Utah Blocks Brigham Young's Attempt to Win Holy War
Frequently, however, the Holy War saves all sorts of drama for the last possible moment and the 2010 version of Utah's battle for in-state football supremacy certainly did not disappoint.
Utah defensive back Brandon Burton swept in from the left side to block a 42-yard field goal attempt by BYU's Mitch Payne -- giving the No. 22 Utes a dramatic 17-16 win over BYU in what was the last conference football game for the original Mountain West Conference powers.
"Wow," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Another spectacular ending that has been like a lot of others in this series."
Indeed, the Utah-BYU series has made a habit of waiting until the last play to determine the winner and Saturday afternoon's clash was no different with Utah (10-2) scoring all 17 of its points in the fourth quarter and needing more than a handful of lucky breaks to exhale with a win.
"There were a lot of mistakes on our side but I have to credit Utah," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "It was a hard situation to be in. We fought all the way to the end, but we just couldn't get that final field goal."
Whittingham spent that final nervous play with his fingers busy.
"Rubbing my lucky dimes," he said. "I've got a whole bag full of them."
Saturday, he might have used them all.
Twice on Utah's game-winning drive, BYU gave away opportunities to ice the game. After stopping the Utes once, BYU was once bitten by a punt shanked so badly it bounced off the back of a blocker and was recovered by the Utes. That was followed by an interception thrown by Utah's Jordan Wynn that was fumbled away by BYU -- giving the Utes a third chance to win take the lead.
This time, they didn't let the opportunity go to waste and senior running back Matt Asiata punched the ball into the end zone for a 17-16 lead.
"That was an interesting winning drive," Whittingham said, "but it fits with so many dramatic events in this series."
Still, BYU had a chance to stick it to its rivals when Payne lined up for a 42-yard field goal as time expired.
"The kick was not a gimme," Whittingham said, "and it all came down to that one final play."
Burton, lining up on the left instead of the right as he typically does on field goal defense, dove in front of the kick and got a hand on it, send the balling into a top-like spin on the ground and unleashing a torrent of fans onto the field to celebrate the come-from-behind win.
"I felt something sting my hand," he said. "I thought it was the cold at first, but it was the ball. I just laid there on the ground and took it in."
Utah and BYU, typically among the most bitter rivals in the country, had little on the line -- aside from bragging rights -- this time with neither team truly in contention for a conference title much less a coveted spot in a BCS bowl.
And for three quarters the Utes and Cougars played that way.
Dropped passes, freakish turnovers, shanked punts and a general malaise were the dominant trends through 45 minutes of football before Utah finally came to life and -- aided by a pair of BYU turnovers on one late-game drive -- beat the Cougars to bid farewell to the Mountain West Conference. Utah is moving to the Pac-10 and BYU is going independent in football.
In their last game as conference rivals, Utah and BYU said their goodbyes to the MWC in a game that, for the most part, they'd just as soon forget they even played.
The Utes and Cougars (6-6) played three quarters of offensively offensive football before Utah finally snapped out of funk and erased a 13-0 BYU lead entering the fourth quarter.
Whether it was a tryptophan hangover or a Black Friday buzz, neither offense showed much life through the first half. The only scoring came on a pair of Payne field goals and BYU took a 6-0 lead into the break despite just 120 yards of total offense.
Utah was only marginally better at moving the ball with 124 yards but failed to score and changed quarterbacks in the second half letting senior Terrance Cain take over for an ineffective Jordan Wynn.
Cain, however, misfired quickly and threw a pair of interceptions in the third quarter -- the second of which BYU turned into a touchdown pass from freshman Jake Heaps to McKay Jacobson to give the Cougars a 13-0 lead.
Utah gave Wynn another chance after Cain's second pick and though he moved the team more effectively, the Utes were still unable to hit the end zone after a couple of dangerously thrown incompletions led to a 40-yard field goal by Joe Phillips.
Wynn, his leadership ability called into question for much of the past four weeks, took the momentary benching to heart and settled down over the fourth quarter -- the interception notwithstanding.
The sophomore found DeVonte Christopher for a leaping 37-yard touchdown in heavy coverage to draw Utah to within 13-10.
He finished the game with 199 yards on 13-of-30 passing but -- with a little help from Whittingham's lucky dimes and the two inexplicable BYU turnovers -- engineered the winning drive that gave Utah an improbable win and a welcome goodbye to the Mountain West.