Kragthorpe: Rivalry continues to thrive

Published November 28, 2009 10:46 pm
Temperature's rising » Hall caps Y.'s win with a fiery emotional last shot against the Utes.
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In the end, after all the emotion-driven penalties, Utah's fourth-quarter rally, BYU's game-winning touchdown and everything else that went into the latest installment of the rivalry, there was still more to come.

How will this game be remembered?

Take your pick:

There was Utah's comeback behind freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn and walk-on kicker Joe Phillips, forcing overtime.

There was BYU quarterback Max Hall, dealing with a year's worth of interception-ridden memories against the Utes and 60 more minutes of struggles, only to thread the winning 25-yard TD pass to tight end Andrew George in a 26-23 overtime victory Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

And then there was more of Hall, using a formal news conference to declare his "hate" for the Utes in an out-of-the-blue rant.

Yeah, I'd say the rivalry is thriving. Somebody was "classless," to use Hall's word, but opinions will likely vary about just who fits that description.

So, on and off the field, this was more beautiful stuff from a series that has offered so much lately.

This was the fourth time in five years that the game ended with a pass toward the end zone -- two touchdowns, two incompletions -- and the 11th time in 13 years that the spread was seven points or fewer.

This close competition made sense, considering the teams entered with 9-2 records, having both lost nonconference games on the same day in September and later been drubbed by Texas Christian. Yet this also was the first time in 12 years that no memorable theme framed the game: No Bowl Championship Series opportunity, no bowl eligibility to gain, no conference title to earn or no coach's farewell to commemorate.

Just BYU vs. Utah, which apparently was sufficient.

How would Keith Jackson (or Max Hall) say it? These are two teams that just don't like each other. They combined for seven personal-foul or unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties, although the school bands did manage to play together nicely at halftime.

And just when BYU seemed poised to pull away, twice having the ball with a 20-6 lead in the third quarter, the Cougars could not do it.

Yet Utah's rally succeeded only in forcing overtime, and when the Utes settled for Phillips' fifth field goal on their drive, Hall was presented his legacy-defining opportunity. He took it, in more ways than anyone would have imagined.

Having completed only 11 of 31 passes for 109 yards until that moment -- "It obviously wasn't my best game," Hall said -- he hit George over the middle with a sharp throw at the 15-yard line. George squeezed between defenders Stevenson Sylvester and Joe Dale and romped home, creating another stunning ending in this rivalry.

Hall-to-George compares and contrasts with Michael Reed's unsuccessful dive for John Beck's pass in the same north end zone to end BYU's OT possession in a loss in '05, Beck's finding Jonny Harline on the last play in '06 and Hall's fourth-and-18 completion to Austin Collie on the winning drive in '07.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall summarized Hall's performance as "enough to win; really, that probably says it all."

Except that Hall said much, much more, joining former Cougars including Lenny Gomes, who said after a loss in 1993 that the Utes someday would be "pumping my gas" and Collie, who attributed the '07 win to being rewarded for "doing the right things" on and off field, in the pantheon of rivalry remarks.

Hall undoubtedly was emboldened by not having to face the Utes again. Fortunately for the rest of us, this thing will be played again, year after year.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

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