Saturday, December 19, 2015

Utah: 2015 Las Vegas Bowl Champions

It was 35 years ago to the day that BYU trailed SMU 45-25 with only four minutes remaining in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. On that day, Jim McMahon and the Cougars responded with 21 points in the final 240 seconds to win 46-45 in one of the most memorable bowl games in college football history.
In 2015, the Cougars came up just a bit short in their comeback attempt.
Thanks to five BYU turnovers on their first five possessions of the game, the Cougars fell behind Utah 35-0 in the first 11 minutes as Utah turned each turnover into a touchdown -- two directly via pick sixes. The deficit proved to be seven points too many for the Cougars.
Story of the game: It has to be the turnovers. Based on how the final three quarters of the game went, if not for the horrid start to the game, BYU probably wins this one. The fact of the matter is Utah's offense was not good on Saturday. Of the Utes touchdown drives, none of which occurred outside the first quarter, the longest was 39 yards. Utah only had one drive longer than that the entire game, and it ended with a turnover on downs early in the fourth quarter.
All in all, BYU actually out-gained Utah 386-197 in the game, as the Utes averaged only 3.1 yards per play. In essence, BYU handed Utah a 35-0 lead early, and then the Utes held on for dear life.
Player of the game: I'm actually going to go with Utah punter, and Ray Guy award winner, Tom Hackett. As I said, Utah's offense was basically non-existent during this game. If not for Hackett averaging 49.5 yards on his six punts -- three of which were over 50 yards, four of which pinned BYU inside its own 20-yard line -- the Cougars may have been able to pull off this comeback.
Oh, and then there was Hackett running this fake punt in the second half to pick up what seemed like a pivotal first down at the time. BYU had scored two touchdowns to open the half and steal all the momentum, and for a moment you thought this fake punt would put the final nail in BYU's coffin. It didn't, though, because Hackett then came off the field and was replaced by Utah's impotent offense.

Highlight of the game: This was the second BYU turnover, which is also the first pick-six. Utah's Tevin Carter snagged this ball out of the air after the deflection and took it 28 yards to the house.
Tweet of the game: There were a lot of good tweets during this game, particularly early when Utah jumped out to that 35-0 lead, but my favorite was actually a quote of something Brent Musberger said while calling the game.
Brent is a national treasure.
Grade: This game was a lot more exciting than anybody thought it would be after the first couple minutes of action, but even so, I just can't give it an "A." The fact is that while there was nearly an epic comeback, it's not like either team played very well. I mean, BYU did have five turnovers after all, and as I mentioned earlier, Utah's offense averaged only 3.1 yards per play. B+
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