Game Notes: Conference Play Resumes at UNLV

Defensive back Andrew Rich came up with the only turnover of the game against the Rebels last season with an interception in the end zone as time expired. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

After completing its non-conference schedule last week with a win over Utah State, BYU (4-1, 1-0 MWC) travels to UNLV (2-3, 0-1 MWC) to resume Mountain West Conference play. The trip marks the first for the Cougars since their win at Tulane, having played three consecutive home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The Rebels enter Saturday’s contest coming off a 63-23 loss to Nevada last week. Their two wins of the season came against Sacramento State and Hawai’i.

ON THE TUBE

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on The Mtn. Tim Neverett will provided play-by-play coverage, with Blaine Fowler lending analysis and Molly Sullivan reporting from the sidelines.

Neverett has covered three Olympic Games and reported on hockey, skiing, baseball, soccer and softball for ESPN2 and ESPN International. 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 before joining The Mtn. A Las Vegas native and graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sullivan is a former nationally ranked distance swimmer and ACC Champion for the Tar Heels.

The game will mark the third of seven BYU games available on The Mtn. during the 2009 season.

WHAT THE GAME MEANS

- With a win at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, BYU will improve its 2009 away record to 3-0 for the first time since 2001. That year the Cougars posted wins at California, UNLV and New Mexico.

- A win would improve 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 before ending with back-to-back losses to Hawaii and Louisville.

- Counting Saturday’s game, BYU has played at Sam Boyd Stadium seven times over the past five seasons dating back to 2005. During that span the Cougars have defeated the Rebels twice and posted a 2-2 record in the Las Vegas Bowl against Pac-10 opponents.

THE BYU-UNLV SERIES

The Cougars enter Saturday’s contest holding a 13-3 all-time record against the Rebels, including a perfect 7-0 record over UNLV in Las Vegas. Winning each of the past four matchups, BYU looks to remain undefeated under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The two teams first played each other in 1978 in Yokohama, Japan, with the Cougars taking a 28-24 win in the Land of the Rising Sun. BYU then won six in a row from 1981-2001. In the last meeting between these two teams in 2008, quarterback Max Hall threw four touchdown passes, going 24-for-31 for 245 yards.

LAST TIME: BYU 42, UNLV 35 (OCT. 25, 2008)

PROVO -- No. 17 BYU started and ended Saturday afternoon’s game against UNLV with big plays and endured a hard-fought battle in between to secure a 42-35 victory in front of a sellout crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYU junior wide receiver Austin Collie made a play to open the game when he returned the opening kickoff 75 yards to set up BYU’s earliest scoring strike of the season when Andrew George hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Max Hall with just 2:35 gone off the clock. The game ended with sophomore defensive back Andrew Rich intercepted UNLV’s Omar Clayton in the end zone as time expired to end the Rebels’ last-chance attempt to force overtime.

The Cougars and Rebels stayed within one scoring possession of each other during the entire game and UNLV stood at the 25-yard line when Rich intercepted the Rebels’ last hope of matching BYU.

Junior quarterback Max Hall led the offensively dominated game going 24-of-31 for 245 yards and four touchdowns, while Collie led the team with seven receptions for 113 yards. Collie set a new MWC record with his sixth straight 100-yard receiving game.

UNLV’S LAST OUTING

RENO -- Freshman Mike Ball ran for 184 yards and five touchdowns, Colin Kaepernick rushed for 173 yards and Luke Lippincott 170 to lead Nevada, Reno to its first win of the season and fifth in a row over rival UNLV 63-28 on Saturday.

Ball, who prepped in Las Vegas, scored on runs of 10, 1, 32, 4 and 89 yards and Kaepernick added 200 yards passing for the Wolf Pack (1-3), who never punted in the game that was 21-21 at the half. As a team, they had 559 yards rushing and 773 yards total offense to help overcome four fumbles.

Mike Clausen, filling in for injured quarterback Omar Clayton, completed 26-of-50 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown for the Rebels (2-3), whose last winning season was in 2000.

COUGAR-REBEL TIES

- Rebel offensive line coach, Keith Uperesa, was an All-WAC offensive tackle at BYU from 1974-77 and worked as a graduate assistant with the Cougars during the 1985 season.

- Rebels Daniel Kaanana (OL) and Kamu Kapanui (DS) both graduated from Kamehameha HS in Honolulu, Hawaii, as did Cougars Travis Uale (DB) and RJ Willing (OL).

- BYU wide receiver McKay Jacobson and UNLV linebacker Bryce Saldi both went to Southlake Carroll HS in Southlake, Texas. This is the third team Jacobson has faced this season that boasts a fellow Dragon.

- UNLV offensive lineman Thomas Wren shares the same hometown as BYU deep snapper John Pace. Both hail from Yorba Linda, Calif. and graduated from Esperanza HS.

