PROVO, Utah (AP) — Zack Moss ran for 181 yards and a touchdown and No. 14 Utah scored three more TDs off three BYU turnovers and beat the Cougars 30-12 on Thursday night in the opener for both teams.
The Utes (1-0) earned their ninth straight victory in the 100th game in the Holy War rivalry. Moss propelled the offense after halftime by gashing the Cougars for a series of big runs. He averaged 6.2 yards on 29 carries.
The defense took care of the rest.
Zach Wilson totaled 208 yards on 21-of-33 passing and added 43 yards on the ground to lead BYU (0-1). Wilson also threw a pair of interceptions that Utah returned for touchdowns.
Utah gained just 125 yards in the first half. The Utes totaled only three points on their first two drives after starting on their own 40 and the BYU 33.
With their offense sputtering before halftime, the Utes turned to their defense get some points on the board. Utah took a 9-3 lead in the second quarter when Francis Bernard stepped in front of a wobbly pass from Wilson, as he tried to avoid a sack, and returned it 58 yards, untouched, for a score.
Utah’s offense sprang to life on the opening drive of the third quarter. Jaylen Dixon capped off an 11-play, 75 yard drive with a 2-yard sprint to push the Utes’ lead to 16-6. Moss gave Utah a spark with back-to-back 14-yard gains that moved the ball to the BYU 44.
The Utes capitalized on two more BYU turnovers and put the Cougars away in the fourth quarter. Moss punched in a 4-yard touchdown after Mika Tafua recovered a fumble by Williams at the BYU 22. Then, Julian Blackmon returned an interception 39 yards to put Utah up 30-6 with 12:25 remaining.
A lightning delay with 9:01 left in the fourth quarter suspended play for 54 minutes before the game resumed at just after midnight local time.
Utah: Just like a year ago, the Utes woke up from a first-half slumber and dominated on both sides of the ball over the final 30 minutes. Utah allowed BYU to gain just 29 yards in nine plays on the Cougars’ first three second-half drives. The Utes forced back-to-back turnovers that allowed them to score 21 unanswered points to put the game out of reach.
BYU: Mistakes doomed the Cougars yet again against their archrival. BYU’s defense held Utah’s offense in check during the first half and gained 196 yards on offense. But three turnovers led to 20 points for the Utes and turned a close game into a blowout.
A dominant second-half showing could see the Utes climb a spot or two in the poll on Monday.
Utah: The Utes host Northern Illinois in their home opener on September 6.
BYU: The Cougars travel to Rocky Top for the first time to take on Tennessee on September 6.