BYU Keeps BCS Hopes Alive With Dramatic Victory over Utah

Jernaro Gilford intercepts a Lance Rice pass with nine seconds remaining to preserve the victory for BYU. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Some rivalry games don't live up to the hype. The BYU-Utah game has no problem with that, especially the 2001 version of the "Battle for the Boot".

With less than four minutes left in the game and down 11 points, BYU's hopes for a perfect season seemed dim. But Luke Staley scored two touchdowns in just over two minutes apart to erase the deficit and give the Cougars the 24-21 victory. Following the game, fans stormed the field and lifted Brandon Doman, now 13-0 as a starter, on their shoulders.

BYU is now 11-0 on the season, its best start to a season since the 1984 National Championship team. The win gives BYU the Mountain West Conference outright championship for the first time. (BYU took a share of the 1999 title.) BYU will go to the Liberty Bowl unless the Cougars are invited to participate in a BCS bowl.

"We're excited to go to the Liberty Bowl," BYU head coach Gary Crowton said. "No matter how it works out, we're happy to be in the Liberty Bowl."

The game was far from over after Staley's 30-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to play. Lance Rice tried to do his best Doman impression in leading Utah on a final drive in the last minute. Rice converted a key fourth-and-10 with a trick play, advancing the ball to the BYU 30-yard line.

"The fourth down they used a trick play with a pass to the tackle," Crowton said. "I wish they would make that play illegal, or maybe I just need to add it to my offense."

But on the very next play, Jernaro Gilford stepped in front of a Rice pass and intercepted the ball to seal the game. Cougar fans prematurely charged the field before Doman took the final knee. Gilford's interception marked his sixth of the season.

It ?s always good to beat your rival," Crowton said. "It gives you a year to breathe before you have to worry about it again."

Luke Staley highsteps his way into the endzone, scoring the winning TD against Utah. (BYU Photo / Mark Philbrick)

Utah gave its best effort, holding BYU's potent offense to only 10 points late in the game. The Utes controlled the ball for more than 34 minutes in the game, but couldn't hold on during the final few minutes.

"When you go into the fourth quarter and you are ahead, you should win the game," Utah head coach Ron McBride said. "They deserved to win because they made the plays at the end of the game."

The Domanator struggled in the first half, much like last week's game at Wyoming. At the half, Doman was only 10-24 with an interception and a fumble. But Doman poured it on in the second half, throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns to finish the game with 270 yards on 21-of-42 attempts.

With Doman not clicking through the air in the first half, Utah keyed on Staley and it worked. Staley had only 28 yards at the half, but in the second half and with the game in doubt, Staley stole the show. He finished the game with 169 yards rushing on 17 carries, 28 yards receiving on three catches, two more touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He now has 28 touchdowns and still leads the nation in scoring (17.0 p/g) and yards per carry (9.1 y/c). With his performance, Staley became BYU's all-time leading single-season rusher, taking over a 29-year-old record. The Doak Walker Award semifinalist has 1,433 yards on the season.

With two minutes left in the game, they backed up a little," Crowton said. "Luke simply took over."

While BYU's offense sputtered in the first half, its defense played one of its best halves of the season. The defense allowed only a touchdown after Doman threw an interception, but generally contained the Utes throughout the half.

Reno Mahe was the unsung hero of the game. Mahe led the Cougars with five receptions for 94 yards, none bigger than his 23-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Only five days earlier, Mahe was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy.

The Cougars have a bye during the Thanksgiving holidays. BYU's next game will be at Mississippi State on December 1.

Ryan Denney led the Cougar defense with ten tackles against Utah. (BYU Photo / Mark Philbrick)

Game Notes

Utah vs. No. 8 BYU

November 17, 2001

ONE STREAK IS OVER

BYU's win over Utah is its first at home since 1991. The Cougars completed a perfect season at home and Brandon Doman improved his record as a starter to 13-0. BYU has not lost a game at home since the stadium was named in honor of LaVell Edwards. The Cougars had one victory over New Mexico last season and then took all six games at home this season. The win gives the Cougars their first Mountain West Conference outright championship.

