Game Notes: Friday Matchup With Aggies

Defensive lineman Brett Denney recorded six solo tackles and one sack in BYU's 34-14 win over Utah State last season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

BYU (3-1, 1-0 MWC) will compete in its final non-conference matchup of the season when it hosts in-state rival Utah State (1-2) Friday evening at 7 p.m. MT. The Cougars, who are coming off a 42-23 win in their Mountain West Conference opener against Colorado State last week, have a 2-1 nonconference record with wins against No. 3 Oklahoma and Tulane.

First-year USU head coach Gary Andersen led Utah State in its first win of the 2009 season, a 53-34 homecoming victory over Southern Utah on Sept. 26. The Aggies dropped contests against No. 19 Utah and Texas A&M prior to last Saturday’s win.

ON THE TUBE

Friday’s game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on The Mtn. Bill Doleman will provided play-by-play coverage, with Blaine Fowler lending analysis and Toby Christensen reporting from the sidelines.

A network anchor for The Mtn., Doleman was a regular on ESPN’s regional coverage of Big-12 Conference men’s basketball for 14 seasons and has performed extensive work for several other conferences as well. 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 four-year wide receiver at BYU, Christensen earned Academic All-Mountain West Conference honors two years in a row and ranked third in academic performance on the BYU roster before graduating in 2003.

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

WHAT THE GAME MEANS

- With a win at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday the Cougars would improve their home-field dominance, posting a 20-1 record in their last 21 games played at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

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

THE BYU-UTAH STATE SERIES

One of the state’s oldest rivalries, the Cougars and Aggies have met 78 times, with BYU owning a 42-33-3 record in the 87-year-old history. The two teams met every year from 1922 through 1942 and again from 1946 through 1994. They then played every year except 1995 and 1998 before the series stopped after 2002. Over the years, the losing team has been shutout 19 times, most recently the Aggies in a 38-0 loss to BYU in 2006.

BYU has won nine straight since the Aggies posted a thrilling 58-56 victory in 1993. In their last meeting in 2008, the Cougars defeated Utah State, 34-14, in Logan.

LAST TIME: BYU 34, USU 14 (OCT. 3, 2008)

Junior wide receiver Austin Collie recorded his third-straight game with more than 100 receiving yards as No. 7 BYU improved to 5-0 on the season with a 34-14 victory at Utah State (1-4). The Cougars extended the nation’s top winning streak to 15 games.

Collie hauled in eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Aggies, moving into eighth place all-time in career receiving yards (2,235) at BYU. Heisman Trophy candidate Max Hall threw for 303 yards and connected with seven different receivers while going 23-for-37. Running back Harvey Unga led the Cougar ground attack with 92 yards on 22 carries to help BYU total 406 yards of total offense.

The Cougars extended their streak of shutout quarters to 11 before Utah State running back Robert Turbin scored with 13:47 to go in the fourth quarter. Turbin broke a tackle attempt by BYU safety David Tafuna and raced 40 yards to the end zone. The Cougars had not given up a score since the fourth quarter at Washington on Sept. 6. BYU went on to score 137 straight points against UCLA, Wyoming and Utah State before the Aggies finally broke through with a score.

UTAH STATE’S LAST OUTING

LOGAN -- Utah State erupted for 53 points en route to a 53-34 Homecoming win over Southern Utah Saturday night at Romney Stadium. The Aggies won first-year head coach Gary Andersen’s USU home debut, improving to 1-2 on the season while the Thunderbirds dropped their third in a row, falling to 1-3. It was Utah State’s first home-opening win since 2005 and the Aggies’ first Homecoming win since 2006, improving to 49-28-2 all-time in celebrating the navy and white tradition.

USU amassed 604 yards of total offense, the most since 2001 and the ninth-most in school history and reached many other milestones along the way. Most noteable was the running back tandem of sophomore Robert Turbin (17 carries, 104 yards) and junior Michael Smith (eight carries, 100 yards), who became the first pair of Aggie backs to both rush for 100 yards since 1989.

With 108 receiving yards, Turbin also became the first USU running back to have 100-yard receiving and rushing in the same game since Emmett White in 2000. Additionally, Turbin became the first Aggie back to have three-straight 100-yard rushing outings since White in 2001.

COUGAR-AGGIE TIES

- There are 29 Utah natives on the USU roster, including three from Provo (Alder, Asisi and Van Leeuwen).

- Cougar back-up quarterback Riley Nelson transferred to BYU from Utah State following his mission to Spain. Nelson started the final eight games for USU during the 2006 season.

- Aggie freshman defensive lineman DJ Tialavea is the cousin of BYU’s Russell Tialavea.

- BYU wide receiver McKay Jacobson and USU offensive lineman Robert Hill both graduated from Carroll HS in Southlake, Texas.

- BYU defensive back Robbie Buckner and USU defensive end Antonio May both graduated from Ashdown HS in Ashdown, Ark.

