After a tremendous first quarter in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl during which Utah led BYU 35-0 and the score seemed insurmountable, the Utes’ offense sputtered and their defense gave up big plays. The Cougars, burned by five first-quarter turnovers, charged back to make it a one-score game with 3½ minutes remaining.
However, the Utes' early domination gave them just enough cushion to hold on for a 35-28 win on Saturday.
What the win means for Utah: Utah can head into the offseason with some momentum, considering it is bringing home another bowl trophy. But coach Kyle Whittingham is going to be far from happy after his team laid a goose egg in the final three quarters of the season. He will need to do a lot of work in filling the spots of players who will be sorely missed next season (Travis Wilson, Tom Hackett, Britain Covey, Kenneth Scott, Gionni Paul, Jared Norris, among others) if the Utes want to stay relevant in a Pac-12 Conference that will be just as deep in 2016.
What the loss means for BYU: The Cougars move into an offseason of change. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will leave for Virginia, and Kalani Sitake -- the former defensive coordinator at Oregon State and Utah -- will take the reins of the BYU program. Quarterback Tanner Mangum will have to spend the entire season with the terrible taste of that bowl game's first quarter in his mouth while he waits for the next Holy War (Sept. 10, 2016) to try to create better BYU-Utah memories.
The game turned: In the second quarter. After Mangum’s first quarter (2-of-10 for 21 yards and three interceptions), he played a very efficient and strong game. Over the final three quarters, he threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns. This won’t be the game he remembers as his best of the season, but he did put the Cougars in position to make it a close ball game -- and a possible Hail Mary situation (think Nebraska and Boise State) -- late.
Stat of the game: The Utes’ 35 points in the first half were the most in any half of football for Utah this season. Their 76 offensive yards before halftime were also the fewest in any half of football for the Utes this season.
Uh, what? As expected, since it was a Las Vegas bowl game, the game provided a few colorful moments. A man in white Spandex shorts raced across the field in the second half. An Elvis impersonator sang during one TV timeout. A break dancing crew performed on a platform. And as expected in regard to the Vegas line, the contest did end up being a nail-biter.