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3 takeaways from Utah’s 26-17 loss to BYU

BYU Cougars linebacker Keenan Pili (41), shown closing in on Utah quarterback Charlie Brewer, is out for the season with an ACL injury.
Utah Utes quarterback Charlie Brewer (12) slides down with Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Keenan Pili (41) moving in as BYU and Utah play an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Utah Utes saw their streak of nine straight wins over BYU snapped on Saturday night, as Jaren Hall and the Cougars beat the Utes 26-17 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Here are three takeaways from Utah’s loss:

Utah gives up too many third down conversions to BYU, falters on offense

Utah’s defense simply couldn’t get off the field on key third downs. BYU’s offense converted 11 of 19 third down opportunities, with a few on third-and-long situations. Time and time again, Hall extended BYU’s drives, either on the ground on through the air. Thanks in part to their third-down excellence, Cougars dominated the time of possession — and the game — possessing the ball for 10 more minutes than the Utes. Conversely, Utah’s offense was a dismal 2 of 9 on their third-down opportunities, killing some important drives.

BYU dominates the line of scrimmage and the run game

BYU controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game. The Cougars got to Charlie Brewer, ending up with two sacks. Meanwhile, the Utes didn’t get a single sack — a rarity for the rivalry game. Hall was never really rattled by Utah’s pass rush. BYU’s offensive line and running back Tyler Allgeier, especially, were fantastic. Allgeier rushed for 109 yards, oftentimes turning what looked to be a rush for no gain into 4 or 5 yards. Simply put, at times, BYU bullied Utah in the run game the same way that the Utes have become accustomed to doing to the Cougars.

Cougars win the turnover battle

Turnovers have been a key in Utah’s wins in the rivalry game. Entering Saturday’s game, the Utes forced 29 turnovers, compared to BYU forcing 14 Utah turnovers. Utah also returned nine of those turnovers for touchdowns. Turnovers are an instant momentum changer, and the Utes had two of them on their first two drives. BYU only scored three points off those two turnovers, but it made a huge impact in confidence for the Cougars to finally start a rivalry game on the plus-side of the turnover margin.

Meanwhile, Utah’s offense struggled for much of the game to sustain drives and get touchdowns. A turnover would have certainly swung momentum Utah’s way, but BYU played a clean game, and Utah’s defense couldn’t get the game-changing turnover they got in past wins.