SALT LAKE CITY – In a game that saw nine total turnovers, BYU football’s comeback fell short on a failed two-point conversion to drop the game 20-19 at Utah in the Deseret First Duel on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In the Cougars' final drive, Taysom Hill marched down the field with big receptions from Jonah Trinnaman, Nick Kurtz and Mitchell Juergens. With 18 seconds left, Hill rushed 7-yards for the touchdown. BYU went for two to try to secure a win, but Hill and the comeback was stopped short after Hill slipped one tackle but not the next and was dropped shy of the goal line.
BYU (1-1) has now lost six games in a row to rival Utah (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12). Despite forcing the Utes to turn the ball over six times, the Cougars were only able to score 13 points off of turnovers. Utah managed just seven point off of three BYU interceptions.
Hill completed 21 of 39 passes for 176 yards with two interceptions. He also rushed for 87 yards to lead the Cougars and both of BYU's touchdowns. Juergens led the receiving core with eight catches for 52 yards.
On defense, Butch Pau’u led BYU in total tackles with nine, including four solo. Kai Nacua had two interceptions to go along with his two tackles before he was ejected in the third quarter on a targeting call. Francis Bernard filled out the stat sheet with eight tackles, one interception, one pass breakup and one forced fumble.
The first quarter saw three turnovers between the teams. On the first offensive play of the game, Hill’s pass to Aleva Hifo was tipped off of Hifo’s fingers right into the arms of a Utah defender. The interception was returned 42 yards for a touchdown with just 14:44 on the clock.
The second turnover came on Utah’s first offensive play when the ball was fumbled, recovered by Nacua at the 13:01 mark. The Cougars took advantage of the fumble. On fourth and long with the field goal team on the field, Juergens, the holder, threw to an open Corbin Kaufusi rolling out for the first down. However, BYU would still settle for the field goal. Jake Oldroyd hit a 43-yarder straight through the uprights, making it 7-3 with 9:44 on the clock.
On the Utes’ next offensive possession, they had two-straight first down receptions before Harvey Langi forced a fumble, which was recovered by Dayan Lake. Oldroyd hit another field goal for the Cougars, this time from 42 yards. BYU was down by one, 7-6, with 5:05 to play in the first quarter.
Turnovers continued to be the trend in the second quarter. Nacua picked off Utah quarterback Troy Williams with 13:57 on the clock. However, the offense was unable to take advantage of the interception and Jonny Linehan punted the ball away.
Nacua intercepted Troy Williams again, this time in the end zone to stop a potential Utah touchdown. The BYU offense came alive in the drive with two gains over 10 yards from Moroni Laulu-Pututau and Jamaal Williams. After faking a handoff to Williams, Hill rushed out to the left, found space and rushed 39 yards along the sideline for the touchdown and the lead. With 4:06 left in the half, the Cougars were up 13-7 following the PAT.
Utah took back the lead with 17 seconds left in the first half after a 21-yard reception by Tim Patrick scored the touchdown. BYU was down by just one, 14-13, heading into the locker room at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Utes struck first. Andy Phillips kicked a 47-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17-13 with 7:53 on the clock.
A defender hit Hill's arm before he got the pass off, resulting in a fumble recovered by the Utes. BYU’s defense came out strong to get a three and out, bringing back out the Cougar offense. However, Hill threw another interception with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter for his third pick of the game.
During Utah’s drive at the end of the third quarter, many penalties and personal fouls were handed out. Nacua was ejected for targeting, which was followed by Kalani Sitake being issued a personal foul after arguing with an official. On the next play, Bernard intercepted Utah’s Troy Williams with 2:11 left in the third with a one-handed grab, but on the same play, defensive back Austin McChesney was also ejected for targeting.
BYU went three and out on its ensuing drive. Rhett Almond came in to punt pinned in the end zone and Utah muffed the catch and Michael Davis recovered it with 44 seconds left in the quarter to get the offense back on the field. However, the Cougars went three and out once again, bringing out Linehan to punt the ball away.
Utah started its drive with 14:08 on the clock in the fourth quarter. The Utes marched down the field, their drive spanning over 11 minutes. The Cougar defense was limited them to a 29-yard field goal and keeping BYU's chances alive with a one-score game at 20-13 with 2:47 to play.
The Cougars’ final drive resulted in a touchdown, but the team’s attempted two-point conversion failed. BYU fell on the road 20-19.
