Overcoming a number of mistakes, the Utah Utes managed to defeat arch-rival BYU for the seventh straight time in the “Holy War” Saturday night in Provo.
But let’s be honest: Utah’s win was far from perfect. The Utes were their own worst enemy, committing 11 penalties for 97 yards, several of which negated big plays. The offense also struggled mightily on third down, converting on just three of 13 opportunities. It also turned the ball over twice (two fumbles) and was stopped on downs, which help set up all three BYU scores. As a result of these mistakes, Utah allowed the Cougars to remain within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
Despite these imperfections, this was still a solid victory for the Utes. Sure, the final score suggests that the game was close, but the final outcome was never really in doubt. The Utah defense dominated BYU for most of the contest, holding the Cougars to 233 yards of total offense. The Utes’ secondary was all over the place, picking off three passes and breaking up a number of others. And the front seven was just as impressive, limiting BYU to just 63 yards on the ground (with 25 of them coming on one series).
With the defense firing on all cylinders, it never seemed like the Cougars were going to come back, even when they had a chance to take the lead with just under two minutes to play.
As well as the defense did, the biggest positive for Utah was the play of quarterback Tyler Huntley. In just his second career start, Huntley ran Troy Taylor’s spread offense to perfection, completing 27-of-36 passes for 300 yards and adding another 89 yards on the ground. He also scored the Utes’ lone touchdown on a broken play where he improvised after the running back went the wrong way.
So what does this win mean for Utah in the grand scheme of things?
Although it wasn’t pretty, this “W” gives the Utes something to build on. Yes, the team made some mistakes, but didn’t do anything that the players can’t correct with Kyle Wittingham and his staff in practice. The fact of the matter is that the offense went on the road to a hostile environment and threw for over 300 yards for the first time since 2014. Considering that the defense is playing just as well – if not better – than last year’s squad, there’s no reason to think that the Utes won’t make some noise in the Pac-12 South race again this season.