SALT LAKE CITY – In a game that saw nine total turnovers, BYU football’s comeback fell short on a failed two-point conversion to drop the game 20-19 at Utah in the Deseret First Duel on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In the Cougars' final drive, Taysom Hill marched down the field with big receptions from Jonah Trinnaman, Nick Kurtz and Mitchell Juergens. With 18 seconds left, Hill rushed 7-yards for the touchdown. BYU went for two to try to secure a win, but Hill and the comeback was stopped short after Hill slipped one tackle but not the next and was dropped shy of the goal line.
BYU (1-1) has now lost six games in a row to rival Utah (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12). Despite forcing the Utes to turn the ball over six times, the Cougars were only able to score 13 points off of turnovers. Utah managed just seven point off of three BYU interceptions.
Hill completed 21 of 39 passes for 176 yards with two interceptions. He also rushed for 87 yards to lead the Cougars and both of BYU's touchdowns. Juergens led the receiving core with eight catches for 52 yards.
On defense, Butch Pau’u led BYU in total tackles with nine, including four solo. Kai Nacua had two interceptions to go along with his two tackles before he was ejected in the third quarter on a targeting call. Francis Bernard filled out the stat sheet with eight tackles, one interception, one pass breakup and one forced fumble.
The first quarter saw three turnovers between the teams. On the first offensive play of the game, Hill’s pass to Aleva Hifo was tipped off of Hifo’s fingers right into the arms of a Utah defender. The interception was returned 42 yards for a touchdown with just 14:44 on the clock.
The second turnover came on Utah’s first offensive play when the ball was fumbled, recovered by Nacua at the 13:01 mark. The Cougars took advantage of the fumble. On fourth and long with the field goal team on the field, Juergens, the holder, threw to an open Corbin Kaufusi rolling out for the first down. However, BYU would still settle for the field goal. Jake Oldroyd hit a 43-yarder straight through the uprights, making it 7-3 with 9:44 on the clock.
On the Utes’ next offensive possession, they had two-straight first down receptions before Harvey Langi forced a fumble, which was recovered by Dayan Lake. Oldroyd hit another field goal for the Cougars, this time from 42 yards. BYU was down by one, 7-6, with 5:05 to play in the first quarter.
Turnovers continued to be the trend in the second quarter. Nacua picked off Utah quarterback Troy Williams with 13:57 on the clock. However, the offense was unable to take advantage of the interception and Jonny Linehan punted the ball away.
Nacua intercepted Troy Williams again, this time in the end zone to stop a potential Utah touchdown. The BYU offense came alive in the drive with two gains over 10 yards from Moroni Laulu-Pututau and Jamaal Williams. After faking a handoff to Williams, Hill rushed out to the left, found space and rushed 39 yards along the sideline for the touchdown and the lead. With 4:06 left in the half, the Cougars were up 13-7 following the PAT.
Utah took back the lead with 17 seconds left in the first half after a 21-yard reception by Tim Patrick scored the touchdown. BYU was down by just one, 14-13, heading into the locker room at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Utes struck first. Andy Phillips kicked a 47-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17-13 with 7:53 on the clock.
A defender hit Hill's arm before he got the pass off, resulting in a fumble recovered by the Utes. BYU’s defense came out strong to get a three and out, bringing back out the Cougar offense. However, Hill threw another interception with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter for his third pick of the game.
During Utah’s drive at the end of the third quarter, many penalties and personal fouls were handed out. Nacua was ejected for targeting, which was followed by Kalani Sitake being issued a personal foul after arguing with an official. On the next play, Bernard intercepted Utah’s Troy Williams with 2:11 left in the third with a one-handed grab, but on the same play, defensive back Austin McChesney was also ejected for targeting.
BYU went three and out on its ensuing drive. Rhett Almond came in to punt pinned in the end zone and Utah muffed the catch and Michael Davis recovered it with 44 seconds left in the quarter to get the offense back on the field. However, the Cougars went three and out once again, bringing out Linehan to punt the ball away.
Utah started its drive with 14:08 on the clock in the fourth quarter. The Utes marched down the field, their drive spanning over 11 minutes. The Cougar defense was limited them to a 29-yard field goal and keeping BYU's chances alive with a one-score game at 20-13 with 2:47 to play.
The Cougars’ final drive resulted in a touchdown, but the team’s attempted two-point conversion failed. BYU fell on the road 20-19.
BYU will hold its home opener against UCLA on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 8:15 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast live on either ESPN or ESPN2 and will be live on the Cougar IMG Sports Network, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and BYU Radio –Sirius XM 143.