BYU will hold its home opener against UCLA on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 8:15 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast live on either ESPN or ESPN2 and will be live on the Cougar IMG Sports Network, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and BYU Radio –Sirius XM 143.
BYU to face Utah in Deseret First Duel
PROVO, Utah – Coming off of a season-opening win against Arizona, BYU football sets its sights on the Deseret First Duel and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday. The game will be televised live on Fox at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 4:30 p.m. MDT. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game.
BYU (1-0) at Utah (1-0, 0-0 Pac 12)
Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. MDT
Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,017)
Salt Lake City, Utah
SERIES HISTORY. BYU and Utah resume the rivalry and the Deseret First Duel after just one regular-season game between the last meeting. The Cougars and Utes met in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2015. The Utes jumped out to a 35-0 lead after five consecutive BYU turnovers to start the game. BYU came back to make it 35-28 but fell short. The Utes lead the all time series 55-31-4. In the past 20 meetings, 15 of the games have been decided by 7 points or less.
COACHING TREE. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake coached 10 seasons under Kyle Whittingham at Utah, working his way up to Whittingham’s No. 2 man as assistant head coach. Sitake returned home to BYU as head coach where both he and Whittingham had played under Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards. Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi and tight ends coach Steve Clark have all spent time on the Utah staff. Utah co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, linebackers coach Justin Ena and wide receivers coach Guy Holliday all spent time at BYU as players or staff members and are among many rivalry ties between the two schools.
PAC-12. The Cougars are facing their second consecutive Pac-12 team and will have one more next week with UCLA. BYU is 72-122-6 overall against the Pac-12.
The following quotes are from Monday’s post-practice press briefing from head coach Kalani Sitake and select players.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
On what he learned about the team
“Our guys are resilient. I love the way they kept playing. There was no doubt even when we went down. We had that lead for a long time and then it was a little deflating for them to score like that. It was more deflating for the fans, but for the players on the sideline we were fine. We saw the time and that there was time left for us to make something happen, and our guys responded the right way and ended up coming up with a win. I just learned that our guys will fight through anything and play until there is zero seconds left on the clock and I was really proud of the way they played.”
On scoring 18 points against Arizona
“We had to capitalize on some of the opportunities we had. We had some opportunities to score some touchdowns taken off by some mistakes. They were guys just trying to make a play and we appreciate that but we just need to play smarter. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from that. We had some opportunities to make some big plays on defense. It’s never perfect but there were some chances we had to really put it away and I don't think we capitalized on a lot of those. Our guys fought back, we won the game so you can make a lot of improvement from week one to week two. We look to limit those mistakes. I don't want to beat them over with correcting them because guys are working hard. There are ways to motivate them to play smarter. Realize what we are trying to do as a team and for the most part we managed the game really well as a team and it was a team victory.”
On how his staff functioned within the game
“They were great. I love the way Ilaisa (Tuiaki) ran the defense; it was perfect. We made some mistakes on the field but as far as calling the game, I thought he did a great job. I thought Ty (Detmer) did a great job calling the game on offense. We had a game plan going in and tried to execute it as a staff. Those two worked really well together. Ed (Lamb) did a great job with special teams even to the point of choosing the kicker at the end. It all worked out, we were a cohesive unit on the staff and I thought our team was the same thing. We were able to get the victory. There are some things we can do better as a staff. For the most part, its just little details here and there, nothing that really needs to change those guys are unbelievable and they did exactly what I thought they would do.”
On the rivalry with Utah
“There are a lot of friendships and fun behind it all. I know I love Kyle (Whittingham) and he loves me. We are going to be friends no matter what. This is going to be one of those things that extends our friendship. We will get on the football field and compete then we will hug afterwards and it's whatever you make of it.”
“I don’t see it as a big-time rivalry hatred as a lot of others see it. It's a lot of fun. It’s exciting and there is a lot of good people involved on fan bases so its going to be another great weekend.”
On going back to Rice-Eccles Stadium
“It was weirder for me coming to BYU when I was at Utah and being in the [visitor] locker room because I played so many games in the home locker room. I spent a decade there at Utah. We went back at Oregon State, Gary [Anderson] and I. It was really cool and it was a cool experience. We obviously lost the game and it was a tough game, but I thought the fans were great. We are excited. It is a great place to play a football game. We will talk to our players about the opportunity we have to go into that stadium and be around such great passionate fans. You heard Taysom talk about it; it’s an exciting time. We are looking forward to going up there and see that place. It’s going to be fun. I don't think it's weird at all.”
On BYU’s recent history in games against Utah
“I’m not really worried about the past. We are worried about this game and the season. People made a big deal about me as a defensive coordinator against Rich Rod’s offense. You can make whatever story you want out of everything. We can’t go back and change what’s happened in the past. I was on the other side for some of those wins. You just have to appreciate the journey we are in now and appreciate this week and appreciate the moment that these guys have to compete against great young men on the other side and a great fan base. We need to enjoy the moment and hopefully we come out with a victory.”
On his role in the rivalry
“My role is to coach football and get this team ready for a football game. How I do it and the way I go is just my personality. If anyone knows me I am going to approach every game with the will to win but at the same point, I won't stomp over people and will speak the truth. Utah was great to me and my family for 10 years. I had a great perspective and my point of view was awesome. They were great to me. I will never say anything bad about the University of Utah and their athletic program, especially their football team because they were so great to me. I think it's important for me to share that with everyone.”
“To respect our opponents is really important to me. That is what the game of football is about: respect. There are not a lot of people that do what these guys do in the country. I want to make sure that our players respect the other team and take the field with that level of respect. I think they will play a lot cleaner game and they will do their job a lot better if they do that.”
Senior QB Taysom Hill
On the team atmosphere following Arizona
“We feel really good and really excited. We felt like we controlled that entire game, though to win the way that we did wasn’t ideal. But to get a win and to be able to learn from our mistakes and what wasn’t very clean was a good way to start the season.”
On improvements he sees
“There were a few missed assignments and a few dropped balls and stuff like that that killed drives where we really could have shifted the momentum. There were a few penalties that caused the same thing, killed drives like that and if we don’t have those mistakes it wouldn’t have been close. I think those are the things that offensively we need to clean up, but I think that overall third down efficiency was really good. For most of the night we had third and short or third and reasonably and we were able to convert on those and keep the ball moving. On field position, I think our punter executed well and it was all positive.”
On how he felt physically
“I felt good. I was joking with Jamaal (Williams) that I think this is the best I’ve felt after a football game in my career and I think he was on the other end of that, but I felt really good. I’m a little heavier than I was last year so I don’t feel quite as quick but I think throughout the course of the season I’ll lean out a bit. I don’t think we’ll be lifting as much, which will be helpful too, but I felt really good.”
On running less
“That was the game plan going in to the point that if I was running it was going to be out on the edge where I could protect myself. That was coach (Ty) Detmer’s game plan going into the game and that will be the plan moving forward throughout the season.”
On wide receivers
“I have that same confidence with everybody that was on the field on Saturday. It just so happened that with the looks we were getting and the play calls that we had, Jonah (Trinnaman) was the guy. I certainly trust that dude, to throw the ball to him and give him opportunities, but at the same time I trust every one of my wideouts that played in that game Saturday. If they would’ve been in the game and we would’ve had those play calls against the defense that we ran, I would’ve thrown the ball to any of those guys.”
On the tight ends’ performance
“It was great. I thought Ty called an excellent game where we really dictated what we wanted up front and we were able to get out on the edge. We were able to stay out of a lot of straight drop backs which I think was a strength of Arizona’s defense with their ability to get up the field and pressure on the edge. We neutralized all of that and the tight ends were a big part of us being successful in doing that.”
On the final drive for the winning field goal
“When we were on the sideline with 90 seconds and two timeouts, my mindset and Ty’s mindset was “let’s get in field goal range.” So once we started getting into field goal range, we called a timeout and we talked about it and we said, “We’re in field goal range we’re not going to push the envelope here. Let’s see if we can execute a few other things and move the ball closer.” That was our mindset moving forward. At the end of the day you have to trust in the preparation of everybody on the team. At that point I trusted in the preparation of our kickers and our field goal team and we felt confident putting it in their hands.”
