SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It seemed as though BYU would finally break the streak.
It had been seven games and eight years since the Cougars were able to knock off their arch rivals.
But down by 20 points late in the third quarterback, the Utes staged a comeback for the ages.
Jason Shelley threw for 141 yards and a touchdown and added 61 yards and another score on the ground to rally No. 18 Utah to a 35-27 victory over BYU on Saturday night.
Armand Shyne also ran for a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score, to help the Utes rally from a 20-point third quarter deficit. Utah (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) gained only 296 total yards, but beat the Cougars for the eighth straight time dating to 2010.
“I hope everyone got their money’s worth out of that one,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.. “That was another rivalry game for the books. What would you expect? So many times there are so many storylines. The constant has been a great game.”
“We executed better,” said Shelley. “We had some guys running the wrong assignments. We came together and it showed.”
“We just made too many mistakes, especially against a great team like that, like Utah has,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “That’s why they won the Pac-12 South and that’s why they have a chance to win the Pac-12 next week. We can’t make those mistakes and expect to walk away with a win.”
Zack Wilson threw for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wilson added 73 yards on the ground. Matt Hadley also ran for 64 yards and a pair of scores before leaving with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
BYU (6-6) totaled just 51 yards in the fourth quarter after piling up 306 yards through the first three quarters, opening the door for Utah to rally.
Shyne put the Utes ahead for the first time on a 5-yard run with 3:02 remaining. The junior kept the drive alive after gaining 2 yards on a direct snap on 4th-and-1 at midfield.
BYU had a chance to answer, bu Riley Burt was thrown for a 1-yard loss on fourth down with 1:53 left. Shelley scored on a 33-yard keeper one play later to finish off the comeback.
“We felt really good with our defense and the way we were playing,” Sitake said about the play calling in the fourth quarter. “I’m not sure if it was all conservative because they stopped us. They made a good defensive stand and stopped us.”
BYU seized momentum when it recovered a muffed punt return at the Utah 33 to set up the team’s first scoring drive. Wilson connected with Neil Pau’u on a 10-yard TD pass to give the Cougars a quick 6-0 lead.
The Cougars extended their lead to 13-0 on Wilson’s second touchdown pass. Wilson connected with Matt Bushman on a pair of big passes. Bushman hauled in a 25-yard grab to get BYU into Utah terrtiory. Then he brought in a 26-yard pass for the touchdown, dragging Corrion Ballard over the final few yards to reach the end zone.
Utah’s offense went three-and-out on three straight first quarter drives. The Utes gained just 15 total yards in the quarter.
It didn’t get much better in the second quarter. Utah threatened to score on only on one drive, but it ended with Kyiris Tonga blocking a 54-yard field goal attempt. The Utes totaled just 86 yards by halftime.
BYU didn’t experience the same struggles. The Cougars extended their lead to 20-0 on a 1-yard run by Matt Hadley with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. BYU tallied 110 rushing yards by halftime against a Utah defense that allowed a Pac-12 best 95.5 rushing yards per contest coming into the game.
A potential Utah comeback appeared to be in the works after Julian Blacklmon returned an interception 27 yards to get the Utes on the board in the third quarter. BYU answered with another 1-yard run from Hadley to push its lead to 27-7. The Cougars started the drive at the Utah 44 following a 10-yard punt from Ray Guy Award finalist Mitch Wishnowsky.
Utah finally put together a successful drive late in the third quarter. The Utes scored their first offensive touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Shelley to Samson Nacua with 40 seconds remaining in the quarter. After a 15-yard punt by Rhett Almond. Utah narrowed the deficit further to 27-21 on a 2-yard run from Armand Shyne.
BYU now awaits their bowl destination, while the Utes will take on Washington in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night in Santa Clara, California.
“Playing in a Pac-12 championship is something we have had our sights set on,” said linebacker Chase Hansen. “We wanted the rivalry win but we have had our sights set on next week’s game for a long time and that is the one we really want.”