Senior captains Dennis Pitta (L) and Max Hall (R) celebrate BYU's 26-23 season-ending win over rival Utah on Saturday (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
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PROVO -- BYU senior quarterback Max Hall split two defenders, hitting senior tight end Andrew George up the middle in overtime as BYU defeated rival Utah, 26-23, in front of 64,301 fans Saturday on senior night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Wearing throwback jerseys for the first time in program history in honor of the 1984 Cougar squad that won the national championship 25 years ago, 19 seniors earned redemption from a loss to Utah last season, walking out with the stadium's 200th win.
"It was just a phenomenal football game," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "There were two teams playing as hard as they could play. Both programs care about the rivalry and the fans certainly do. To come down to an overtime play is the perfect scenario for a good college rivalry."
Down 20-6, Utah scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before kicking a field goal in the Utes' first possession in OT. After a five-yard run by Hall was nullified due to an illegal motion penalty, the senior quarterback slipped a pass right between two diving Utes. George hauled in the pass, turning to find himself with nothing but open field 25 yards for the game-winning score.
Hall, a senior, threw two touchdown passes and zero interceptions, going 12-for-32 for 134 yards. George finished with two catches for 43 yards.
"I'm really happy for our seniors," Mendenhall said. "I couldn't be more proud of them and the work they've done. I'm very fortunate to have been their coach."
After three field goals to open the game, two by Utah and one by BYU, punt returner O'Neill Chambers lit a fire on the Cougar side with a 43-yard punt return, breaking tackles before cutting all the way down to the Utah 7-yard line.
Two plays later, junior running back Harvey Unga rammed through a 2-yard touchdown, his eleventh on the season. Unga rushed for 117 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the year and becoming the first Cougar to ever do so for three straight seasons.
After each team exchanged punts, sophomore linebacker Jordan Pendleton sacked Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn to bring up third-and-24 for the Utes. Wynn, hurried on the ensuing play, threw an errant pass to BYU safety Andrew Rich. Rich returned the pick, his team-leading fourth on the season, 52 yards all the way down to the Utah 23.
"We were playing cover two," Rich said. "I watched the quarterback and eyed him down and was able to make the play."
On the second play of the Cougar drive, senior tight end Dennis Pitta caught his 216th career reception, passing former wide receiver Austin Collie as BYU's all-time leader in career receptions.
Mitch Payne capped the drive off with a score, sending a 37-yard kick through the uprights for the 13-6 lead. Payne previously hit a 28-yarder in addition to becoming the MWC career-leader in PATs with two in the game, passing his brother Matt for the record.
The BYU defense held up Utah's offense, holding Utah to 1-of-7 on third-down conversions and just nine rushing yards on 12 carries in the first half. For the game, Utah converted just 4-of-18 third downs.
"They battled hard and we battled hard," Rich said. "It just came down to making plays and having heart."
BYU drove 66 yards on its first play out of the halftime break, scoring on a 1-yard pass from Hall to a wide open Manase Tonga on the sixth play of the drive. Two plays previous, a supposed fumble by Unga was overturned upon review, maintaining possession for the Cougars.
BYU would not score for the rest of the second half, but the Cougar defense kept the Utes at bay, allowing just one touchdown and three field goals.
"I think in a defensive struggle, with field position so critical, holding Utah to field goals the majority of the time was one of the key elements of the game," Mendenhall said.
Utah kicker Joe Phillips' fifth successful kick came with 29 seconds left in the game, a 29-yarder that sent the game into the rivalry's second overtime ever.
George, Pitta, Tonga and McKay Jacobson caught two passes apiece to lead the Cougars. Brandon Bradley led BYU with 11 tackles, eight unassisted, while Matt Bauman and Brian Logan recorded seven and six tackles, respectively.
