BYU-Utah Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 11, 2012
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his team feel bad for Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, but they know they still have a game to play. Looking at video of last season's loss to the Utes should provide more than enough motivation for the 25th-ranked Cougars. BYU goes for its first 3-0 start in four seasons Saturday night in Salt Lake City, where Utes coach Kyle Whittingham will hand the offense over to senior Jon Hays or true freshman Travis Wilson. Having climbed into the Top 25 following last Saturday's 45-13 victory over FCS opponent Weber State, the Cougars (2-0) have a chance to open with three straight wins for the first time since a 6-0 start to 2008. While BYU is in its second year as an independent and Utah (1-1) opens its second Pac-12 schedule next week against Arizona State, the Cougars would like nothing more than to defeat their longtime Mountain West and WAC rival in the Desert Duel Rivalry Game. There are still plenty of bad feelings and bruised egos after last season's 54-10 home loss to Utah, but the Cougars still feel for Wynn, who decided to walk away from the game for good this week instead of facing a fourth shoulder surgery. Wynn took his final collegiate snap in a 27-20 overtime loss at Utah State last Friday, getting knocked out with 1:04 left in the second quarter. "He's battled and come back, battled and come back, battled and come back," Mendenhall told BYU's official website. "It's hard. I'm sure that's hard for him." The Cougars will try to make it difficult for Hays, who went 6-3 last season after Wynn suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury, or an 18-year-old freshman with three collegiate passes. "It's not any different for us," BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree said. "They didn't really change their offense when the two quarterbacks came into the game that we could tell so our preparation is going to remain the same no matter who plays." Wilson is still expected to see time under center even if Whittingham gives the nod to Hays, who completed 12 of 26 for 154 yards with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Scott last week. "We don't think we have to reel things in and modify what we're doing because of the progress (Hays has) made from last year," said Whittingham, a former All-WAC linebacker at BYU. "He's markedly improved. We've got a lot more confidence in him." Still, the Utes will likely give plenty of carries to senior John White, who has rushed for 215 yards and a score. He ran for 174 yards with a career-best three TDs last season versus BYU. "We respect him a lot, he's fast, he's dynamic, he can run, he can catch, he can pretty much do it all," Ogletree said. "Obviously, we'll be really focused on limiting him and what he can do." The Cougars have limited their opponents to 19 points and rank 10th in the FBS with 239.0 yards allowed per game. They gave up 115 yards on the ground last week after holding Washington State to minus-5 rushing in a 30-6 victory Aug. 30. BYU has enjoyed good balance in its running game, with five players carrying at least eight times and six totaling at least 33 yards. Junior Michael Alisa, the team leader with 107, had zero yards on two carries last season against Utah as the Cougars finished with a season-worst 11 yards rushing. BYU also committed a season-high seven turnovers in that contest. "In preparation of this game, we're watching film from last year (against Utah)," senior quarterback Riley Nelson said. "Guys see it and it leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Not so much as an emotional motivator, but from a learning standpoint. We made these, these and these mistakes, now let's not make them again. If we can do that, we'll put ourselves in a good position." BYU has lost four of five at Utah, including a 17-16 defeat in its last visit Nov. 27, 2010. The Utes won that final Mountain West matchup between these teams after outscoring the Cougars 17-3 in the fourth quarter and blocking a last-second field goal attempt.
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