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This story ran in The Salt Lake Tribune 11/28/2010
The Utah Utes must be living right. How else to explain their 17-16 come-from-behind victory against rival BYU on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium?
In a rivalry that has featured numerous twists, turns and unpredictable plays, Saturday's last clash between the two teams as conference foes featured one "you gotta be kidding me" play after another.
The last of those plays was Brandon Burton's block of a 42-yard field-goal attempt as time expired. Burton curled around the left edge of the Utah line, got his hand on the ball and sent it sailing harmlessly away.
"I always come from the right side, but the coaches called for a left block," Burton said. "I put my head down and laid out. I felt something sting my hand. I thought it was just the cold, at first, then realized it was the ball. I laid there because I knew we'd won the game."
Utah's celebration of one of its unlikeliest wins against the Cougars started even before the ball hit the turf.
Fans poured onto the field as players from both sides looked on in disbelief. The Cougars wasted a 13-0 advantage as they self-destructed with four turnovers in the game, while Utah's offense, inept for three quarters, put 17 points on the board in the final 15 minutes to get the win.
Utah probably earned a spot in the Dec. 22 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas with the win, since TCU will go to a BCS bowl.
A postseason showing in Vegas would be a nice prize, but it won't overshadow the simple satisfaction of beating the hated Cougars, the Utes said.
If Burton hadn't blocked the field goal, the Utes' senior class, the winningest in school history, would have finished their regular seasons with a 41-10 record with three of those losses coming to the Cougars.
"It feels great to be on the other side, just to give it to them the way they've been giving it to us," defensive lineman Sealver Siliga said. "I'm happy for all the seniors who got to play. We get to kiss them goodbye with a win, and we are state champs this year."
Utah's offense, so explosive a week ago in a come-from-behind 38-34 win at San Diego State, never found ways to exploit the Cougars on Saturday.
Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, who finished 13-of-30 for 199 yards and an interception, struggled so much in the first half that he was replaced by senior Terrance Cain.
Cain was even worse, throwing two interceptions in his brief appearance.
The run game struggled, too, with the Utes rushing for just 89 yards on 28 carries.
So how did the Utah manage to overcome the Cougars? With a few great plays and several lucky ones.
After Joe Phillips made a 40-yard field goal at the beginning of the final quarter, a fumble on BYU's next possession was recovered by Utah's Junior Tui'one.
On the next play, Wynn threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to DeVonte Christopher that the sophomore snagged after it was tipped.
The Utes earned their first lead of the day on a bizarre series of plays, as Wynn was intercepted by BYU's Brandon Bradley, who then fumbled during his return. Utah's Kendrick Moeai recovered the ball on BYU's 38-yard line with 5:45 remaining.
Two plays later, Utah's Matt Asiata ran in from 3 yards out to put the Utes ahead with 4:21 left.
BYU drove from its 21-yard line to the Utes' 25, where a sure BYU win was smacked away by Burton on the field-goal attempt as time expired.
"The last play was sheer will," Burton said. "I knew we needed to make a play and block the field goal, and my number was called."
After the game, Whittingham joked that he was rubbing his lucky dimes together during the final plays. Luck and just the wild nature of the game mixed in with some hard work from his players was the only way he could explain the fourth-quarter turn of events.
"That is football," he said. "The way this series has gone, with so many dramatic events, it's just another chapter in the story."
R In short • The Utes score 17 points in the final quarter to overcome the Cougars in the teams' last meeting as conference foes.
Key moment • Utah's Brandon Burton blocks a game-winning field-goal attempt as time expires.
Key stat • The teams combine for 154 rushing yards on 65 carries and were just 10 of 30 combined on third-down conversions in the defensive battle. No. 23 Utah 17,BYU 16
BYU 3 3 7 3 16
Utah 0 0 0 17 17
BYU • FG Payne 43, 4:34.
BYU • FG Payne 37, :02.
BYU • Jacobson 21 pass from Heaps (Payne kick), 4:51.
Utah • FG Phillips 40, 14:56.
Utah • Christopher 37 pass from Wynn (Phillips kick), 13:46.
BYU • FG Payne 42, 7:38.
Utah • M. Asiata 3 run (Phillips kick), 4:24.
Attendance • 45,272.
First downs 19 14
Rushes-yards 37-65 28-89
Passing 228 207
Comp-Att-Int 22-37-1 15-37-3
Return Yards 87 2
Punts-Avg. 4-41.0 6-35.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 2-20 3-40
Time of Possession 32:32 27:28
Rushing • BYU, Kariya 14-36, Quezada 12-30, Di Luigi 7-14, Heaps 4-(minus 15). Utah, Wide 18-73, M. Asiata 8-23, Wynn 2-(minus 7).
Passing • BYU, Heaps 22-37-1-228. Utah, Wynn 13-30-1-199, Cain 2-7-2-8.
Receiving • BYU, Jacobson 7-92, Kariya 4-29, Hoffman 3-22, Mahina 2-32, Ashworth 2-12, Z. Mendenhall 2-12, Holt 1-17, Di Luigi 1-12. Utah, Brooks 3-72, Smithson 3-35, Rogers 2-38, Matthews 2-10, Wide 2-5, Christopher 1-37, M. Asiata 1-6, S. Asiata 1-4.
Conference All Games
W L PF PA W L PF PA
TCU 8 0 342 75 12 0 520 137
Utah 7 1 273 156 10 2 427 238
BYU 5 3 226 148 6 6 288 257
Air Force 5 3 242 191 8 4 387 267
SDSU 5 3 267 218 8 4 420 273
Colo. St. 2 6 143 276 3 9 198 416
UNLV 2 6 154 293 2 10 218 457
Wyoming 1 7 169 244 3 9 230 364
New Mex. 1 7 139 354 1 11 190 532
Utah 17, BYU 16
TCU 66, New Mexico 17
San Diego St. 48, UNLV 14