Utah football: Utes' defense stands tall when it matters most (with video)
Provo • Utah's post-game celebration lasted nearly as long as the nail-biting fourth quarter finale Saturday as coaches, players, family members and fans all danced and embraced as they celebrated a fourth-straight win over the Cougars Saturday.
If anyone says the Utah-BYU game is "just another game," don't believe it. The Utes' emotional celebration revealed just how important Saturday's victory was for them.
Not only did the win give the Utes a 3-1 start and send them into the bye week on a high, but it gave Utah a lasting satisfaction about the rivalry as it heads into a two-year hiatus.
"Four-and-oh that is a lasting legacy for this class," Utah senior defender Trevor Reilly said. "This is something we are going to remember for a long time."
Utah's defense, picked apart and trampled upon by Oregon State and Utah State, looked like a Utah defense of old Saturday. The Utes stymied BYU's vaulted rushing attack and played extremely well in the red zone.
Utah gave up 183 yards on the ground and 443 yards of total offense, but clamped down whenever the Cougars got near the goal line.
Twice the Cougars reached inside Utah's 10-yard line and both times BYU was denied a touchdown.
The first time was in the third quarter when BYU settled for a field goal. The second time came with 10 minutes to go when BYU's J.D. Falslev returned a punt to Utah's 13-yard line. All the Cougars managed were six yards with Utah's Michael Walker breaking up a pass on fourth-and-four.
Walker also had an interception in the closing minutes of the game.
His play and the improved efforts of the rest of Utah's secondary was the difference in the game, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
"They did an outstanding job of rebounding from last week," he said, referring to the Oregon State loss. "They came back with a purpose in practice, and Keith McGill and Davion Orphey both improved and we needed that to happen."
Utah also used nickel Mike Honeycutt early in the game to blitz Hill. He sacked him early in the game, setting the tone for a defense that got to the BYU quarterback five times.
In comparison, the Utes had just three sacks against Utah State and Oregon State combined.
"Give credit to our DBs," Reilly said. "They played unbelievable."
Utah Tackle Leaders
Jared Norris 9
Trevor Reilly 7
Michael Walker 7
Jason Whittingham 7
Jacoby Hale 6
Eric Rowe 6