By Jesse Lima, special to the Las Vegas Bowl
The 2015 Rossi T. Ralenkotter Most Valuable Player Award went to Utah defensive back Tevin Carter. Not quarterback Travis Wilson (who won it last year here), not halfback Joe Williams, not even a receiver, but yes, the senior out of Los Angeles, California.
How rare is it for a defensive player to be named MVP of the game? Carter is only the second, joining Nevada linebacker Mike Crawford from the Wolf Pack’s 1996 win over Ball State.
For the second consecutive year, Utah took care of business in Las Vegas with a 35-28 victory over BYU in the 24th edition of the game. Playing in front of the second biggest crowd in bowl history, the Utes jumped out to a huge 35-0 lead before the clock struck zeros in the first quarter. Carter had two interceptions in the blowout first quarter, including one returned to the BYU one-yard line and the other a 28-yard return for a touchdown to make the score 14-0 within the first five minutes of the game.
“I’ve had some hard times catching the ball in the past,” Carter said in the postgame press conference. “The first interception, Reginald Porter made a great play on the ball and the second one Jason Fanaika made a play on the ball as well, so all the credit goes to my teammates.”
Carter came into the contest fifth on the team in tackles with 56 in 11 starts at strong safety.
“Tevin is a tough and talented player that has a lot of football left ahead of him,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He kept hanging in there and all he did is work hard. It was tremendous to see him play the way he did today and come away with the Most Valuable Player trophy.”
Some believed that the fans could see a deja vú scenario in the Most Valuable Player voting after the game with senior QB Travis Wilson winning the award last year and being in the running this year. Travis Wilson did not put up the stats but helped the Utes play conservative towards the end of the game to help fend off what the BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall called “a remarkable comeback.”
Williams also had a case to win the Most Valuable Player Award with two rushing touchdowns and two big first downs to seal the win in the late minutes.
“This game was like the Oregon game on steroids,” Whittingham said. “I was stunned that we jumped out to such a large start but we earned those points by playing such great defense. When all’s said and done, it was a team victory.”
KYLE WHITTINGHAM, Utah Head Coach:
It was a good win for our program. We started off and played real well the first quarter, very average in the second quarter, then pathetic in the third quarter and half of the fourth quarter, then finished off pretty average. So, you add it all up and evaluate it as a whole, the entire body of work wasn’t bad.
You are not going to lose a lot of games when you are +5 in turnover margin. Even though our offensive numbers were not good at all, we took care of the football.
You have to credit (BYU) for hanging in there and fighting back. They have a lot of resiliency and heart and we saw that today.
I am very proud of our guys, of our seniors. We send them off with a 10-win season and a guaranteed Top 20 ranking. A lot of good things for our seniors coming out of this game and I am really proud of them.
In some ways it is (hard to play with a 35-0 lead). But, it is our job to make sure we do not get complacent. We did that. We got complacent, and that’s on me.
TEVIN CARTER, Utah Strong Safety:
I had a hard time at times catching the ball this year. But today on the first one (interception returned for a touchdown), Reggie Porter made a great play on the ball and I was just there to make it (pull down tip for the interception). On the second (interception), Jason Fanaika made another tip and I was just there again to make a play. So, all credit goes to my teammates.
JOE WILLIAMS, Utah Running Back:
(On 3rd and 1 option play that led to first down late in fourth quarter) The main focus of the play was just to get a first down. We practice that situation every week. I knew from running it the two previous times that the linebacker would take Travis (Wilson, Utah QB). So I knew I would get the ball and just have to get that one yard.
(On getting second first down on final drive) We huddled up and talked about it as an offense. Two more first downs and then one more first down and this game is ours.
BRONCO MENDENHALL, BYU Head Coach
I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of my team. They stayed together and unified and battled back and made it a great football game.
Our team tried really, really hard all the way to the very end, maybe if we make one more stop it gets interesting.
I wasn’t able to help our team quite enough to overcome the early setbacks, but I am certainly proud of how hard they played and how they battled in returning to make it as close as it was and giving us a chance to win.
The setting of playing this game in Vegas, at a neutral site is really intriguing, and I thought it was a really cool setting to play in and a great one for our players and a great environment and we just came up a little bit short.
