Utah staves off No. 25 BYU 24-21

Associated Press Modified: September 16, 2012 at 3:04 am •  Published: September 16, 2012
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two years ago, BYU saw its hopes of winning in Salt Lake City dashed by a last-second blocked field goal.

Saturday night, the 25th-ranked Cougars had two late chances only to have the same result, this time a 24-21 loss to Utah.

"Where do I begin?" Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We should be 4-1 because we won this game three times."

BYU, once down 24-7, stormed back and was driving for a potential tying field goal. A last gasp pass fell incomplete, and frenzied Utah fans ran onto the field thinking the game was over.

Not so fast. Officials reviewed the play and found that one second remained when the pass hit the ground.

They cleared the field, and Justin Sorensen lined up for a 51-yard attempt, only to see Star Lotulelei block it.

The Cougars would get yet another shot, from 15 yards closer, since the crowd had rushed the field again with a live ball, and Utah was assessed a penalty.

Riley Stephenson's 36-yard attempt with no time left clanked off the left upright, sending the Paint It Red fans back on the field for good to celebrate the upset.

"I can't describe that ending," Utah quarterback Jon Hays said of a game that was tied at 7 at the half. "That's something I'll remember when I'm 85 and with Alzheimer's. That's the craziest finish I've ever been a part of and probably the craziest I've ever seen. I'm happy and proud of this team."

The win gave the Utes (2-1) a new outlook on the season, especially with USC's loss to Stanford and losses by fellow Pac-12 South foes Arizona State and Colorado.

The loss, meanwhile, is sure to knock BYU (2-1) out of the Top 25, and could hurt the Cougars' hopes for something better than a Poinsettia Bowl.

"Right now, all I feel is heartache," said BYU quarterback Nelson, who waited seven years for this opportunity after a one-year stint with Utah State then a two-year church mission.

He brought BYU back with three late drives, including a 1-yard TD pass to Kaneakua Friel that pulled the Cougars within 24-21, and would finish 17 of 35 for 206 yards. But he also was intercepted once, sacked four times and was tagged with the fumble that Moe Lee returned 47 yards for a touchdown.

He blamed it on crowd noise as the snap came while he was barking out instructions.

Moe saw only the end zone.

"Once I saw Moe pick up that ball, I knew no one would be able to catch him," said Utah defensive end Nate Fakahafua. "It was sweet to watch him run it all the way in."

While Nelson showed grit and refused to quit, so did Hays, who was 18 of 27 for 196 yards with two touchdowns.

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