Holy War: BYU gambles on two-point conversion, loses 20-19 to Utah

Seventeen of the last 22 games in the Holy War have been decided by seven points or less. So not surprisingly, Saturday’s contest between BYU and Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium went down to the final seconds once again.

With the Utes leading 20-13 and with just under three minutes left in the game, BYU senior quarterback Taysom Hill drove the Cougars the length of the field which was capped off by his seven-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 20-19 with just 18 seconds left in the game.

With running back Jamaal Williams injured and two defensive player ejected due to very questionable targeting calls, BYU first-year head coach Kalani Sitake decided to go for the win on a two-point conversion.

Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer dialed up a quarterback draw play for Hill. But the senior ran right into a blitz as both Utah linebackers stuffed the run. Hill managed to get by two defenders, but couldn’t get by the two others as he came up a yard short.

“Yeah, I’d do it again. I told the guys if we score a touchdown we’d go for two and to just stay on the field,” Sitake said of the two-point conversion attempt. “If you noticed, when we scored the touchdown, nobody ran off to the side. We planned on scoring and we did. We planned on going for two. Utah made a play and we didn’t.”

Utah’s Sunia Tauteoli led the tough Utah defense with two interceptions to give the Utes a 20-19 home victory and its sixth consecutive win over their rivals BYU.

Utah quarterback Troy Williams had his worst outing as a Ute as he passed for 194 yards passing with one touchdown, but had three interceptions. Starting running back Joe Williams was benched for a period of time also after fumbling the ball in the first quarter. He wasn’t alone, as Utah fumbled a total of six times, losing three.

“I told them after the game we dodged a bullet because you’re not going to win many games against quality opponents turning the ball over six times,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “It’s just not going to happen.

“My stomach was churning pretty good tonight. I was thinking on the sideline, `Am I getting an ulcer?”

Back-to-back questionable calls on BYU defenders Kai Nacua and Austin McChesney was the turning point in the game. Nacua leveled Utah receiver Demari Simpkins across the middle of the field, jarring the football loose. Nacua had been playing lights out with two interceptions on the day.

After Nacua was ejected, Sitake made his displeasure known as he came out onto the field and let the referees have it. Sitake was subsequently flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Utes first and 10 and the BYU 28-yard line.

But the Cougar defense — who played lights out all game long — came up big once again . Sophomore linebacker Francis Bernard picked off a pass on the following play to keep the Utes from extending a 17-13 lead.

“You know how I felt about it (those calls),” Sitake said afterwards. “That’s the way the game of football is. I’m proud of the guys that came in and played and I’m proud of the guys that answered back and were able to make this a one-point game.”

Special Guests: Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker was on the BYU sideline Saturday night. Parker, tossed the football around before the game and was heavily recruited by BYU before playing one season at Duke and being selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

Recruits: According to reports, 20 of the top in-state recruits were in attendance Saturday. Notable players were: Bingham’s Jay Tufele, Timpview’s Chaz Ah You, Layton’s Tayler Katoa and Brighton’s Sione Lund.

Next Opponent

UTAH: The Utes will travel to San Jose State for their final nonconference game of the regular season. Utah will then open Pac-12 play against USC at home Sept. 23.

BYU: The Cougars schedule doesn’t get any easier with UCLA at home in the Cougars’ first home game of the season. The following week, BYU will take on Big 12 member West Virginia at FedExField — home of the Washington Redskins.