On facing Utah
“It’s obviously a huge game. Last year it was really difficult for me not being able to be a part of that game and to feel the emotion of it and not be able to play was really difficult. So as I looked forward to the game this week against Utah, I’m very excited. Last week all of our preparation and our mindset was on beating Arizona and now all the attention will be on Utah. Nothing is going to be different in our preparation against Utah. We obviously know what’s at stake. We respect Utah and their football team and they’re obviously very skilled and it’ll be a good game. This is what it’s all about. As I was going through my decision-making process, these are the situations that you just cannot replicate and I can’t wait to be a part of this football game. I love playing in hostile environments and it doesn’t get any more hostile than this.”
On ball security for the offense
“I think that going into this game, and our game plan against Arizona with a new staff both on offense and defense, we want to dictate what we called offensively and what we called defensively and a big key to that was time of possession and field position. I think we were able to do that and we were really successful at it and had no turnovers. Looking to Utah, our mindset is the same. We’ll take our shots when we need to. We have some stuff prepared from what we expect to see from those guys and we’ll do our best to make sure that it’s a clean football game, just like it was against Arizona, knowing that turnovers are a big part of the game.”
Senior LB Harvey Langi
On how he was feeling postgame
“I felt good. There’s a lot to learn after the first game. It’s like the pretest in a class to see where I stand after my hard preparation. I feel like I have a lot to learn. I can go up from here.”
“Time was on our side in that game, and I felt that when time was winding down, we could’ve either folded or use the time to our advantage. I feel like the offense really gave us an opportunity to go out and do what we can do. We stuck it out together.”
“I just loved seeing Taysom back out there, seeing him do his thing with the offense. It’s good to see all of those old guys and new guys doing work. That’s what we all expect as a team. We expect them to do their job and us to do our job.”
On playing former team Utah
“It’s going to be fun. It’s the rivalry game, everyone is excited, I’m excited. I’m just as excited as the fans, maybe more. I want to go out there and have a fun game. They are ready to come out; we are ready to come out. They have their red jerseys; we have our royal blue jerseys. It will be a fun game.”
On Utah prep
“Of course we are watching film on them. They are watching film on us. They have good athletes. Coach Wittingham has a great team. They are very fast and have playmakers on both sides of the ball.”
Senior RB Jamaal Williams
On the mood of the team following the win
“Today was just another day getting ready for our next game. It was a great team win for us, but we’re on to the next one right now. We’re just ready to play and getting ready to play Utah, mostly just staying together as a team and making sure everyone is focused.”
On his first game back
“I was enjoying every minute of it. From coming out for warm-ups to the last field goal. This is what college football is, and being back for football has been great. I’m grateful to come back and the time away from football was worth it. Going out there all I could do was smile and enjoy my teammates.”
On his performance
“I felt like I did okay. I know that I have a lot of stuff that I can work on. Honestly, I’m my own biggest critic and I’m always pushing myself to be the best I can be. There’s always something that I can find to do better and if it’s said that that was my best game, I don’t think so. I know that there’s still more out of me that I can pull out and some plays that went for losses that I didn’t do so well on. I could have done better to make it a positive. So I’m just working hard for myself and to keep motivated.”
On the workload against Arizona
I just did what I needed to do based on how I felt. I felt that I was in the best condition I’ve ever been in. I didn’t feel tired and after each play I just got back in the huddle to keep on going. I can say that my body feels better and it feels better than most of the years that I’ve been playing. It’s just going to get better from here.”
On Jake Oldroyd
“You know, we all know his name now. I just want him to enjoy it because not a lot of people get that opportunity and we’re all just grateful and happy for him now. We expect it from him now. Now we expect him to do great things no matter what.”
On ball security
“We always emphasize ball security, no matter what game it is. It showed when we played against Arizona and we didn’t have any turnovers and we expect that from ourselves going into this next game.”
On Coach Sitake’s approach to the game
“Kalani just tells us it’s not about hate; it’s about the team. If we keep ourselves oriented as a team, then we’ll be fine. We just have to worry about ourselves and taking care of our assignments and we’ll be good.”
Senior DB Kai Nacua
On defense at Arizona
“I take away from that game that we are ready. Everyone is assignment sound and ready for whatever comes at us. A lot of us were making plays. I can’t really pick out anyone who stood out. I think as a unit, we all came together and played well.”
Coach Sitake’s message on the rivalry
“What we’ve been saying all year. We are going to focus on what we are going to do and not worry about the talk. We will do what we do. There’s always going to be talk because it’s a rivalry game, but out team realizes that we don’t need to talk. We just need to focus on our game.”