Two teams start, but one will have to lose
Some fans glad, while others sing the blues
This time the Utes proved to be the best
Welcome to the wild, wild west!
COMMENTARY – It was another frenetic ending to a classic rivalry game and the wildest finish I can remember seeing to any football game. I am truly going to miss this rivalry if it really does go away. With two more games between the Utes and Cougars currently scheduled for 2013 and 2016, the intervening two-year hiatus will be the first interruption in this rivalry series since 1943-1945 when BYU did not field a team due to World War II.
There is not another game on the schedule of either BYU or Utah that elicits the raw emotion from its fans as this rivalry game. If this game goes away, there will be a gaping hole in the schedule of both teams and the fans of both schools will be the big losers. It is not too late to keep this rivalry alive on a continual basis, although some type of buyout or other accommodation may be necessary. I hope Utah athletic director Chris Hill has a change of heart and does the right thing for the fans.
While the final score favored the Utes by three, the other statistics would not necessarily lead you to believe that the Utes would win. Utah was without its star running back, John White IV, and was starting journeyman Jon Hays at quarterback. Predictably, Utah’s running game was anemic, netting only 49 rushing yards. BYU more than doubled Utah’s rushing attack with 106 net yards. BYU also had the edge in passing yards and total offense. Utah had 37 more penalty yards than BYU. BYU converted 35 percent of its third downs, and 100 percent of its fourth down tries, compared to 25 percent and 50 percent, respectively, for Utah. BYU had 25 first downs compared to 14 for Utah, with 5 of BYU’s first downs coming on Utah penalties.
However, Utah had the edge in two key areas – turnovers, which Utah won 2-0, and time of possession, with Utah holding a slight advantage of approximately four minutes.
Jon Hays exceeded all expectations. With no real running game to speak of to keep the defense honest, Hays still turned in a stellar performance. While Riley Nelson had 10 more passing yards than Hays, Hays completed 67 percent of his passes compared to 49 percent for Nelson. Both quarterbacks threw two TD’s, but Hays had zero interceptions while Nelson threw a costly one. I won’t even blame Nelson for the fumble returned by Utah for the touchdown (I want to, but I won’t), but Nelson did carry the football like a loaf of bread on a number of occasions and almost coughed up at least one fumble, but managed to keep possession. Nelson was also fortunate to escape with only one interception. At the end of the day, and after factoring in all relevant facts and circumstances, I think Hays flat outplayed Nelson.
Nevertheless, with one second left to play, it was still anybody’s game. Admittedly, I am pleased as punch at the final outcome, but BYU still had a chance. How could you not love this gritty game?
I did indeed wear my red victory suit to church on Sunday. While taking care of some business at a different church building than the one I attend, a lady I have never met in my life snidely commented to me in the hall that she “didn’t realize that people were allowed to wear clown suits to church.” Of course, no one ever objects to a blue suit on Sunday. Five minutes later, as I was riding my scooter (a 125cc hog) to the church building I actually attend, two strangers pulled up next to me at a traffic light, rolled down their window with big smiles on their faces, and asked if they could take my picture. Again, nothing elicits raw emotion in the fans like this rivalry game and it is in the best interests of both schools to keep it going.
Utah now has nine straight games against Pac-12 opponents, starting on the road at Arizona State this weekend. With the defense starting to live up to expectations, and the offense hopefully getting on track, Utah could make it interesting in the Pac-12. However, the return of John White IV is a key factor in the Utes ability to make any noise in the Pac-12.
By the way, although I make no claim to an actual prediction that USC would lose to Stanford last weekend, how many people truly thought the Trojans could lose to the Cardinal? I did. I am, indeed, looking forward to the match-up between the Utes and the Trojans in Salt Lake City on Oct. 4. But I’m telling you right now, it’s no Holy War.
Dwayne Vance is a sports commentator and the views expressed here are his and are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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