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Rivalry twist: Cougs must rally to win

SHARE Rivalry twist: Cougs must rally to win

Midway through the third quarter of BYU's game Saturday against Utah, the Cougars found themselves in unfamiliar territory.

When the Utes scored on a 57-yard touchdown pass with 8:24 remaining in the third quarter, it marked the first time the Cougars had trailed since falling at Boston College on Sept. 16.

For the first time in nine games, and 34 quarters, BYU was forced to rally. And rally it did — twice — en route to a dramatic 33-31 victory.

"Our games haven't been this close in a while," said running back Curtis Brown. "You try to picture it, but you can't."

Earlier this season, BYU lost close games on the road at Arizona and Boston College. Over the next eight weeks, the Cougars were blowing out their opponents, until Saturday.

BYU was down 24-14 going into the fourth quarter before exploding for 19 points in the final period.

"It was the most we had been down all year. It was interesting. A lot of people were questioning," said linebacker Bryan Kehl. "The leaders stepped up and there was a surge of faith and hope. We needed to have a comeback. We needed to have a come-from-behind, close win on the last play of the game."

OFFENSIVE WOES: BYU's offense started quickly, jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Then, the Cougar offense sputtered during the second and third quarters. During the second quarter, QB John Beck went 0-for-6 passing and the Cougars were limited to minus-12 yards of total offense.

"They were able to make us throw it on time and they covered us well enough," said Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall. "For a long stretch, they kept us on our heels. Finally, our offense recovered. A strong first quarter and a strong fourth quarter. In between, (Utah) started claiming the second and third quarters."

NOT-SO-SPECIAL TEAMS: BYU made big strides this year in the kicking game, but committed two mistakes in that area Saturday.

The Utes executed a fake punt that led to their first touchdown in the second quarter when punter Louie Sakoda ran for 18 yards and a first down.

"The fake punt changed the momentum of the entire game," said Mendenhall, who added that he had a feeling the Utes would fake punt in that situation. "I could have left the defense out and go safe punt, but we sent our punt return unit on, telling them, 'Fake first.' And it still worked. If I had to do it again, I would have left our defense out there."

In the fourth, Utah blocked an extra point. "That part of the game (special teams) was won by Utah," Mendenhall said.

MEIKLE OUT: Wide receiver/punt return specialist Nathan Meikle did not play due to a hamstring injury.

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com