Vegas Bowl: Utes start fast, hold on (barely) to win Holy War

Photo by BYU Photo

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Utah took advantage of a disastrous start by BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, scoring five first-quarter touchdowns on turnovers — including two interceptions by Tevin Carter — before holding on to beat the Cougars 35-28 on Saturday.

vegasbowl1Carter returned one of the picks for a touchdown and another to the 1 as No. 20 Utah romped to a 35-0 first-quarter lead in the first meeting of the two heated rivals outside of the state of Utah. BYU turned the ball over the first five times it had the ball, with freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum throwing three interceptions and fumbling once.

That was all the scoring Utah did, and it nearly cost the Utes the game. Mangum would bring BYU back, throwing two touchdown passes and rushing for another with 3:23 left to get the Cougars within one score. But BYU never got the ball back.

Utah defensive back Dominique Hatfield runs after making an interception against BYU during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Utah defensive back Dominique Hatfield runs after making an interception against BYU during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Bronco Mendenhall’s last game as BYU coach was almost over even before some of the fans settled into their seats, thanks to an opportunistic Utah defense that forced Mangum to fumble on the third play of the game. Midway through the first quarter, the Utes were already up 28-0.

In a statistical quirk, BYU actually outgained Utah offensively (89-69) in the first quarter. But Carter and Dominique Hatfield both scored on interceptions, Joe Williams had two 1-yard touchdown runs, and quarterback Travis Wilson added another TD on a 20-yard run.

BYU dominated much of the rest of the game, but it was too late. The Cougars got on the board just before halftime to make it 35-7, and scored three more times before finally running out of time.

Utah (10-3) came in as a 2-point favorite in the first meeting since 2013 of schools that have campuses just 46 miles from each other. But the quick succession of turnovers — Utah scored its first four touchdowns in a span of 3:30 — threatened to turn the game into a rout before BYU settled down.

BYU ended up with 386 yards to 197 for Utah, but the five early turnovers were the key in a game where the Utes didn’t turn the ball over at all.

Utah defensive back Tevin Carter (9) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against BYU during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Utah defensive back Tevin Carter (9) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against BYU during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Mendenhall, who is leaving BYU (9-4) after 11 seasons to coach at Virginia, failed in his try at win No. 100 at the school. Mendenhall, who wanted to coach the bowl game before leaving, finished his BYU career with a 99-43 record.

Mangum, who earlier this season led the Cougars to last-minute comebacks against Nebraska and Boise State, never had a chance to do the same against the Utes. After bringing them within a touchdown with 3:23 left, he could only watch on the sideline as the Utes picked up two first downs and ran out the clock.

BYU was down largely because of the early mistakes by the freshman, who lost a ball while scrambling on the third play of the game, then threw interceptions on the next three drives. Coming into the game, Mangum had thrown just seven picks all year.

Mangum ended up completing 25 of 56 passes for 315 yards. Wilson was 9 for 16 for 71 yards.

Utah, which at one point in the season was 6-0 and ranked No. 3, had 19 interceptions on defense during the regular season, seventh best in the country. The Utes wasted no time adding to that number with two picks on tipped passes by Carter followed by a 46-yard interception return by Hatfield for a touchdown.

BYU wide receiver Nick Kurtz (5) makes a reception against Utah during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
BYU wide receiver Nick Kurtz (5) makes a reception against Utah during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The win before a sellout crowd of 42,213, was the ninth in 10 bowl games for Kyle Whittingham as head coach of Utah. The Utes have won 12 of their last 13 bowl games.

Utah is now 4-1 in Las Vegas Bowl games and has won 12 of its last 13 bowl games. Its only loss was to Boise State in the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl. Utah became the third team to win consecutive Las Vegas Bowls and the first since that Bronco squad won three in a row from 2010-12. The Pac-12 has now won the Las Vegas Bowl three years in a row.

Utah leads the series with BYU 58-34-4 and has now won five straight against its rivals and 10 of the last 13. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is now 9-1 in bowl games and 7-3 against the Cougars.

BYU finished the season 9-4 and Mendenhall leaves BYU as the second winningest coach in school history with a 99-43 record.

BYU allowed its second-lowest total yards (197) and passing yards (71) of the season. The defense recorded three sacks and eight tackles for loss as BYU dropped to 49-3 since 2005 when registering at least three sacks.

Stats: 2015_las_vegas_bowl_final_book

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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