Game Notes: Fifth Consecutive Trip to Vegas Bowl

Quarterback Max Hall ran for a one-yard touchdown in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

FIFTH-STRAIGHT TRIP TO VEGAS BOWL

The No. 14 BYU Cougars have accepted an invitation to play the No. 18 Oregon State Beavers in the 18th annual MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Boasting two ranked opponents for the first time since the event was founded, the 2009 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas matches two teams that finished second in their respective conferences. BYU (10-2, 7-1) was runner-up to No. 4 TCU in the Mountain West Conference, while Oregon State (8-4, 6-3) was one of three teams tied for second in the Pac-10 Conference behind No. 7 Oregon

COUGARS’ HISTORY IN THE BOWL

The Cougars are 2-2 in four prior trips to the Las Vegas Bowl with a 35-28 loss to California in 2005, 38-8 triumph over Oregon in 2006, 17-16 victory against UCLA in 2008 and 31-21 defeat to Arizona last year. BYU is playing in the same bowl game for the fifth straight season for the first time since making seven consecutive trips to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego from 1978 through 1984.

FOUR-YEAR RECORD AMONG NATION’S BEST

Over the past four seasons BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has helped his team achieve a 42-9 record topped by only four teams — Boise State, Florida, Texas and Ohio State. In doing so, the Cougars have achieved four straight seasons with 10 or more wins for the first time in school history. Only Boise State, Ohio State and Texas have equaled BYU’s consistency in recording double-digit wins each of the last four seasons.

WHAT THE GAME MEANS

- A win against Oregon State would give the Cougars their third bowl win in four years, including their 10th bowl victory overall.

- Winning this bowl game would secure the fourth straight season BYU has finished the season ranked among the nation’s top-25 programs. The Cougars finished the 2006 season ranked 15th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 16th in the Associated Press Top-25. The 2007 season ended with BYU ranked 14th in both polls, while it finished 21st (USA Today) and 25th (AP) in 2008. The 1990-92 seasons marked the last time BYU finished the year ranked in the top-25 in three consecutive seasons.

THE BYU-OREGON STATE SERIES

BYU and Oregon State last played in 1986 when Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall played for the Beavers and earned a 10-7 victory over the Cougars in Provo. BYU’s last win over Oregon State was the previous meeting, a 10-6 triumph in Corvallis to open the 1978 season. The Cougars are 3-5 overall against the Beavers in a series that began in 1955.

Mendenhall played for Oregon State in 1986 and 1987 as a starting safety and linebacker. He was a team captain in 1987 and winner of the Leo Gribkoff Memorial Award given to the team’s most inspirational player. He served as a Beavers’ graduate assistant working with the defensive line from 1989-90 and returned to Corvallis from 1995-96 as the defensive line coach (1995) and defensive coordinator and secondary coach (1996). A 1988 graduate, Mendenhall also earned a Masters of Education in exercise physiology from Oregon State in 1990.

LAST TIME: OSU 10, BYU 7 (NOV. 15, 1986)

PROVO, Utah – Even when the breaks went BYU’s way, the Cougars could not convert miscues into points. First there was a first quarter interception by BYU linebacker J.C. VonCohn which was fumbled 20-yards later. Then linebacker Steve Kaufusi beat OSU’s quarterback in a footrace to recover an errant snap. Jason Buck had four sacks and fellow defensive tackle Shawn Knight picked up two more sacks, but none of them came during the Beaver scoring drives.

The Cougars seemed to lose steam in the third quarter after Steve Lindsley threw his second interception of that period and defensive back Scott Peterson suffered a concussion on the OSU sideline.

BYU’s lone score came in the second quarter on a Lake Heimuli plunge. And BYU’s Richard Hobbs blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. After OSU was intercepted in the endzone during the fourth quarter, reserve quarterback Bob Jensen tried to rally the Cougars--all in vain.

OREGON STATE’S LAST OUTING

EUGENE -- Redshirt freshman LaMichael James ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns to send No. 7 Oregon to the Rose Bowl with a 37-33 victory over No. 13 Oregon State in the Civil War. Oregon State (8-4, 6-3) was vying for its first Rose Bowl berth since the 1964 season. It was the first time the annual rivalry game was a winner-takes-all path to Pasadena.

Sean Canfield threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns for the Beavers. Jacquizz Rodgers, the Pac-10’s second-leading rusher behind Toby Gerhart with an average of 119.4 yards a game, rushed for just 64 yards and a score.

Justin Kahut kicked three field goals in the first half, Jacquizz Rodgers had a 1-yard run for his school-record 20th rushing TD this season and James Rodgers had a 28-yard touchdown reception with 14 seconds left in the second to give the Beavers a 23-21 halftime lead.

Oregon State had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth but Canfield threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-15 from the Oregon 28.

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 an Oregon State defensive front that measures an average 6-feet-2, 261 pounds. Defensively, the Cougars’ front three average 6-feet-3, 262 pounds, while the Beaver offensive line tips the scales at an average 6-feet-3, 296 pounds per man.

