Provo

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham made yet another change of offensive coordinators after last season for one basic reason: The Utes kicked too many field goals.

The same issue surfaced Saturday night, but Utah’s defense made sure it was a not a major problem.

The Utes scored a touchdown on only one of their six trips inside BYU’s 20-yard line — seven, counting the kneel-down sequence at the end — and got stuffed on a fourth-down play. Even so, Matt Gay’s four field goals almost would have been sufficient by themselves in a 19-13 victory over BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The Utes posted a seventh straight win in the rivalry, an occasion commemorated by their fans in the northwest corner of the stadium chanting, “Seven … seven … seven.” The latest episode featured the traditional Whittingham method of defense, special teams and the running game — the only twist being that quarterback Tyler Huntley accounted too much of the team’s rushing yardage, in Whittingham’s judgment.

Utah’s defense intercepted three of Tanner Mangum’s passes and surrendered only two touchdowns — one of them after the offense lost a fumble at the Ute 22-yard line in the third quarter.

Defensive lineman Filipo Mokofisi registered one of the interceptions and one of the Utes’ three sacks, while BYU’s offense topped 200 yards only in the last five minutes of the game.

“The impact plays, the havoc plays … those are what we’re all about on defense,” Whittingham said.

The Ute defense made one last stop, with Kyle Fitts forcing Mangum’s hurried throw on fourth down in the final minute, deep in BYU’s own territory.

Utah’s only touchdown came when Huntley ran the wrong way, but he scored anyway.

So Whittingham’s Utes have joined Jack Curtice’s teams of the 1950s with seven straight victories over BYU, Utah’s second-longest run in the rivalry. Curtice moved to Stanford after the 1957 season, when the Utes won the Skyline Conference championship. That would stand as the program’s only outright league title until Urban Meyer’s Utes won the Mountain West championship in 2003.

The ’57 Utes featured Larry Wilson, a two-way player who’s the school’s only alumnus in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They were famous for a passing offense that once made quarterback Lee Grosscup say Curtice “was 15 to 20 years ahead of his time.”

Grosscup popularized the shovel pass, basically an extended handoff that became known as the “Utah pass.”

Huntley’s speciality is a modern invention, the zone-read option play. He makes it work. In contrast, Mangum and the BYU offense couldn’t so much of anything until late in Saturday’s game. Credit the Ute defense for a lot of that futility.

Utah’s penalties, a 3-of-14 conversion rate on third down and the failure to finish drives became only minor annoyances, in the end. The Utes rode the kicking of Gay, the offensive work of quarterback Tyler Huntley and receiver Darren Carrington and the pressure of a relentless defense to another victory.

“We’ve got our issues,” Whittingham said, but they’re correctable.

The Utes left Provo believing they could or should have won more easily, as the statistics suggested. Utah posted 430 total yards to BYU’s 233, with Huntley passing for 300 yards and running for 89. Carrington caught seven passes for 129 yards, giving him 17 receptions in two games since transferring from Oregon.

“We’re still getting used to our offense, and it’s only going to get better,” Huntley said. “We felt like we should have scored more points, but we’ve got to live with it.”

Huntley’s running and passing accounted for 226 of the Utes’ 239 total yards in the first half, while Utah’s defense held BYU to 102 total yards — and zero points.

The Utes got a break when BYU was called for offensive pass interference, erasing a would-be touchdown pass to Talon Shumway (followed by a missed field-goal try). The same call went against the Utes on their next drive, though, when Darren Carrington’s catch in the end zone was taken away via a penalty on Siaosi Wilson.

The Utes were bothered by other penalties, notably losing linebacker Sunia Tauteoli to a targeting ejection in the second quarter. Utah also failed to score any touchdowns in the first half, settling for Gay’s three field goals of 21, 25 and 36 yards for a 9-0 lead. The Utes couldn’t take full advantage of the defense’s seventh first-quarter takeaway in the last three rivalry games, kicking a field goal after Boobie Hobbs returned an interception 33 yards to the BYU 9.

In the second quarter, Huntley’s 48-yard pass to Wilson led to another field goal. Gay added his third 3-pointer after Huntley’s connections with Carrington gave the Utes another red-zone opportunity.

The Utes fully exploited BYU’s first mistake of the second half. Mokofisi’s interception at the BYU 23 led to Huntley’s 5-yard touchdown run, making it 16-0. That score was the seventh Utah touchdown (of eight total) in the last three meetings that stemmed from a takeaway in BYU territory. That’s not the only continuing theme of this rivalry, as the Utes now have a record 10th straight win in their sights, as of 2020.

Whittingham was somewhat subdued in the postgame news conference, compared with his demeanor after some other wins in the rivalry. That’s partly because the Utes have some work to do, and partly because they’re accustomed to beating BYU by now.