PROVO, Utah -- The Holy War continues to remain a lopsided affair in favor of the Utes, but just as it has so many times since the turn of the century, the BYU-Utah rivalry came down to the final drive.
Despite a third straight lackluster showing by Tanner Mangum to start the season, the junior quarterback still had a shot to guide the Cougars to an improbable comeback at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night, only to watch his receivers drop two catchable balls in the final minute, securing a 19-13 victory for Kyle Whittingham and Utah.
Tyler Huntley threw for 300 yards in his second start running new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor’s new offense, but for the most part was contained by BYU’s defense.
Mangum was picked by Boobie Hobbs deep in BYU territory on the Cougar’s second drive of the game. Hobbs returned it to the five, though the Utes were held to a field goal for a 3-0 first quarter lead.
BYU came into the game without a touchdown in six straight quarters dating back to the first half against Portland State. Mangum found Taylor Shumway in the end zone to start the second quarter, but it was called back due to an offensive interference penalty away from the ball.
And to make matters worse, Rhett Almond missed a 28-yard field goal to deny the Cougars any points at all on the drive.
Huntley ended the half with a couple of red zone opportunities, but was unable to score on either drive, leading to two more Matt Gay field goals, and the Utes led 9-0 at the half.
Out of the locker room, the turnover bug hit Mangum again. First on their opening drive of the half at the line of scrimmage by Filipo Mokofisi, leading to Utah’s only touchdown of the game, a 5-yard keeper up the middle by Huntley to lift the road team out in front 16-0.
But then the sophomore made a big mistake, fumbling the football at Utah’s own 22. It was a play that gave the Cougars a spark. That allusive touchdown came six plays later after Ula Tolutau rammed it up the gut from 1-yard out. The 2-point conversion try failed, but BYU was on the board at 16-6.
With Utah later up 19-6, Kyle Whittingham faced a fourth and one situation at BYU’s 19-yard line, but made a decision he would later come to regret. Instead of letting Gay kick a fifth field goal, he elected to go for it when BYU’s defense dropped Zach Moss back for a 5-yard loss.
It was a play that led to Mangum later scrambling and finding Trey Dye with 2:38 left in the game to get the Cougars to within just six points at 19-13.
If Kalani Sitake has seen a bright spot through three games this season, it’s been his defense, which then held the Utes to a three and out, giving Mangum an opportunity to make Cougar fans forget all about the LSU shutout loss from the week before.
The Eagle, Idaho native had 1:29 to march 91 yards for the win, but on their very first play, Aleva Hifo dropped a first down ball. And then on third down, Beau Tanner couldn’t hang on to a Mangum pass that would have moved the chains as well.
After a failed fourth down pass, the Utes knew they had survived. Mangum finished 21 of 39 for 170 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
Whittingham has now guided the Utes to seven straight victories dating back to 2010. Since 1997, 17 of the 20 Holy War bouts have been decided by a touchdown or less, and this year was no different.
Utah (2-0) will look to complete a perfect regular season next week when they host San Jose State. BYU (1-2) has another tough test with 9th ranked Wisconsin scheduled to visit Provo.