Game Notes: BYU Heads to San Diego State

Tight end Andrew George caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Max Hall in BYU's 41-12 win over SDSU in 2008 (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

LOOKING FOR PROGRAM’S 500th WIN

Coming off a 59-21 win at UNLV last week, No. 18 BYU (5-1, 2-0 MWC) plays at San Diego State (2-3, 0-1 MWC) on Saturday in pursuit of the program’s 500th win. Dating back to 1922 the Cougars have a 499-373-26 all-time record with a .570 winning percentage.

Coming off a bye week, the Aztecs host the Cougars after defeating New Mexico State, 34-17, on Oct. 3. Their other win of the season was a 35-19 victory over Southern Utah back on Sept. 12.

ON THE TUBE

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on The Mtn. Ari Wolfe will provided play-by-play coverage, with Blaine Fowler lending analysis and Jenny Cavner reporting from the sidelines.The game will mark the fourth of seven BYU games available on The Mtn. during the 2009 season.

The Mtn. introduces Wolfe to a portion of its MWC football telecasts this season as he splits time between The Mtn. and Big Ten Network. Since his career as a quarterback at BYU from 1981-85, Fowler has broadcast nearly 500 live college football and basketball games, for networks such as Video West Sports, the Blue and White Network and SportsWest. Cavner currently works for the Home of the San Diego Padres where she reports and anchors the pre and post game shows, as well as a nightly sports show.

WHAT THE GAME MEANS

- With a win on Saturday, BYU will notch its 500th all-time win, improving its program record to 500-373-26 (.571).

- With a win at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday, BYU will improve its 2009 away record to 4-0 for the first time since 2001. That year the Cougars posted wins at California, UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State.

- A win would improve the Cougars’ season record to 6-1. Before its 6-0 record to open the 2008 season, the last time BYU had a 6-1 start or better was in 2001, when the program posted 12 consecutive wins before ending with back-to-back losses to Hawaii and Louisville.

- A 6-1 record would also earn the Cougars bowl eligibility status for the fifth consecutive season, making head coach Bronco Mendenhall the only coach in program history to qualify his team for bowl games each of his first five seasons.

THE BYU-SDSU SERIES

Saturday’s contest will be the 34th all-time between BYU and San Diego State. The Cougars have won seven of the last eight games against SDSU, including a 41-12 victory last season in Provo. In those seven games the Cougars have averaged 46 points. In the series that dates back to 1947, BYU enjoyed its longest winning streak against San Diego State from 1976-85 when it defeated the Aztecs nine straight times. Since the 1985 season the Cougars have not won more than five consecutive games against SDSU, while the Aztecs have never beaten BYU twice in a row. The two teams played to a 52-all tie in 1991, the only draw in the history of the series.

LAST TIME: BYU 41, SDSU 12 (NOV. 8, 2008)

PROVO -- The BYU football team capped a remarkable third-straight undefeated home season with its 41-12 win over San Diego State on Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Cougars improve to 9-1, 5-1; while the Aztecs fall to 1-9, 0-6.

The game marked many milestones for individuals and the team alike while 22 seniors were honored in their final home game. With the win the Cougars remain undefeated at home dating back to 2005, while the 18-straight home wins marks the most in BYU history.

BYU junior quarterback Max Hall led the Cougars, passing for 317 yards, completing 25-of-30 passes.

In nine of Hall’s completions he met junior receiver Austin Collie, who entered the game as the nation’s leading receiver in both total yards and yards per game. Collie had another standout game with a total of 127 yards, marking his eighth-straight game over the century mark and 14th overall. With that, Collie became the Mountain West Conference all-time leader for 100-yard games.

On the defensive side of the ball, BYU senior linebacker David Nixon had a career-best 14 total tackles and one interception. Nixon served as a catalyst for the entire defense who limited SDSU to 280 offensive yards and only one touchdown.

SDSU’S LAST OUTING

SAN -- Freshman halfback Walter Kazee rushed for 101 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown Saturday as San Diego State defeated New Mexico State 34-17.

The Aztecs (2-3) scored half of their points in the final seven minutes with the help of Kazee’s TD carry and a scoring pass by Ryan Lindley to Willie Watters. Lane Yoshida also connected for a field goal, his second of the game, during the final minutes. The Aggies (2-3) tied it at 17 early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Trevor Walls connected with wide-receiver Todd Lee.