There was certainly nothing else that can happen, when it goes to seven and then to 14 then to 21 then to 28 then to 35, at some point that’s got to be enough. I think there was just finally a set point of ‘are we going to play clean and execute and consistently’ and we thought if we did it would be an evenly matched game and that’s how it played out.
The credit goes to the players, they’re the ones that chose to keep playing hard. They were positive on the sideline, which is an amazing thing. It was 35-0 and I don’t even know how much time had expired. It could’ve easily gone to 70 if they hadn’t of responded the way they did.
ON Tanner Mangum:
Tanner is an optimist and that’s a great quality to have at quarterback. He thinks he can make any throw and who are we to tell him any different. And even after 35-0, we weren’t going to score points just by running it. Our M.O. has been dropping back and throwing it, and having our receivers go up and make catches and that kind of played out.
To Utah’s credit, the defensive front, they were on him very fast and harrassed him maybe more than he’s used to. Nobody was down on him, we were frustrated, but our guys believed in Tanner.
BRONSON KAUFUSI, BYU Defensive End
This team, since January, that’s something we definitely practiced and worked on. No matter what happens or how much we get down by in anything, this team will fight back no matter what. And that’s something I’m so proud about, is that no matter what happened in that game, everyone had the mentality that we were going to get ourselves back into it.
Tanner’s not a freshman to any one in the locker room; Tanner’s one of us. He’s mature. You can tell how he bounced back. I think the game was a little big for him at the beginning, but man he turned around and played a great game and ultimately gave us a chance to have the ball at the end.
REMINGTON PECK, BYU Tight End
I think a lot of credit goes to the way we’re coached and the group of guys, because quitting or giving up has never been an option. Even our wins, in many of the games this season, we trailed. There was no question that the team was going to keep fighting.
I think it was key to get some points on the board right before half and I think it helped the attitude in the locker room a little bit. I was just grateful to help to be honest, I didn’t care if it was me. I’m glad that it helped us a little bit and there was no doubt in the locker room that we were going to come out and fight, and battle in the second half.
2015 LAS VEGAS BOWL GAME NOTES
BYU at UTAH – Dec. 19, 2015 – Sam Boyd Stadium
- With the 35-28 victory, Utah became the first team in history win four Las Vegas Bowls. The Utes improved to 4-1 in this game and 10-3 overall in the city of Las Vegas (counting games vs. UNLV). Utah also improved to 15-4 all-time in bowl games and head coach Kyle Whittingham upped his bowl record to any eye-popping 9-1. Utah also won the Las Vegas Bowl in 1999, 2001 and 2014.
- This game was only the second Las Vegas Bowl matchup of teams from the same state (Fresno State vs. USC in 2013).
- Teams representing the Pac-12 Conference improved to 7-7 all-time in the Las Vegas Bowl and have won three straight.
- With the eighth sellout in the last 11 games, the crowd of 42,213 ranked as the second biggest in Las Vegas Bowl history, behind only the 44,615 that saw BYU defeat Oregon in 2006 (a game that featured temporary bleachers in the open end zone). Today’s crowd also ranks as the second largest for a team sporting event in the history of the state of Nevada.
- Remarkably, BYU started each of its first FIVE drives by turning the ball over. A lost fumble on the Cougars’ first drive resulted in a Utah 25-yard touchdown drive and then an interception was returned 28 yards by Tevin Carter for a score. It marked the first pick six in a Las Vegas Bowl since Derron Smith took one back 41 yards vs. USC in 2013. The very next drive, Carter grabbed another interception and returned it 33 yards to the Utah one-yard line. Dominique Hatfield later took a pick back for a 46-yard score and BYU then lost its second fumble.
- Tevin Carter was voted the winner of the Rossi T. Ralenkotter Most Valuable Player Trophy after becoming only the third player in Las Vegas Bowl history to grab two interceptions in a game. Justin Robinson of BYU did it against Oregon in 2006 and Donald Toomer of Utah State did it vs. Ball State in Las Vegas Bowl II in 1993. Carter’s 61 total interception return yards rank second in Las Vegas Bowl history behind Boise State’s Jamar Taylor’s 100 vs. Arizona State in 2011.