AND ONE STREAK CONTINUES

With 4:14 left in the second quarter, Matt Payne hit a 35-yard field goal. The score continued BYU's NCAA record streak of games without being shut out. The streak is now at 335 games, with the last time coming in the 1975 game against Arizona State.

ATTENDANCE

Today's attendance for the game was 66,149, the third largest ever at LaVell Edwards Stadium. In 1993, 66,247 people watched BYU play Notre Dame, the most ever to watch a game at Edwards Stadium. The second-highest total was the 1990 Miami game, when 66,235 watched BYU pull off the upset.

LUKE STALEY

With a 21-yard rush in the third quarter, Staley moved into second place on the BYU single-season rushing yards' list. He eclipsed Ronney Jenkins mark of 1,307 yards in the 1998 season. Later in the game, on a 15-yard rush, Staley took over the No. 1 spot, overtaking Pete Van Valkenburg. Pete Van Valkenburg rushed for 1,386 yards in the 1972 season. Staley now has 1,433 yards rushing this season, with 169 yards. Staley scored a touchdown with 3:22 left in the game, his 27th of the season. He also converted the ensuing two-point conversion, his first non-touchdown points of the season. He then rushed for a 30-yard touchdown, his 28th, with 1:16 left in the game to give the Cougars the lead.

EARLY ACTION

Aaron Edmonds punted on BYU's first possession for the first time since the Cal game. It is only the second time this season BYU has been forced to punt on its first possession. He punted for the second time in the first quarter as well.

After having his appendix removed on Monday, BYU receiver Reno Mahe shows he still has "GUTS" as he led the Cougars with five receptions for 94 yards against the Utes. (BYU Photo / Mark Philbrick)

STRONG START DEFENSIVELY

BYU held Utah to only one first down in the first quarter. By holding the Utes scoreless in the first quarter, it marked the fourth time this season BYU has held its opponent scoreless in the first quarter.

COMBINED SHUTOUT

With the score knotted at zero, it marked the first time this season BYU and its opponent haven't scored in the first fifteen minutes. The previous low was the New Mexico game, when BYU led 3-0 after one quarter.

FAST HEALER

Reno Mahe started the game despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy Monday morning. He led the Cougars with five catches and 94 yards. He caught a touchdown pass near the end of the third quarter to pull BYU within four points.

HALFTIME DEFICIT

At the half, BYU trailed Utah 7-3. It marked only the second time BYU has trailed heading into the locker room, with the only other time coming against Utah State when the Aggies led the Cougars 27-21. BYU has been tied twice going into the half, most recently against Wyoming, and it also occurred in the New Mexico game. The three points marks BYU's lowest total in the first half since last season's Colorado State game.

INTERCEPTION

Jernaro Gilford intercepted a Rice pass to seal the game. It was his 6th interception of the season and gave the Cougars yet another interception on the season. BYU has recorded an interception in each game this season.

Box Score (Final)

Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score

----------------- -- -- -- -- -----

UTAH................ 0 7 7 7 - 21 Record: (7-3,4-2)

Brigham Young....... 0 3 7 14 - 24 Record: (11-0,7-0)

Scoring Summary:

