LAS VEGAS -- The hotly anticipated Holy War in Sin City kicked off Saturday with a first quarter that was all Utah, as the Utes exploited five BYU turnovers to rack up a 35-0 lead early in the game. The Cougars, however, roared back into the game and scored 28 unanswered points to make the 2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl a close contest.
BYU had plenty on the line this time around, as the rivalry game is Bronco Mendenhall's final game with the Cougars before he leaves to coach at University of Virginia--and the game represented a chance for him to earn a milestone 100th win to cap off his 11 seasons in Provo.
BYU began the game with possession, but on the first third down of their opening drive a fumble gave Utah the ball in great field position. Utah took a 7-0 lead from that turnover.
On the very next play, Tanner Mangum threw an interception to Utah's Tevin Carter, who returned the ball 28 yards for a pick-6.
On the following drive, Carter again picked BYU off, returning the ball to the 1 yard line this time and setting up a quick Utah TD.
BYU couldn't catch a break, as their next drive also culminated in a defensive touchdown. This time, Dominique Hatfield intercepted the ball and returned it 46 yards for the score to make it 28-0 Utah with just under half of the first quarter left to play.
Another fumble from BYU set up Utah for another touchdown, and this time Travis Wilson capped off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars finally got a little traction on their next outing, managing to drive down the field far enough to attempt a field goal. The 44-yard try was a miss, however, and the score remained 35-0.
There was a lot of punting in the second quarter, but BYU finally found the end zone, scoring on a short pass from Tanner Mangum to Remington Peck to make it 35-7, a score that would hold up into halftime.
Things improved for BYU in the second half, as they scored three more unanswered touchdowns. The first came on a 10-yard run from Bernard early in the third quarter, and the second was the result of a Mangum pass to Nick Kurtz with 10:33 left in the contest--making the score 35-21 Utah.
BYU narrowed the gap to one possession on a drive that included a clutch 45-yard pass from Mangum to Blackmon to set the Cougars up with first and goal. Two plays later, Mangum rushed into the end zone to make it 35-28 Utah with 3:23 on the clock.
BYU kicked off, but the ball went out of bounds, setting up the Utes on the 35 yard line. Utah's offense held on to the ball as time expired, including converting on a critical 3rd-and-short, giving Utah the win. The victory gives Utah a 10-3 record overall on the year, while BYU finishes 9-4 on the season.