- Utah RB Joe Williams was named the Royal Purple Outperformer of the Game on Offense after gaining 91 net yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
- Utah LB Gionni Paul was named the Royal Purple Outperformer of the Game on Defense after posting a team-leading eight tackles and recovering one fumble.
- There had only been five interceptions returned for a touchdown in Las Vegas Bowl history before Utah posted two in the first quarter alone.
- Utah’s 35 points in the first 10 minutes of the game – all coming off turnovers – shattered the record for most points scored by one team in any quarter in the Las Vegas Bowl. The previous record for points in the FIRST quarter was 21 set by the Utes just last year vs. Colorado State. The record for all other quarters is also 21 each.
- BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum threw the most interceptions in any Las Vegas Bowl game – three – in the first quarter alone. Previously, eight QBs had thrown two picks each in a game, the most recent being Keith Price of Washington vs. Boise State in 2012.
- Mangum attempted a Las Vegas Bowl-record 56 passes, breaking the previous mark of 54 by David Carr of Fresno State vs. USC in 2013. Mangum completed 25 of them for 315 yards and two scores.
- When the Cougars scored a touchdown just before halftime, it ended Utah’s streak of 59 consecutive points scored in the Las Vegas Bowl dating back to the final three quarters of the 2014 game.
- The 35-7 halftime score meant Utah tied the record for most points scored in any half of a Las Vegas Bowl (35 by USC vs. Fresno State in the first half of the 2013 game).
- After the early outburst on the scoreboard, Utah was shut out the rest of the way while BYU scored four touchdowns to pull to within seven points in the fourth quarter.
- Utah punter Tom Hackett, who won the last two Ray Guy Awards, kicked six times for an average of 49.5 (long of 56). That ranked second in Las Vegas Bowl history, trailing only Jason McLean of Nevada, who finished with a 49.8 average vs. Toledo in 1995.
- BYU’s five turnovers set a Las Vegas Bowl record. The previous record was four by three different teams: Utah in 2010, Arizona in 2008 and Central Michigan in 1994.
- BYU, which has played in more Las Vegas Bowls than any other team, fell to 3-3 in the event.
The 25th Las Vegas Bowl will be played Saturday, Dec. 17, at 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET) at Sam Boyd Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on ABC, featuring the top choice from the Mountain West against the sixth pick from the Pac-12 Conference.
Tickets go on sale to the general public June 1. Prices, depending on location, range from $25-$250. Visit www.lvbowl.com for more ticket information.
This will mark the fourth consecutive year and fifth time overall that the Las Vegas Bowl will appear on ABC. It will be the fifth consecutive Saturday kickoff and 10th in the event’s history. It will also be the bowl’s 10th day game and the earliest date since 1995 when the game was played Dec. 14.
“Fans have shown that they love coming to the Las Vegas Bowl on the first Saturday of bowl season,” said Las Vegas Bowl Executive Director John Saccenti. “The weather has been spectacular the last four years with the 12:30 p.m. kickoff and we are excited to celebrate our game’s 25th birthday on ABC.”
Last year’s edition saw No. 22 Utah defeat BYU 35-28 in front of a crowd of 42,213, which marked the eighth sellout in the last 11 years.
The Las Vegas Bowl is one of 13 FBS bowls owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN.
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games; 13 college bowl games, 10 college basketball events and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 250-plus hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 700,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and St. Petersburg, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.
AdvoCare Texas Kickoff (Houston); AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (Houston); Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (Atlanta); Birmingham Bowl (Alabama);Camping World Kickoff (Orlando, Fla.); Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise); Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque); Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu); Las Vegas Bowl (Nevada); Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth); Marmot Boca Raton Bowl (Florida); MEAC/SWAC Challenge (Orlando, Fla.);Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (Nassau); Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.); St. Petersburg Bowl (Florida); The Home Depot College Football Awards (Atlanta) and Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth)
AdvoCare Invitational (Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.); Armed Forces Classic (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Honolulu); DIRECTV Wooden Legacy (Orange County, Calif.); College Basketball Awards Presented by Wendy’s (Los Angeles); Gildan Charleston Classic (South Carolina);Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu); Jimmy V Men’s Classic presented by Corona (New York