Utah scored as many tries as BYU Saturday, four, but couldn’t keep up in the kicking department. Shaun Davies slotted four penalties for the Cougars, while Utah’s Daniel Christensen went 0-2 on penalty attempts. Davies hit three conversions, while Christensen hit just one.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with loss,” said Utah forward Mike Juszczak of the Utes' kicking woes. “I think there are some other things we shouldn’t have done to improve our chances to win that game.
“I think we just need to work on focusing on whenever BYU makes a mistake.0 we need to do a better job of jumping on it and getting some points out of it, as opposed to just lollygagging it and being content with a kick for goal. BYU made some mistakes, we just didn’t capitalize on it.”
True enough, but the try count alone is worth examining. It, plus the results of the eye test, show that though Utah lost by 14 points, the game was much closer.
A lot is made of BYU’s forward pack, especially its front row. That’s for good reason. BYU’s modus operandi for some years has been to pound out the other teams forwards with superior size and skill and then spin it to some really great backs. It’s, buy and large, worked.
However, that’s not what happened Saturday. Utah’s pack rose to the challenge, especially in the scrums. (The Utes had some trouble connecting on lineouts.) One of Utah’s tries came from two driving five-meter scrums.
Utah was awarded a penalty near BYU’s goal line, and BYU was pinged for a penalty in the set piece after being driven backward. The same thing happened on the next scrum, and Utah was awarded a try, either due to successive penalties or because No. 8 Les Soloai dotted down (not entirely clear in the video footage).
“I think our Utah forward pack is definitely underrated. BYU, they get a lot of love from all the writers. I think a lot of people don’t realize that we have guys up front like Todd Peterson and Mike Shepherd and Nick Mostyn, and they’re pretty good players,” said Juszczak.
“Every single one of those players has had All American experience or U20 experience. We’ve got a pretty good pack. I just think we’re pretty underrated. We’re pretty mobile, we’re pretty quick and aggressive. We just don’t get any love from the writers.”
Well, Mr. Juszczak, here’s some love. The Utah pack is really good. Good enough that if the Utes can polish up some other areas of the game, like kicking and discipline (gave up too many penalties against BYU, including a yellow card), they could be legitimate title contenders. To win a title, chances are they’ll have to go through the Cougars again.
“We’ve got to win a national championship. That’s our goal. Obviously, we would like to beat BYU every year, but the important thing is we take something away from this loss and we learn from it and we better ourselves so that, come time for the National Championship, we’re right there,” said Juszczak.
“We would love to play BYU again. We played them twice in one year my freshman year. We beat them the second time when the (Wasatch) Cup wasn’t on the line. I think I can speak for every member of our team when I say we’d love to play BYU again.”