LARAMIE -- BYU clinched at least a share of the MWC Championship and continued its undefeated season on Saturday, but not without a little fight from a well-rested Wyoming team. The No. 9 Cougars improved to 10-0, 6-0 on the season by defeating Wyoming, 41-34 in Laramie, but it took some late-game heroics from another unsuspecting star.
Brandon Heaney picked the perfect time to make his first interception of his BYU career. With the game tied late in the fourth quarter and Wyoming facing a third and 24, Heaney cut off a Casey Bramlet pass and made the play of the game. On BYU's ensuing possession, Luke Staley took the ball in for one of his four touchdowns with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The BYU defense was called upon again with less than one minute remaining in the game, stopping the Cowboys on a fourth-and-goal situation.
With the win, the Cougars claimed at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title. A victory next week against Utah would give the Cougars the title outright.
"It's just a share of it right now," BYU head coach Gary Crowton said. "A share of it is nice, but that's not what our goal is."
Staley provided another heroic effort, finishing the game with four touchdowns and 172 yards on 31 carries, marking his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Even after Staley's final touchdown, the game still wasn't over. Wyoming drove the ball all the way to the BYU four-yard line, but Levi Madarieta batted the ball down on Wyoming's final play with 23 seconds left in the game.
"We all knew this was the time we needed to step up," Madarieta said. "I was just thankful enough to get a hand on it."
While BYU's defense made the big plays near the end of this game, BYU's offense has been doing that all year. But today, the offense struggled holding on to the ball. Four costly turnovers gave Wyoming every opportunity to stay in the game. Brandon Doman threw his fourth interception of the season, and fumbles by Mike Rigell, Toby Christenson and Reno Mahe gave Wyoming the ball with good field position
"When you turn the ball over four times like our offense did, you put the defense in a tough situation," Crowton said.
But as they have all season, the Cougars did enough to win the game. Doman, after a sub-par first half, finished 23-38 for 268 yards passing, one touchdown and the one interception. Ned Stearns also took a fake punt for 42 yards and a first down in the first half to spark the Cougars. But even after giving up 34 points, the defense buckled down and won the game for BYU.
Linebacker Justin Ena grabs the arm of Wyoming quarterback Casey Bramlet in the fourth quarter on a play which resulted in an intentional grounding penalty. (BYU Photo / Mark Philbrick)
"We've taken a lot of criticism for our defense this season, but we've made the big plays when we have to," freshman defensive lineman Michael Marquardt said.
The Cougars face in-state rival Utah next Saturday in Provo for the chance to win the MWC title outright for the first time. The Utes come into the game with only one conference loss and have the chance to share the title with the Cougars. BYU players are already excited about the chance to play for the championship against their biggest rival -- a game BYU hasn't won in Provo since 1991.
"This is what I personally and all the guys on this team play for," senior offensive lineman Aaron McCubbins said.
COUGARS REMAIN UNDEFEATED; CLINCH SECOND MWC CHAMPIONSHIP
With the Cougars' 41-34 win over Wyoming on Saturday, the Cougars clinched at least a share of their second Mountain West Conference Championship in the past three seasons. (BYU shared the title with Utah and Colorado State in 1999.) BYU and Utah will meet next Saturday in Provo, where the Cougars could win the title outright with a win over Utah. The win also improves BYU's record to 10-0 on the season, marking the most wins since posting an NCAA record 14 wins in 1996. The Cougars' 10-0 start is the best single-season start since the 1984 season.
SHUTOUT STREAK CONTINUES
With Matt Payne's 40-yard field goal at the 12:14 mark in the first quarter against Wyoming, BYU extended its NCAA record streak to 334 games without being shutout. The streak dates back to the 1975 season.
Doak Walker Award semifinalist Luke Staley recorded his 20th rushing touchdown of the season at the 8:02 mark in the first quarter, giving the Cougars a 10-0 lead. Staley's three-yard TD capped a six play, 64-yard scoring drive. Staley went on to score three more rushing touchdowns on the afternoon, marking the 13th multi-scoring game of his career (and seventh of the season), including his fourth straight game with two or more touchdowns. Staley has a BYU single-season record 26 touchdowns on the season, averaging a nation's best 17.4 points per game. On the night, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound running back racked up 172 yards on 31 carries and four touchdowns, including a game-high 55-yard run midway through the second quarter. Staley's 100-yard rushing performance marks his seventh of the season, including his fourth-straight 100-yard game and his fourth straight game with over 130 yards rushing.
Michael Marquardt teams with Justin Ena to stop Wyoming's fourth and three attempt by Kit Bradshaw in the fourth quarter. (BYU Photo / Mark Philbrick)
Wyoming's touchdown at the 1:01 mark of the first quarter marked the first touchdown the BYU defense has allowed since the 1:02 mark of the third quarter against Colorado State last week. The shutout streak covered a total of 30:01 on the clock -- just over two quarters.
A RARE EVENT
During the first half of today's game, the Wyoming defense forced BYU to punt on back-to-back drives, marking the first time since the fourth quarter of the Air Force (Oct. 20) game that the Cougars have had to punt on consecutive drives. The Cougars have punted on only five back-to-back drives (only four games) this season.
WHAT A PAYNE
Kicker Matt Payne connected on a field goal in both the first and second quarter, marking just the second time this season Payne has made two field goals in a game.
ALL TIED UP
The 20-20 tie at the half marked only the second time this season BYU has been tied with its opponent at the half (10-10 at New Mexico; Oct. 13). BYU has only trailed once at the half this season -- a 27-21 deficit against Utah State.