2nd 11:58 UU - SMITH, Dennis 13 yd pass from RICE,

Lance (KANESHIRO, Ryan kick), 4-41 2:14, UU 7 - BYU 0

04:14 BYU - PAYNE, Matt 35 yd field goal,

9-40 2:57, UU 7 - BYU 3

3rd 02:21 UU - HUNTER, Dameon 15 yd run (KANESHIRO, Ryan kick),

13-82 6:22, UU 14 - BYU 3

00:19 BYU - MAHE, Reno 23 yd pass from DOMAN, Brandon

(PAYNE, Matt kick), 4-80 2:02, UU 14 - BYU 10

4th 09:53 UU - TATE, Adam 1 yd run (KANESHIRO, Ryan kick),

12-80 5:26, UU 21 - BYU 10

03:22 BYU - STALEY, Luke 7 yd pass from DOMAN, Brandon

(STALEY, Luke rush), 8-92 2:25, UU 21 - BYU 18

01:16 BYU - STALEY, Luke 30 yd run (PAYNE, Matt kick failed),

4-59 0:55, UU 21 - BYU 24

UU BYU

FIRST DOWNS................... 23 21

RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 46-168 32-180

PASSING YDS (NET)............. 189 270

Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 32-16-1 42-21-1

TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 78-357 74-450

Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0

Punt Returns-Yards............ 4-34 3-7

Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 3-80 3-57

Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-28 1-50

Punts (Number-Avg)............ 7-37.6 7-45.4

Fumbles-Lost.................. 2-1 2-1

Penalties-Yards............... 5-26 6-79

Possession Time............... 34:14 25:46

Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-21 0-0

RUSHING: UTAH-HUNTER, Dameon 21-106; TATE, Adam 20-64; FORTUNE, Thomas 1-8;

ITA'AEHAU, Sam 1-3; TM 1-minus 1; RICE, Lance 2-minus 12. Brigham

Young-STALEY, Luke 17-169; TM 1-9; DOMAN, Brandon 14-2.

PASSING: UTAH-RICE, Lance 15-31-1-173; JACKSON, Paris 1-1-0-16. Brigham

Young-DOMAN, Brandon 21-42-1-270.

RECEIVING: UTAH-RUSSELL, Cliff 6-49; RICHARDSON, Mic 4-58; JACKSON, Paris

3-32; LYMAN, Josh 1-24; SMITH, Dennis 1-13; GROSS, Jordan 1-13. Brigham

Young-MAHE, Reno 5-94; HALLADAY, Soren 5-60; NEAD, Spencer 3-28; STALEY,

Luke 3-28; JOLLEY, Doug 2-39; ORD, Andrew 1-9; RIGELL, Mike 1-8;

CHRISTENSEN, To 1-4.

INTERCEPTIONS: UTAH-DWINELL, CR 1-28. Brigham Young-GILFORD, Jernar 1-50.

FUMBLES: UTAH-TATE, Adam 1-0; RICE, Lance 1-1. Brigham Young-DOMAN, Brandon

2-1.

Stadium: Edwards Stadium Attendance: 66149

Kickoff time: 5:06 End of Game: 8:33 Total elapsed time: 3:27

Officials: Referee: Wright, Gerald; Umpire: Jenkins, Darrel;

Linesman: Hettema, David; Line judge: Lynch, Jack; Back judge: Leyden, Terry;

Field judge: Clark, Land; Side judge: Richins, Karl; Scorer: Media Relations;

Temperature: 60 Wind: 1-3 S Weather: Fair

SACKS (UA-A): UTAH-DECKART, Sheldo 1-0; DWINELL, CR 1-0. Brigham Young-None.

TACKLES (UA-A): UTAH-SANDERS, Antwoi 14-4; DECKART, Sheldo 8-1; DWINELL, CR

2-4; KEMOEATU, Maake 2-3; SMITH, Garrett 2-2; PARKER, Arnold 3-0; REVILL,

Dave 2-1; CROCKETT, D'Sha 2-1; BAHR, Brooks 1-2; ELLIOTT, Brett 2-0; SAVAGE,

Josh 1-1; SCOTT, Yohance 1-1; KAUFUSI, Jason 1-0; TUNE, Zach 1-0; WHITE,

Anthony 0-1; BRAND, Ryan 0-1. Brigham Young-DENNEY, Ryan 5-5; ENA, Justin

4-6; STALEY, Dustin 3-7; KELLEY, Isaac 2-6; GILFORD, Jernar 5-2; MADARIETA,

Levi 3-4; COWART, Jeff 1-5; WALKENHORST, Pa 2-3; HEANEY, Brandon 3-1;

LAFITTE, Michae 2-1; GUNDERSON, Ryan 1-2; KEISEL, Brett 1-1; NEAD, Spencer

1-0; WILSON, Derrus 1-0; AIONO, Aissac 1-0; WRIGHT, Bill 1-0; REID, Gabriel

1-0; BOCKWOLDT, Colb 1-0; STEARNS, Ned 0-1; MEIBOS, Jared 0-1; PILI, Ifo

0-1; STEVENS, Chris 0-1; ANDERSON, Nick 0-1.

Tags: Results