Another football season is now past. BYU and Utah have fought another battle in their epic in-state rivalry. This game had major bowl implications and bragging rights on the line.
As we look to what happened on Saturday night, what can BYU fans take from the stinging 48-24 loss?
As a very loyal BYU fan, I would have to say that all credit should be given to this very well-coached Ute team. They showed great poise and patience during the whole game and never allowed the emotion of the game get to them.
For three quarters this game seemed to be on course to follow in the footsteps of the past three games in the series, where the outcome was not decided until the last play.
However, in the fourth quarter, Utah did what they have done all season long. They stepped up and made the plays necessary to pull away for the win.
Their defense was smothering, forcing quarterback Max Hall into a season-worst five interceptions to go along with one fumble. These turnovers helped Utah pull away and balloon their lead to 48-24.
This looked very different from last year's game. I watched it over again and found that Max Hall had been given plenty of time to find receivers all game long. Apparently Utah had watched the film too, concentrating on shaking Hall's rhythm.
Brian Johnson also played like his predecessor, Alex Smith. Throwing for 303 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions helped him pick up his first win in the series as a starter.
It just seemed that whatever BYU brought before this Ute team, they had an answer and then some. They had the experience and maturity that BYU has lacked during the season.
I feel it's just a shame that although the Utes will end up in a BCS bowl again this year, they won't get the shot to prove themselves in the national title game. This team shows enough resilience to stand up against teams like Alabama and Texas.
BYU may be disappointed about how this season has turned out. But this is a very young team. This season can be a lesson and a building block for the seasons to come.
There's nothing to be ashamed of for having three straight 10-2 seasons. This year the two losses came against quality opponents who were well-prepared and executed better.
Everyone who watched this team knows there isn't really a problem with the offense. The dynamic group of Max Hall, Harvey Unga, Austin Collie, and Dennis Pitta provided the Cougars with enough weapons to shoot it out with their opponents.
However, where this team needs to develop more is their defense. They have the players with talent. There just seemed to be a lack of execution.
Given Coach Mendenhall's defensive tendencies, one can only hope that these problems are fixed for the 2009 season.
Cougar fans, don't fret. We may not have finished the "Quest for Perfection." We may not have won the conference title. Most of all, we may have lost to our rival, but in the end they were the better team.
But this team can develop itself into something truly great. Maybe sometime in the next few seasons we'll see ourselves on the other side, going into the BCS.
For now, though, let's prepare for our bowl and cheer for the Utes as they represent our conference on a national stage!
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