PROVO — This year’s edition of the BYU-Utah game featured, among many other things, an epic second-half meltdown by the Cougars, a strong first-half performance from a 19-year-old true freshman quarterback, and a gutsy effort by a senior defensive lineman playing in his final college game.
Yes, there was a lot to digest in the aftermath of the No. 17 Utes’ come-from-behind 35-27 victory over BYU Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium as the Cougars found yet another excruciating way to lose to their archrivals — for the eighth-straight time.
BYU (6-6) led 27-7 late in the third quarter, only to surrender 28 unanswered points to Utah over the final 15:40 of the game.
While jumping out to a 20-0 halftime lead, quarterback Zach Wilson showed poise, moxie and an ability to make plays by picking up key third downs and extending drives. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 137 yards with two touchdowns, and he ran seven times for 57 yards at that point.
“He’s a fighter. He went out, did his job, did all that he could, made plays when he should have been sacked,” said tight end Matt Bushman, who finished with six receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. “(Utah has) a really good defense. I’m proud of him. He’s a young guy, and it’s a tough atmosphere here.”
“Zach’s a warrior. The way he prepares, the way he takes coaching throughout the week and throughout the game,” said wide receiver Micah Simon. “He’s got a really bright future ahead of him. I’m excited for him.”
“For a true freshman to play like he did, in this type of environment, I thought he really stepped up,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “He had some good reads and some bad ones.”
Early in the third quarter, Wilson was intercepted by Julian Blackmon, who scored a 27-yard touchdown to cut Utah’s deficit to 20-7.
“That pick-six, that took some energy out of the sideline,” Bushman said. “We need to learn to control the lead and bounce back from that.”
Despite that setback, the Cougars increased their lead to 27-7 later in the period.
BYU’s offense pulled back on its aggressive approach, unlike the way it had been playing in the first half. The Cougars gained just 110 yards in the second half.