However, the Aztecs took the ensuing kickoff and marched 78 yards on nine plays for the TD. The Aztecs’ Vincent Brown, who came into the game No. 3 in the nation in receiving yards, caught three passes for 84 yards including a 21-yard touchdown. Teammate Dey Juan Hemmings also ran in a fumble recovery.

COUGAR-AZTEC TIES

- Aztec quarterback Kelsey Sokoloski, linebacker Willie Watters and BYU’s tight end Andrew George all graduated from Cherry Creek HS in Colorado.

- BYU’s Tyler Holt (P) and SDSU’s Miles Burris (LB) both attended Granite Bay HS in Granite Bay, Calif.

- SDSU defensive lineman Eron Moses shares the same hometown as BYU deep snapper John Pace. Both hail from Yorba Linda, Calif. and graduated from Esperanza HS.

- Aztec tight end Waika Spencer graduated from Kamehameha HS in Honolulu, Hawaii, as did Cougars Travis Uale (DB) and RJ Willing (OL).

BYU’S LAST OUTING

LAS -- Led by Harvey Unga’s 149 yards rushing and Max Hall’s 320 yards passing, No. 18 BYU crushed UNLV 59-21 Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas to improve to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference. BYU amassed a season-best 611 yards of total offense in the win while holding UNLV to 337 yards. The Rebels fall to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the MWC with the loss. BYU improves to 14-3 all-time against UNLV, including an 8-0 record in Las Vegas.

Quarterback Max Hall finished his night with 320 yards and two touchdowns, completing 21-of-27 attempts while adding six yards on the ground.

Led by Unga’s season-high 149 yards on 20 carries in just over two quarters of play, BYU churned out a season-best 291 yards on the ground. J.J. Di Luigi added 67 yards on only six carries as the Cougars averaged 6.8 yards per carry overall on the night.

Unga and the run game were not the only things that proved to be consistent for BYU on Saturday. The team scored early and scored consistently over the entire game to reach double-digit points in every quarter for the first time since 2006 and only the second time since 1982. The Cougars scored on their first four possessions and never looked back.

COIN TOSS

UNLV won the coin toss last week and elected to receive. BYU won the first four coin tosses of the season before losing it against Utah State. The Cougars are now 2-0 when losing the toss.

COMPETING AS A RANKED TEAM

With the win over UNLV last week, the Cougars are 153-45 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. A ranked BYU team has won 22 of its last 26 games dating back to 2006.

The Cougars’ No. 7 national ranking in the AP Top 25 Rankings after back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and Tulane was their highest since finishing the 1996 season at No. 5. BYU entered the top 10 in the coaches’ poll following Week 2 after earning a ranking as high as No. 7 last season.

PULLING OUT THE CLOSE ONES

After a close 14-13 victory over the Sooners in their season opener, the Cougars have won nine consecutive games decided by seven points or fewer. Last season BYU pulled out nail-biters against Washington, UNLV and Colorado State.

DON’T LOOK BACK

In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 37-4 when leading at halftime and 35-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

Mendenhall’s teams have won 25 straight games when leading by at least 14 points at the halftime break, 72 overall as a team. The last time BYU lost a game after leading by at least 14 points at the half was on Oct. 10, 1987 when is lost, 29-27, in its homecoming game against Wyoming.

5-1 START TO THE SEASON

Last week’s win improved the Cougars’ season record to 5-1. Before its 6-0 record to open the 2008 season, the last time BYU had a 5-1 start or better was in 2001, when the program posted 12 consecutive wins.

TALE OF THE TAPE

BYU’s starting five offensive linemen weigh in at an average 317 pounds and average 6-feet-4. The front five will be going up against a SDSU defensive front that measures an average 6-feet-2, 253 pounds. Defensively, the Cougars front three average 6-feet-3, 262 pounds, while the SDSU offensive line tips the scales at an average 6-feet-3, 293 pounds per man.

HE WHO SCORES FIRST...

BYU was the first to score last week on a 29-yard field goal by Mitch Payne with 5:20 remaining in the first quarter. BYU has been the first to score in three games this season, the other being Tulane and Colorado State. The Cougars are 3-0 in those three games.

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS

The Cougars lead the nation in third-down conversion percentage, converting a total of 36-of-60 attempts. Last week BYU continued that success, moving the chains on 8-of-11 third-down attempts against the UNLV defense.

DOUBLE THREAT

Junior running back Harvey Unga needs only 32 more receiving yards to become one of only nine Cougars to record over 1,000 career yards through the air and on the ground. Unga currently has 969 yards receiving and 2,385 yards rushing.

