah State vs. BYU game in Provo on October 5th. @AK_Aggie asks, “@crackalacka22 who would you favor on the match up oct 5, #USU or #BYU ? And what will the score be?”
There is some time before this game, but as of right now I would have to favor Utah State. They beat Utah, should have beat Wisconsin in Madison this last week as well. Chuckie Keeton is the single best player in the state this year, and I don’t see how BYU moves the ball against State’s defense. I would have my money on Utah State 28-14.