No matter what happens to the Utah Utes as they make their way through a challenging Pac-12 schedule, they know they’ll always have BYU.
Utah’s 20-13 win over the Cougars on Saturday gave the Utes bragging rights that will last until the teams meet again on Sept. 10, 2016.
For a team about to delve back into Pac-12 play, where it is just 7-12 in three years combined, Utah asserted itself as the undeniable state champion by beating the Cougars for the fourth straight year.
Utah sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson spoke for all his teammates as he celebrated the victory on BYU’s field.
“We knew how important it was to win this game,” he said. “Knowing this was my only chance to play them, I definitely wanted to get the win.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who said all week he didn’t concern himself with Utah’s scheduling, nevertheless finally admitted winning Saturday’s contest was a little special.
“You don’t want that to linger for two years,” he said.
BYU must deal with the two-year sting while the Utes hope the lingering effects are all of a positive nature.
Utah, which doesn’t play again until it hosts UCLA on Oct. 3, was markedly better on defense against the Cougars than it was when it played Oregon State or Utah State.
BYU crossed Utah’s 20-yard line five times but scored just one touchdown and settled for two field goals. The Cougars missed a 34-yard field goal and turned the ball over on downs on the other possession.
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who rushed for 259 yards against Texas, was held to just 99 against the Utes while running back Jamaal Williams had just 52 yards on 13 carries before leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter.
Forced to go to the air, Hill was ineffective, going 18-for-48 for 260 yards and an interception. He was also sacked five times.
With an offense that wasn’t as dynamic as it had been but was still sufficient enough to win, the Utes felt Saturday’s performance was the most complete effort of the season.
Whittingham credited the improvement to a team meeting that helped the Utes refocus as well as extra attention to the secondary play in practice.
“Overall it was very solid stuff,” Whittingham said.
The only negatives in the game were injuries to tight ends Jake Murphy and Westlee Tonga. Whittingham has a policy of not discussing injuries, but did say he thought both would be ready for the UCLA game.
“We have 12 days to get back on track in the Pac-12,” Whittingham said. “That is our next challenge.”
Worries over lineups and strategies will come for the Utes soon enough, but for at least another day they will let the satisfaction of a win linger a bit more.
“The locker room was ecstatic,” Utah receiver Dres Anderson said. “It was almost like a bowl game, we wanted to win so much and to come out on top, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
UCLA at Utah
P Oct. 3, 8 p.m.
TV • FS1