The Cougars were a perfect 6-for-6 inside the Red Zone on Saturday, improving their season total to an amazing 53-of-57 (.928) on the season. Against Wyoming, the Cougars scored four rushing touchdowns, one touchdown completion and one field goal.
Box Score (Final)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
No. 9 Brigham Young....... 10 10 14 7 - 41 Record: (10-0,6-0)
Wyoming................... 7 13 7 7 - 34 Record: (2-7,0-6)
1st 12:14 BYU - PAYNE, Matt 40 yd field goal,
08:02 BYU - STALEY, Luke 3 yd run (PAYNE, Matt kick),
01:01 WYO - BRAMLET, Casey 9 yd run (WALLUM, Jarvis kick),
2nd 13:27 WYO - WALLUM, Jarvis 37 yd field goal,
11:21 BYU - MAHE, Reno 16 yd pass from DOMAN, Brandon (PAYNE, Matt kick),
06:15 BYU - PAYNE, Matt 27 yd field goal,
02:31 WYO - WALLUM, Jarvis 37 yd field goal,
00:41 WYO - VINES, Scottie 37 yd pass from BRAMLET, Casey (WALLUM kick),
3rd 10:26 BYU - STALEY, Luke 1 yd run (PAYNE, Matt kick),
07:10 WYO - BRADSHAW, Kit 2 yd run (WALLUM, Jarvis kick),
01:30 BYU - STALEY, Luke 4 yd run (PAYNE, Matt kick),
4th 09:28 WYO - BRAMLET, Casey 1 yd run (WALLUM, Jarvis kick),
02:08 BYU - STALEY, Luke 8 yd run (PAYNE, Matt kick),
FIRST DOWNS................... 24 23
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 41-247 37-118
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 268 358
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 38-23-1 52-24-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 79-515 89-476
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 1-11
Punt Returns-Yards............ 4-39 3-51
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 4-84 6-120
Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-0 1-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 4-47.0 6-39.8
Fumbles-Lost.................. 3-3 0-0
Penalties-Yards............... 6-40 5-45
Possession Time............... 31:04 28:56
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-13 1-2
RUSHING: Brigham Young-STALEY, Luke 31-172; STEARNS, Ned 1-42; DOMAN,
Brandon 9-33. Wyoming-BRAMLET, Casey 16-52; BRADSHAW, Kit 7-35; ARMAH, Derek
10-13; VINES, Scottie 1-12; JAMES, Lewis 3-6.
PASSING: Brigham Young-DOMAN, Brandon 23-38-1-268. Wyoming-BRAMLET, Casey
RECEIVING: Brigham Young-MAHE, Reno 7-93; RIGELL, Mike 3-36; STALEY, Luke
3-26; NEAD, Spencer 2-32; JOLLEY, Doug 2-28; ANDERSON, Justi 2-13; HALLADAY,
Soren 1-15; ORD, Andrew 1-11; CHRISTENSEN, To 1-11; STEARNS, Ned 1-3.
Wyoming-VINES, Scottie 6-157; FLOYD, Malcom 6-64; MCGUFFEY, Ryan 4-67;
RALPH, Brock 4-33; SCHAAP, M. 2-24; ARMAH, Derek 1-8; JAMES, Lewis 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS: Brigham Young-HEANEY, Brandon 1-0. Wyoming-LEE, Eric 1-0.
FUMBLES: Brigham Young-MAHE, Reno 1-1; RIGELL, Mike 1-1; CHRISTENSEN, To
SACKS (UA-A): Brigham Young-MARQUARDT, Mich 1-0; COWART, Jeff 1-0.
Wyoming-ADAMS, Casey 1-0.
TACKLES (UA-A): Brigham Young-KELLEY, Isaac 6-4; HEANEY, Brandon 8-1; ENA,
Justin 8-1; DENNEY, Ryan 6-2; STALEY, Dustin 6-1; WALKENHORST, Pa 3-0;
GILFORD, Jernar 3-0; MADARIETA, Levi 3-0; MARQUARDT, Mich 2-1; CARLSON,
Brent 2-0; FRANCISCO, Aaro 2-0; TANNER, Mike 1-1; GUNDERSON, Ryan 0-2;
KEISEL, Brett 0-2; WRIGHT, Bill 1-0; JOLLEY, Doug 1-0; EDMONDS, Aaron 1-0;
COWART, Jeff 1-0; PILI, Ifo 1-0; SUMKO, Mike 1-0; STALEY, Luke 1-0; STEARNS,
Ned 1-0; POPPINGA, Brady 0-1. Wyoming-CAIRES, Leo 8-2; FINN, Jacque 6-0;
LEE, Eric 4-2; KLOTZ, Matt 4-2; JAMES, Lamar 4-2; ROLLINS, Josh 3-3; TUELL,
Guy 3-1; ROARK, Damon 3-1; ABRAM, DaShawn 2-1; WILSON, John 1-2; AIMONE, Jon
0-3; JONES, Anthony 2-0; CALAHAN, Ryan 2-0; TEAM 2-0; WRIGHT, Gary 1-1;
GLYNN, Tim 1-0; BEUHLER, Chad 1-0; MERRILL, Pete 1-0; ADAMS, Casey 1-0;
MORRIS, Zach 0-1; BONDE, Jacob 0-1.
Stadium: War Memorial Stadium Attendance: 15277
Kickoff time: 1:07 pm End of Game: 4:50 pm Total elapsed time: 3:43
Officials: Referee: Ken Flaherty; Umpire: Scott Teifer; Linesman: Tom Keeling;
Line judge: Bob Bahne; Back judge: Gordon Birk; Field judge: Bill Agopian;
Side judge: Andy Castagnola;
Temperature: 54 Wind: W 5 mph Weather: Clear and Sunny