- Two Rebels are transfers from Utah-based schools, including, linebacker Adam Gent (UVU) and defensive lineman AJ Lewis (SUU). Gent served an LDS mission to Las Vegas and his grandfather, William Gent, walked onto the BYU football team

BYU’S LAST OUTING

PROVO -- No. 20 BYU kept its win streak alive against Utah State, beating the Aggies for the 10th time in a row, 35-17, on Friday in front of a sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium crowd of 64,103 in the team’s last nonconference game of the season. With the win, the Cougars improve to 4-1 on the year and maintain the Old Wagon Wheel—which is held by the winner of the in-state BYU-Utah State rivalry.

Quarterback Max Hall completed 16-of-23 passes for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. BYU’s 431 yards of total offense were split fairly evenly between the passing and running games, with the Cougar ground game adding 213 yards.

Harvey Unga recorded his second-straight game of over 100 yards rushing, totaling 118 yards on 21 carries, a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. The junior’s six total touchdowns on the year lead the team. Junior wide receiver Luke Ashworth, who recorded his first start of the 2009 season, led all BYU receivers with a career-high 90 yards receiving on five catches and picked up his first career touchdown early in the second quarter.

COMPETING AS A RANKED TEAM

With the win over Utah State last week, the Cougars are 152-45 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. A ranked BYU team has won 21 of its last 25 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.

COIN TOSS

USU won the coin toss before the game last week and elected to defer to the second half. BYU won all four coin tosses prior to that game and is now 1-0 when losing the toss.

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.

MENDENHALL TEAMS DEFEATING RANKED FOES

Under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU is now 2-6 vs. ranked foes, with its wins being a 31-17 victory over No. 15 TCU on Sept. 28, 2006 and a 14-13 win over No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 5, 2009.

DON’T LOOK BACK

In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 36-4 when leading at halftime and 34-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

Mendenhall’s teams have won 24 straight games when leading by at least 14 points at the halftime break, 71 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.

NIGHT GAMES

The UNLV game will mark the fourth of five night games for the Cougars this season, with a later start (after 5 p.m.) also against TCU. BYU is 2-1 in night games so far after defeating Oklahoma in its season opener, dropping the contest to FSU on Sept. 19 and defeating Utah State last week.

4-1 START TO THE SEASON

Last week’s win improved the Cougars’ season record to 4-1. Before its 6-0 record to open the 2008 season, the last time BYU had a 4-1 start or better was in 2001, when the program posted 12 consecutive wins.

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.

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 UNLV defensive front that measures an average 6-feet-2, 291 pounds. Defensively, the Cougars front three average 6-feet-3, 262 pounds, while the UNLV offensive line tips the scales at an average 6-feet-4, 296 pounds per man.

CONSECUTIVE CATCHES

All-American tight end Dennis Pitta caught his first pass of the Utah State game with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter for a 6-yard touchdown, tying the score 7-7 after the made PAT. The senior has caught a pass in 35 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 23, 2004 (at Air Force), prior to his mission.

T-BIRDS CONTRIBUTE

BYU’s 2005 recruiting class boasted four Timpview HS graduates, three of which are current starters on the BYU offense--wide receiver Luke Ashworth, offensive lineman Matt Reynolds and running back Harvey Unga. Reserve wide receiver Stephen Covey was the fourth T-Bird to sign that year.

As seniors the foursome led Timpview to the 2004 4-A State Championship and each received numerous all-state and all-region honors.

Ashworth earned his first start of the 2009 season during the Utah State game when he set career highs with five receptions for 91 yards and his first touchdown as a Cougar.

As the only returning starter on BYU’s offensive line, Reynolds earned freshman All-America honors in 2008 and continues to provide consistent play at the left tackle spot.

Since earning MWC Freshman of the Year honors in 2007, Unga has recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is on pace to break BYU’s career rushing record before the end of his junior season.

HE WHO SCORES FIRST...

USU was the first to score last week on a 6-yard run by Diondre Borel with 10:28 remaining in the first quarter. BYU opponents have been the first to score in three games this season, the others being Oklahoma and Florida State. The Cougars are 2-1 in those two games.

HALL CREEPS UP ON DETMER’S WIN RECORD

With the Cougars’ 35-17 win over Utah State last week, senior quarterback Max Hall now has 25 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 30 wins during his career from 1988-91.

CONSECUTIVE STARTS

The Utah State game marked senior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s 44th 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 Shawn Doman’s sack against USU’s Diondre Borel on the Aggies’ second play of the game marked the first of his BYU career. Defensive lineman Brett Denney recorded a sack of his own with 13:12 to play in the second quarter, the sixth of his career.

Junior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s sack against Borel late in the first quarter 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 eight sacks in their first five games this season.

COUGAR PICKS

Junior defensive back Brian Logan recorded his second career interception on CSU’s opening drive, picking off a pass from quarterback Grant Stucker. The junior college transfer recorded a 20-yard return, setting the BYU offense up on the Rams’ 15-yard line. Harvey Unga ran in a 4-yard touchdown two plays later.

With 3:41 remaining in the first quarter, a hard hit by Logan jarred the ball loose, getting picked off by junior defensive back Andrew Rich. The interception set up a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Hall as the Cougars went up 14-0.

The Cougar defense has now snagged four interceptions through their first five games.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

BYU has been unable to return a kickoff for a touchdown for 136 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-four games have passed since then.

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