BYU’S LAST OUTING

PROVO -- BYU senior quarterback Max Hall split two defenders, hitting senior tight end Andrew George up the middle in overtime as BYU defeated rival Utah, 26-23, in front of 64,301 fans Saturday on senior night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Wearing throwback jerseys in honor of the 1984 Cougar squad that won the national championship 25 years ago, 19 seniors earned redemption from a loss to Utah last season, walking out with the stadium’s 200th win.

Down 20-6, Utah scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before kicking a field goal in the Utes’ first possession in OT. After a five-yard run by Hall was nullified due to an illegal motion penalty, the senior quarterback slipped a pass right between two diving Utes. George hauled in the pass, turning to find himself with nothing but open field 25 yards for the game-winning score.

Hall, a senior, threw two touchdown passes and zero interceptions, going 12-for-32 for 134 yards. George finished with two catches for 43 yards. George, Pitta, Tonga and McKay Jacobson caught two passes apiece to lead the Cougars. Brandon Bradley led BYU with 11 tackles, eight unassisted, while Matt Bauman and Brian Logan recorded seven and six tackles, respectively.

COUGARS IN OVERTIME

The Utah game marked the Cougars’ first overtime game since a Sept. 16, 2006 loss to Boston College. With the 26-23 win, BYU is now 6-3 in overtime games, breaking a three-game overtime losing streak.

MENDENHALL TEAMS VERSUS RANKED FOES

Under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU is 3-7 vs. ranked foes, with its other 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.

COMPETING AS A RANKED TEAM

With the Utah win the Cougars improve to 158-46 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. A ranked BYU team has won 27 of its last 32 games dating back to 2006.

COIN TOSS

BYU won the coin toss over Utah on Nov. 28 and elected to receive, marking the seventh time this season the Cougars have won the toss. BYU is now 5-2 when winning the toss.

PULLING OUT THE CLOSE ONES

After a close 26-23 victory over the Utes, the Cougars have won 11 consecutive games decided by seven points or fewer, including three this season.

DON’T LOOK BACK

In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 42-4 when leading at halftime and 40-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

Mendenhall’s teams have won 27 straight games when leading by at least 14 points at the halftime break, 74 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 it lost, 29-27, in its homecoming game against Wyoming.

10-2 THROUGH 12 GAMES

Since Bronco Mendenhall took over the program in 2005, BYU has closed the regular season with 10-2 records or better in three straight seasons. Defeating Utah gives the Cougars another 10-2 season record, marking the 14th time in program history and extending the current streak to four. Never before has a BYU coach led his team to four consecutive 10-2 records.

HE WHO SCORES FIRST...

Utah was the first to score on Nov. 28 on a 39-yard field goal with 11:16 remaining in the first quarter. The Cougars’ opponents have been the first to score in six games this season, the others being Oklahoma, Florida State, Utah State, TCU and New Mexico . The Cougars are 4-2 in those six games.

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS

The Cougars lead the nation in third-down conversion percentage, converting a total of 86-of-155 attempts, 55-percent. In its 10 wins this season, the offense converted 58-percent of its third-downs.

CONSECUTIVE CATCHES

All-American tight end Dennis Pitta caught his first pass against Utah, a 17-yard completion, with 10:22 to play in the second quarter. The senior has caught a pass in 42 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 23, 2004 (at Air Force), prior to his mission. Those 42 games extend a BYU program record previously held by Glen Kozlowski with 38.

SCORING HALL PASSES

Quarterback Max Hall recorded two touchdown passes against Utah, giving him 30 on the year. Those 30 touchdown passes have been to 10 different members of the BYU receiving corp. Hall has now thrown a touchdown pass in 35-of-38 career games, including all 12 games this season.

CONSECUTIVE STARTS

The Utah game marked senior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s 51st 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 in 2008 with 22.5. Jorgensen’s first career start came against Arizona on Sept. 2, 2006.

FUMBLE RECOVERIES

Senior linebacker Shawn Doman recovered an Air Force fumble late in the first quarter, forced by defensive back Scott Johnson. With the BYU offense back on the field, Max Hall led a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta to give the Cougars a 10-0 lead.

Defensive lineman Brett Denney forced a fumble on the Falcon’s first drive of the second half, recovered by defensive lineman Russell Tialavea. The turnover resulted in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Hall to O’Neill Chambers, his first touchdown of the 2009 season. The Cougars have now recovered eight fumbles in 11 games.

PAPER OR PLASTIC?

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Pendleton recorded his third sack of the season for a 14-yard loss with 2:19 remaining in the first half against Utah on Nov. 28. Senior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen picked up a sack on Utah’s opening drive of the second half, giving him 6.5 on the year. Collectively the Cougars have recorded 25 sacks in their 12 games this season.

COUGAR PICKS

Defensive back Andrew Rich picked off his third interception of the season, second in as many games, with less than one minute to play in the second quarter against Utah, returning it for 52 yards. With one final chance to score before the halftime break, Mitch Payne converted a 37-yard field goal to give the Cougars a 13-6 lead. The Cougar defense has snagged 13 interceptions through 12 games.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

BYU has been unable to return a kickoff for a touchdown for 142 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. Forty games have passed since then.

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