BYU’S LAST OUTING

PROVO -- A quick start in the first quarter propelled No. 19 BYU (3-1) over Colorado State (3-1), 42-23, to open Mountain West Conference play with a win at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 64,091.

The Cougar offense scored all three first quarter touchdowns on drives of less than forty seconds, with each possession taking just two plays thanks to the defensive and special teams units. All three scores came on the ground for the Cougars, the first time BYU has rushed for three touchdowns in a quarter since a 62-41 win against Air Force in 2005.

Davey O’Brien candidate Hall added two touchdown passes to a scoring run of his own, completing 18-of-29 passes for 241 yards and two interceptions.

Senior tight end Dennis Pitta snagged a catch on third-and-goal from the 18-yard line in the third quarter. The touchdown was the first for Pitta since last year’s contest against Colorado State in November. During the drive, Pitta made four of his five catches on the night and passed Hall of Famer Gordon Hudson to become the Cougars’ all-time receptions leader among tight ends with 180.

COMPETING AS A RANKED TEAM

With the win over Colorado State last week, the Cougars are 151-45 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. A ranked BYU team has won 20 of its last 24 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

BYU won the coin toss before the start of the CSU game and elected to defer—for the fourth consecutive week. BYU has won the toss in every game this season, posting a 3-1 record.

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 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 35-4 when leading at halftime and 33-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

Mendenhall’s teams have won 23 straight games when leading by at least 14 points at the halftime break, 70 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.

NIGHT GAMES

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

3-1 START TO THE SEASON

Last week’s win over CSU improved the Cougars’ season record to 3-1. Before its 6-0 record to open the 2008 season, the last time BYU had a 3-1 start or better was in 2001, when the program posted four consecutive wins over Tulane, Nevada, California and UNLV.

“FAN”TASTIC FANS

The 64,091 fans in attendance for the Cougars’ 42-23 win over CSU marked the 14th consecutive sell-out at Edwards Stadium. The current streak marks the longest streak of consecutive sellouts since the 1990-92 seasons. In two games this season BYU is averaging 64,150 fans per game. The last time the stadium was not sold out was against New Mexico on Nov. 18, 2006 when 63,814 fans were in attendance—231 short of a sellout.

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 Utah State defensive front that measures an average 6-feet-2, 249 pounds. Defensively, the Cougars front three average 6-feet-3, 262 pounds, while the USU offensive line tips the scales at an average 6-feet-3, 294 pounds per man.

CONSECUTIVE CATCHES

All-American tight end Dennis Pitta caught his first pass of the Colorado State game with 52-seconds remaining in the first quarter for a 13-yard gain. The senior has caught a pass in 34 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 23, 2004 (at Air Force), prior to his mission.

UNGA IS BACK

Junior running back Harvey Unga scored his third touchdown of the day with 7:04 remaining in the game against CSU, capping a 16-play drive and giving BYU a 35-17 lead after the made PAT. His first two rushing touchdowns came in the first quarter. Three rushing touchdowns tie a career-high for Unga, a mark he also reached in BYU’s 43-27 win at San Diego State in 2007.

With a 4-yard carry on BYU’s final possession of the game, Unga surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time this season and the first time since the Cougars’ 48-24 loss to Utah on Nov. 22, 2008.

After suffering a hamstring injury during fall camp, Unga did not play in BYU’s win over Oklahoma and saw limited action against Tulane. This was his first rushing touchdown since the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona.

HE WHO SCORES FIRST...

BYU was the first to score last week on a 4-yard touchdown run by Harvey Unga with 12:44 remaining in the first quarter. BYU has been the first to score in two games this season, the other being Tulane. The Cougars are 2-0 in those two games.

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 now has 180 career catches. He 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.

CONSECUTIVE STARTS

The Colorado State game marked senior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s 43rd 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 22.5. His first career start came against Arizona on Sept. 2, 2006.

PAPER OR PLASTIC?

Defensive lineman Romney Fuga’s sack against CSU’s Grant Stucker with just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter last week marked the first of his BYU career. Fellow lineman Vic So’oto picked up his first career sack about a minute later, while senior linebacker Coleby Clawson recorded his first sack of the season on CSU’s first drive of the second half.

Collectively the Cougars have recorded five sacks in their first four games this season.

Junior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s sack against CSU’s Billy Farris in 2008 gave him 21.5 career sacks, breaking the previous MWC record of 20.5 he shared with New Mexico’s Michael Tuohy, TCU’s Chase Ortiz and former Cougar Brady Poppinga. Jorgensen added a second sack and forced a fumble with just 22 seconds remaining to help secure the win and bring his career sack total to 22.5. He recorded four sacks his freshman season in 2006, 13.5 his sophomore season and five in 2008.

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 four games.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE

BYU has been unable to return a kickoff for a touchdown for 135 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-three games have passed since then.

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