Box Score (Final)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 OT Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -- -----
Utah................ 6 0 0 14 3 - 23 Record: (9-3,6-2)
BYU................. 0 13 7 0 6 - 26 Record: (10-2,7-1)
1st 11:16 UU - PHILLIPS, Joe 39 yd field goal, 6-33 2:14, UU 3 - BY 0
06:13 UU - PHILLIPS, Joe 21 yd field goal, 8-54 4:32, UU 6 - BY 0
2nd 14:47 BY - PAYNE, Mitch 28 yd field goal, 17-52 6:22, UU 6 - BY 3
06:43 BY - UNGA, Harvey 2 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 2-7 0:52, UU 6 - BY 10
00:04 BY - PAYNE, Mitch 37 yd field goal, 6-3 0:35, UU 6 - BY 13
3rd 10:11 BY - TONGA, Manase 1 yd pass from HALL, Max (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 6-66 2:14, UU 6 - BY 20
4th 14:49 UU - PHILLIPS, Joe 31 yd field goal, 9-40 2:45, UU 9 - BY 20
07:16 UU - WIDE, Eddie 1 yd run (REED, David pass from WYNN, Jordan), 8-37 3:27, UU 17 - BY 20
00:29 UU - PHILLIPS, Joe 40 yd field goal, 7-44 2:22, UU 20 - BY 20
OT 00:00 UU - PHILLIPS, Joe 29 yd field goal, 10-0 0:29, UU 23 - BY 20
00:00 BY - GEORGE, Andrew 25 yd pass from HALL, Max, 10-0 0:29, UU 23 - BY 26
FIRST DOWNS................... 17 14
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 30-97 36-131
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 201 134
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 45-22-1 32-12-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 75-298 68-265
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 5-67 5-63
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 3-78 3-49
Interception Returns-Yards.... 0-0 1-52
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 7-41.6 9-41.9
Fumbles-Lost.................. 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards............... 12-113 7-60
Possession Time............... 31:00 29:00
Third-Down Conversions........ 4 of 18 6 of 18
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 1 of 1 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 3-3 4-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 4-40 2-19
RUSHING: Utah-WIDE, Eddie 21-114; WYNN, Jordan 6-minus 1; SMITHSON, Shaky
2-minus 2; REED, David 1-minus 14. BYU-UNGA, Harvey 23-116; HALL, Max 11-19;
TONGA, Manase 2-minus 4.
PASSING: Utah-WYNN, Jordan 21-41-1-198; SMITHSON, Shaky 1-4-0-3.
BYU-HALL, Max 12-32-0-134.
RECEIVING: Utah-KEY, Aiona 10-85; REED, David 5-66; BROOKS, Jereme 5-26;
SMITHSON, Shaky 1-24; WIDE, Eddie 1-0. BYU-GEORGE, Andrew 2-43; PITTA, Dennis
2-31; JACOBSON, McKay 2-20; TONGA, Manase 2-8; DI LUIGI, JJ 2-7; HAFOKA, Spencer
1-13; CHAMBERS, O'Nei 1-12.
INTERCEPTIONS: Utah-None. BYU-RICH, Andrew 1-52.
FUMBLES: Utah-None. BYU-UNGA, Harvey 1-0.
SACKS (UA-A): Utah-GAISON, Kepa 1-0; MISI, Koa 1-0; SYLVESTER, Stev 1-0;
COX, Christian 1-0. BYU-JORGENSEN, Jan 1-0; PENDLETON, Jord 1-0.
TACKLES (UA-A): Utah-WRIGHT, Mike 4-7; SYLVESTER, Stev 4-4; DALE, Joe
3-2; FOTU, Nai 3-1; JOHNSON, Robert 2-2; MISI, Koa 1-3; STANFORD, R.J. 3-0;
BURTON, Brandon 3-0; COX, Christian 2-1; TALAMAIVAO, Lei 1-2; KRUGER, Dave 2-0;
WESSON, Elijah 2-0; CHAPMAN, Lamar 1-1; TAPLIN-ROSS, Ju 1-1; GAISON, Kepa 1-1;
MATTHEWS, Luke 1-0; WILLIAMS, JJ 1-0; ANDERSEN, Boo 1-0; KING, Jamel 1-0; KEY,
Aiona 1-0; SILIGA, Sealver 0-1. BYU-BRADLEY, Brando 8-3; BAUMAN, Matt 3-4;
LOGAN, Brian 6-0; RICH, Andrew 4-2; CLAWSON, Coleby 3-2; JORGENSEN, Jan 3-2;
JOHNSON, Scott 2-3; DENNEY, Brett 1-4; PENDLETON, Jord 2-2; DOMAN, Shawn 1-3;
BILLS, Craig 1-1; NELSON, Grant 1-1; OGLETREE, Brand 0-2; MARSHALL, Matt 1-0;
EASON, Corby 1-0; FUGA, Romney 1-0; THOMAS, Steven 1-0; HUNTER, Shane 0-1;
TIALAVEA, Russe 0-1; MORGAN, Blake 0-1.