Well. That’s pretty much what everyone expected on this season-opening night at LaVell Edwards Stadium, right?
Utah beating BYU, again, for the ninth straight go-round, this time by the count of 30-12. Not even Mother Nature could prevent the inevitable thing, in the form of a lightning storm. All that did was delay/prolong the Cougars’ misery.
No big surprise. A blind man could have seen this result coming. And, sure enough, it rolled in like thunder.
The mystery was in how it would happen.
It happened on the backs of Utah’s defense, which scored two touchdowns, on two pick-six’s, and controlled the game.
The Utes started sluggishly, but swelled up to take their reward.
In doing so, they did not necessarily look like the comprehensively formidable outfit so many had predicted them to be. Quite simply, the offense has to get more consistent. But … oh, that defense.
Kyle Whittingham said beforehand he couldn’t care less how a win would look or come. He’d take it however it arrived.
It did — because it always does these days and nights in this series.
The Utes’ win tied the series’ all-time record for lopsidedness, with each side owning part of that nine-consecutive-win claim. Now, the Utes have done it twice.
Another thing Whttingham said in the run-up about the streak is that “nothing lasts forever.” It’s starting to look, though, like that may not be true. Maybe the Cougars never will beat the Utes again. Or if they ever do, perhaps by then, nobody will care anymore.
That sure is the way it seemed on Thursday night.
As usual in this rivalry, the talent differential appeared smaller than it is. There were plenty of early tight moments. But those were stretched out and finished off when a fumble on an exchange from BYU’s Zach Wilson to Ty’Son Williams deep in Cougars territory led to a Utah touchdown and a 23-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The count was 3-3 with just more than 10 minutes left in the second quarter, back when the Cougars were feeling good, watching the Utes make mistakes — questionable play calls, penalties, bad decisions, dropped passes, ineffective on attack — and positioning themselves for a drive for the lead when Wilson scrambled around and then threw his first pick-6 to Francis Bernard, the former BYU linebacker, who returned it 58 yards for the score.
Thereafter, even with Utah’s uneven display on offense, it never was seriously threatened. An opening TD drive in the second half pushed Utah’s lead to 10 points. From there, most of BYU’s suffering came via that rugged Utah resistance — and tough running by Zack Moss.
What all of this proved is what everyone already knew — that the Utes are better than the Cougars. The problems that have led to that disparity are systemic, running all the way to the top at BYU, a topic for another time.
Nobody on the Cougars’ side wanted to think about that, but it’s a point of fact.
What will change the divergent paths of these teams is unknown, and, frankly, at this juncture, unexpected. The Utes, if they get themselves wholly sorted out, are on their way to competing for another Pac-12 South title, and maybe a league championship, along with a potential Rose Bowl berth.
The Cougars are on their way to facing Tennessee, USC and Washington. And thereafter, more teams they will be fortunate to beat.
They are nobody’s slouches. The Cougars are decent. They had their moments, just not enough of them to finish. Sort of hanging in against their rival wasn’t what the Cougars had in mind.
Utah, conversely, handled its business with a set jaw and then a yawn, walking away after a 54-minute lightning delay, like a collection of construction workers who had just laid the concrete they were paid to put down.
You could almost see crimson bandanas hanging out the back of their jeans pockets as they left the field.
Their job was done, same as it ever was, and so was their opponent.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.