Other Cougars who accomplished this feat are Curtis Brown, Jamal Willis, Lakei Heimuli, Luke Staley, Hema Heimuli, Todd Christensen, Scott Phillips and Fred Whittingham.

UNGA ON THE RUN

After Harvey Unga’s 33-yard touchdown with 1:09 to play in the first quarter against UNLV, the junior has now recorded a rushing score in each of the past four games. He also crossed the 100-yard rushing mark for the third consecutive week after his 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The last time Unga recorded three 100-yard rushing games in a row was during the end of his freshman season in 2007 when he passed the century mark against Wyoming, Utah and San Diego State.

His three rushing touchdown in the first half tie a career-high for Unga, a mark he also reached in BYU’s 43-27 win at San Diego State in 2007 and against CSU earlier this season.

CONSECUTIVE CATCHES

All-American tight end Dennis Pitta caught his first pass of the UNLV game with 13:49 remaining in the second quarter for a 25-yard gain bringing up first-and-goal. The senior has caught a pass in 36 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 23, 2004 (at Air Force), prior to his mission.

SURPASSING HUDSON

With his five catches against CSU, All-American tight end Dennis Pitta passed Hall of Fame tight end Gordon Hudson to become BYU’s career receptions leader among tight ends. Hudson had 178 receptions during the 1981-83 seasons. Pitta equaled Hudson on a 13-yard catch on third-down during BYU’s second possession of the third quarter and then set the new mark two plays later on a 14-yard reception to the CSU 29-yard line. The drive ended with Pitta catching an 18-yard touchdown for his fourth catch of the drive, fifth of the game and 180th of his career. As of now Pitta has 187 career catches.

Over his career Pitta has racked up 2,471 receiving yards, needing only 14 more to surpass Hudson as BYU’s all-time leading tight end.

WHO’S NO. 75?

Sophomore tight end Braden Hansen switched jersey numbers from No. 89 to No. 75 in the fourth quarter of the UNLV game as he saw his first action as a member of the BYU offensive line. He has been cross training as both a tight end and offensive tackle.

HALL CREEPS UP ON DETMER’S WIN RECORD

With the Cougars’ 59-21 win over UNLV, senior quarterback Max Hall now has 26 career wins as the starting play-caller for BYU. As far as where that puts him on BYU’s all-time list, Hall trails only Ty Detmer, who racked up 29 wins during his career from 1988-91.

CONSECUTIVE STARTS

The UNLV game marked senior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s 45th straight career start. During that streak, Jorgensen has started every game of his collegiate career and set a new MWC all-time career sack record at 23.5. His first career start came against Arizona on Sept. 2, 2006.

FUMBLE RECOVERIES

Junior defensive back Andrew Rich recovered a USU fumble with 55-seconds remaining in the second quarter last week. With the BYU offense back on the field, Max Hall led a two-play, 29-yard scoring drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by senior Manase Tonga.

The Cougars have now recovered six fumbles in their first five games.

PAPER OR PLASTIC?

Linebacker Coleby Clawson picked up two sacks against UNLV’s Omar Clayton last week, giving him three on the season.

Junior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s sack against Utah State’s Diondre Borel late in the first quarter on Oct. 2 extended his MWC career sack record to 23.5. The previous record of 20.5 was held by New Mexico’s Michael Tuohy, TCU’s Chase Ortiz and former Cougar Brady Poppinga. Jorgensen recorded four sacks his freshman season in 2006, 13.5 his sophomore season and five in 2008.

Collectively the Cougars have recorded 11 sacks in their first six games this season.

COUGAR PICKS

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Pendleton recorded his first interception of the 2009 season with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter against UNLV, picking off an intended throwaway pass from Rebel quarterback Omar Clayton. The Cougars capitalized on the turnover, scoring two plays later on a 33-yard touchdown run by Harvey Unga.

Senior defensive back Scott Johnson intercepted the first pass of his career with 7:22 remaining in the second quarter. He followed that with another pick with just over seven minutes to play in the third quarter. The last time BYU had a defender intercept two passes in a game was back in 2002 when Brandon Heaney did so against Georgia Tech.

The Cougar defense has now snagged seven interceptions through their first six games.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

BYU has been unable to return a kickoff for a touchdown for 137 consecutive games. Mike Rigell was the last Cougar to accomplish the feat, turning in a 96-yard touchdown in a 31-9 victory at Hawaii on October 17, 1998.

The last time BYU returned a punt for a touchdown was back on Nov. 9, 2006 when freshman McKay Jacobson ran one back 77 yards. Thirty-five games have passed since then.

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