Provo • There was magic in the air surrounding LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The anticipation for the rivalry game between BYU and Utah was palpable, with fans filling the stadium for the first time since the end of the 2019 season.
And if it felt like anything was possible, maybe it was.
The Cougars battled for a 26-17 victory over No. 21 Utah, a win that snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Utes that stretched over the last 12 years for BYU.
“There was a huge sense of urgency from the fanbase,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “It was nice to get the win for the fans and for our players. I’m just really proud of them. It was a great night. It was a good game. We’ve been on the other side of these games. We feel really fortunate and really happy that we got the win.”
The in-state rivals aren’t scheduled to meet again until 2024, so the Utes will have to sit on the loss for a few years before trying to turn the tide once more.
“It’s a tough one, it really is,” Utes running back Micah Bernard said. “... We had a good run. We won’t see these guys for a couple of years, so it was tough to end on this one.”
The Cougars fed off the crowd and set the tone early, forcing turnovers in the Utes’ first two drives of the game. The first was on an interception by Chaz Ah You and the second from a forced fumble that was recovered by Isaiah Herron.
Both occurred within the first eight minutes of the game.
Although BYU struggled a bit in the ensuing drive, the Cougars were able to convert the second turnover into the first points of the game with a 37-yard field goal from Jake Oldroyd.
BYU was up 10-0 before it started to lose momentum due to its own mistakes. A late hit from Keenan Pili set up the Utes to score their first touchdown of the game, but the Cougars went on to recover and get a last-minute score before halftime.
Utah made it interesting in the fourth quarter when the Utes scored 10 points on consecutive drives, but BYU found a way to score on a field goal.
Needing more than a touchdown to either send it to overtime or win, the Utes fell short.
“It was a slugfest — that’s the best way to describe it,” Sitake said. “We just ended the game.”
In the battle of the quarterbacks, Jaren Hall finished the night with 149 passing yards and three touchdowns on 18 of 30 passing, while staying upright and without throwing a pick. Hall also added 92 rushing yards on eight carries.
On the other side of the field, Charlie Brewer threw for 147 yards and one touchdown on 15 of 26 passing, but was picked off once and was sacked twice.
At the end of the night, BYU took control of the ball. The last time the Cougars beat the Utes in the turnover battle was when BYU got its last win of the series in 2009.
“Control the line of scrimmage — that’s our MO, that’s what we do best,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “And we surrendered maybe 250 yards rushing, couldn’t get a sack — got zero sacks and zero takeaways on defense, which is not a good recipe for success.”
The Utes gave up 368 total yards — 219 of which came from the Cougars’ running game. Utah also failed to get critical stops, allowing BYU to convert on 11 of 19 third downs and 1 of 1 fourth down.
In comparison, BYU gave up 340 yards (174 through the air and 193 on the ground), and only allowed the Utes to convert 2 of 9 third-down conversions. The Utes were unable to convert on any of its two fourth down plays.
“Everything that we saw, we studied,” Utes linebacker Devin Lloyd said. “Defensively, we felt very prepared — we just didn’t execute. ... We just didn’t convert in critical situations.”