OREM — Big plays and momentum swings marked Friday night's clash between Provo and Orem, but the biggest play belonged to the Bulldogs.
After Provo gave up a two-touchdown lead in the second half, Austin Alder scored the winning touchdown on a 58-yard reverse run down the sidelines with 1:37 to play in the game, and the Bulldogs held on to beat the Tigers 23-17.
Provo fans will remember Alder's run as more then just a game-winning play, however. After suffering a long streak of defeats and disappointments on the gridiron, the run seemed put an exclamation point on the resurgence of the Provo football team.
The victory over a team that was touted as one of the toughest in the state was well received by the Bulldog fans — several dozen of whom rushed onto the field and swarmed the team as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"This is the first step towards winning region, right here," said Provo quarterback Warner Jarman. "We just came in and put four quarters of football together. It was awesome."
Provo consistently ran the ball right at the Tigers all game long and, despite Orem's reputation as a tough team to beat in the trenches, managed to control the tempo and led for most of the contest.
The Bulldogs went ahead in the second quarter on a fake field goal from the 27-yard line.
Taylor King took the snap and rolled out to his right before throwing to a wide-open Ian Sullivan in the corner of the end zone with 3:36 left in the first half.
Orem answered on its next drive, with Jason Golightly completing consecutive long passes to set up a 25-yard Nate Killpack field goal just before the end of the half.
Provo received the kickoff to open up the second half and proceeded to march 80 yards down the field to score again.
Jarman broke free on a bootleg and outran the defense down the sidelines for a 53-yard score with 9:34 left in the third quarter that made the score 13-3.
After the Bulldogs held Orem on three plays, Provo moved the ball into field goal range and went up 16-3 on a 38-yard kick by Mike Laws.
Momentum finally swung in Orem's favor on the ensuing kickoff, when Jake Balser fielded the ball at the 4-yard line, broke through a seam and found a clear path to the end zone.
Provo was forced to punt minutes later, and Bryan Gonzales made another huge special teams play, returning the kick to the Provo 37-yard line.
After the return, Orem pushed the ball inside the 20 and converted a fourth-down play before going ahead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Golightly to Balser, making the score 17-16 with 5:55 remaining in the game.
Jarman threw an interception on Provo's next possession, but Orem couldn't pick up a first down and had to punt the ball back, setting up Alder's run.
"I was thinking, 'Here it is. This is a TD' " said Alder. "I knew we'd come back."
Alder finished the game with 117 yards rushing on nine carries. Jarman had 88 yards rushing and 37 yards passing.