Game Notes: Rams Visit as BYU Opens MWC Play

Tight end Dennis Pitta caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes as the Cougars defeated CSU, 45-42, in 2008. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

After posting a 2-1 nonconference record to start the season, the Cougars will open Mountain West Conference play against Colorado State on Saturday. BYU has a 12-game home win streak in league contests, eclipsing the old mark of six held by Utah and Colorado State. The Cougars last suffered a MWC loss on Nov. 19, 2005 in a 41-34 overtime thriller to Utah.

The Cougars are coming off a 54-28 loss to Florida State in their home opener last week, while the Rams come to Provo after defeating Nevada, 35-20. Saturday also marks CSU’s conference opener.

ON THE TUBE

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on The Mtn. James Bates will provide play-by-play coverage, with Todd Christensen lending analysis. Sammy Linebaugh will report from the sidelines. Bates was an All-Southeastern Conference linebacker at the University of Florida and captain of the Gators’ 1996 national championship football team. Christensen was a standout at BYU before launching an NFL career, playing as a tight end with the Cowboys and the Raiders. Linebaugh is a former news reporter for KSL-TV in Salt Lake City and has worked as a freelance reporter before joining The Mtn. as a reporter. The game will mark the first of seven BYU games available on The Mtn. during the 2009 season.

WHAT THE GAME MEANS

- With a win at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday the Cougars would extend their MWC home win streak to 13 games--extending its conference record.

- A win would give BYU a 6-1 record in its past seven MWC openers.

- A win would improve 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.

THE BYU-COLORADO STATE SERIES

The Cougars hold an all-time record of 37-27-3 against the Rams, including their most recent 45-42 victory in Fort Collins in 2008. These two teams first met in 1922 when CSU posted a 33-0 shutout victory over BYU. The Rams went on to win the first six meetings, until BYU finally pulled out a 20-12 home win in 1938. The Cougars have won the past five matchups, as well as 18 of the past 23 meetings in Provo, dating back to 1957. In those 18 games, BYU has averaged 34.2 points.

LAST TIME: BYU 45, CSU 42 (NOV. 1, 2008)

The frequent cannon blasts from the south end zone after each score rocked Hughes Stadium all night, but the real fireworks were on the field where No. 17 BYU defeated Colorado State 45-42. With the win the Cougars improve to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West Conference while the Rams fall to 4-5 and 2-3.

Just as he had the week before against UNLV, Hall led BYU on a come-from-behind drive for the winning score. The drive covered 76 yards in six plays and took just 1:14 on the clock. It was capped by a 17-yard strike to Pitta with just 22 seconds on the clock.

BYU rolled up 551 yards of total offense to CSU’s 401. Davey O’Brien Award candidate Hall completed 28-of-37 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns. Collie, who was leading the nation in receiving coming into the game, had nine receptions for 156 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Pitta a Mackey Award candidate, had a career-high 12 catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns, while Unga had 24 carries for 143 yards rushing.

COLORADO STATE’S LAST OUTING

FORT COLLINS -- The CSU Rams collected five Nevada turnovers, including Elijah-Blu Smith’s third interception in three games, and Grant Stucker threw two touchdown passes as the Rams defeated Nevada 35-20 at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.

Smith picked off a Colin Kaepernick pass with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left in the third quarter to put an end to a Wolf Pack drive that could’ve made it a one-score game. Instead, the Rams regained possession and maintained a 21-6 lead.

Stucker finished the game 10-of-20 for 165 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a 35-yard touchdown run with 6:43 left in the game, making the score 35-6. Morton caught his first touchdown of the year, to go with his touchdown pass, on a 49-yarder from Stucker in the third quarter. Mosure ended the day with 18 carries for 99 yards in his first action since being injured in the first half against CU.

COUGAR-RAM TIES

- There are five Colorado natives on the BYU roster--defensive lineman Brett Denney (Thornton), tight end Andrew George (Englewood), defensive back Blake Morgan (Greeley) and offensive linemen Nick and Terrance Alletto (Parker).

- The Rams have two Utahns on their roster--quarterback Jon Eastman (Sandy) and offensive lineman Paul Madsen (Provo).

- Brothers, Nick and Terrance Alletto, both attended Ponderosa HS, the same high school as CSU’s quarterback Grant Stucker.

- BYU tight end Andrew George and CSU wide receiver Alex Johnson both graduated from Cherry Creek HS.

- JC transfer Jordan Atkinson came to BYU from Diablo Valley Junior College, the same school as CSU wide receiver Ryan Gardner.

BYU’S LAST OUTING

PROVO -- In a barrage of points and offense, Florida State defeated No. 7 BYU, 54-28, to snap the Cougars’ 18-game home win streak in front of 64,209 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Cougar wideout McKay Jacobson had a career day in front of the 13th-straight Edwards Stadium sellout crowd, using a career-long 80-yard touchdown catch to finish with 111 yards, the young sophomore’s single-game best. His score came on the first play of a new BYU possession late in the third quarter, resulting in a scoring drive of 12 seconds.

Senior quarterback Max Hall finished the night 20-for-31 for 306 yards and two touchdowns, but was hindered by three interceptions.

In his first substantial action back from a hamstring injury, junior Harvey Unga led the Cougar ground attack, rushing for 97 yards on 10 carries for 9.7 yards per carry, including his first touchdown of the season minutes into the second quarter.

COMPETING AS A RANKED TEAM

With the 54-28 loss to Florida State the Cougars are 150-45 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. A ranked BYU team has won 19 of its last 23 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 Florida State game and elected to defer—for the third consecutive week. BYU is now 2-1 when winning 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.

DON’T LOOK BACK

In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 34-4 when leading at halftime and 32-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

BEST IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST

Since the Mountain West Conference was formed in 1999, BYU has posted a record of 52-22 against league opponents, marking the most wins of any other conference opponent. The Cougars have also won a league-best four MWC titles (1999, 2001, 2006 and 2007).

“FAN”TASTIC FANS

The 64,209 fans in attendance for the Cougars’ 54-28 loss to FSU marked the 13th consecutive sell-out at Edwards Stadium. The current streak marks the longest streak of consecutive sellouts since the 1990-92 seasons. Over 380,000 (384,613) fans attended the Cougars’ six home games at Edwards Stadium in 2008, averaging 64,102 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 Colorado State defensive front that measures an average 6-feet-5, 279 pounds. Defensively, the Cougars’ front three average 6-feet-3, 262 pounds, while the CSU offensive line tips the scales at an average 6-feet-5, 298 pounds per man.

CONSECUTIVE CATCHES

All-American tight end Dennis Pitta caught his first pass of the Florida State game with just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter for an 11-yard gain. The senior has caught a pass in 33 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 23, 2004 (at Air Force), prior to his mission.

CONSECUTIVE STARTS

The Florida State game marked senior defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen’s 42nd 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.

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