In one of the higher profile weekends in recent Utah Utes history, Utah went 2-for-2, with the men’s basketball team beating #7 Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the football team beating BYU in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
The Runnin’ Utes (9-2) avenged this spring’s Sweet Sixteen loss to the Duke Blue Devils (9-2) Saturday morning with a 77-75 overtime win in the Big Apple.
Jakob Poeltl continued to be a force for the Utes, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out late in overtime. Kyle Kuzma scored 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, grabbing eight rebounds. Matt Jones led the Blue Devils starters with 18 points, but freshman Luke Kennard scored 24 points, including making 12-of-13 from the free throw line.
Utah held seemingly comfortable leads late against the Blue Devils, but 19 total Ute turnovers kept Duke in the game. Neither team scored in the last 1:50 of regulation to force overtime at 60-60.
Utah led by as much as six in the extra period, but Kennard scored 10 of Duke’s last 12 points to put Duke within two. With a chance to tie or win with three seconds left, Brandon Ingram missed a layup, which Kuzma rebounded to seal the Utes’ upset of the Blue Devils.
As the Runnin’ Utes were wrapping up a victory on the east coast, the Las Vegas Bowl pregame tailgate and festivities were under way in the Nevada desert.
The Utes (10-3, 6-3 Pac-12) started the game better than even the most optimistic Ute fans could have imagined. Forcing turnovers on BYU’s (9-4) first five possessions, the Utes found the end zone five times in the first 11:22 of the first quarter to take a seemingly insurmountable 35-0 lead.
That ended up being the last of the scoring for the Utes, who amassed only 128 offensive yards in the final three quarters. BYU refused to crumble, chipping back at the Utes’ lead, scoring a touchdown in each of the second and third quarters, and 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Cougar quarterback Tanner Mangum finished with 315 yards passing for two touchdowns, three interceptions and a lost fumble. Travis Wilson fought to find receivers downfield under constant pressure from the BYU defensive line, led by senior Bronson Kaufusi. Wilson finished with only 71 yards on nine completions. In contrast, Mangum’s interceptions to Utah were returned for 107 yards, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
After holding BYU scoreless in their first nine drives, the Utah defense allowed the Cougars to score four touchdowns in their final five possessions. Utah’s final eight offensive non-half-ending drives ended with punts or turnovers-on-downs. But Wilson, the offensive line, and running back Joe Williams came up big when it mattered most, with Utah burning out over three minutes in seven plays to end the game.
Utah won its fifth straight game over the Cougars in Las Vegas, to finish the season with a 10-3 overall record, the best finish since joining the Pac-12.
Kyle Whittingham Postgame:
Andy Hill Postgame: