PROVO -- It wasn't the sellout crowd of the night before in LaVell Edwards Stadium, but the 2,798 fans that witnessed the BYU-JV squad face-off against top-ranked Dixie State College Friday night again saw victory for the Cougars as they defeated the Rebels, 21-14.
"Because Dixie was ranked high, and really had a lot of respect, it added to their motivation that they wanted to play well," said BYU offensive line coach Lance Reynolds. "They were excited to play."
Even with the excitement, Dixie State was the team that started the scoring with a 39-yard field goal by Jake Hunt in the middle of the first quarter. The Rebels brought the score up to 6-0 early in the second quarter on another Hunt field goal from the 36-yard line.
BYU quarterback Todd Mortensen got off to a rough start, with his first pass of the year intercepted by Dixie's Reggie Wilson early in the first quarter. He improved as the game went on, passing for two touchdowns before the end of the first half and finished with six completions on 15 attempts for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior running back Steve Later recorded the first touchdown for the Cougars, on a 33-yard pass from Mortensen. Later nearly had a second touchdown when a fumble recovery by BYU late in the second quarter gave the Cougars a first and goal on the nine-yard line. Right after diving into the endzone for what looked like a score, it was ruled that he had stepped out of bounds at the two-yard line.
Sophomore wide receiver Jason Kukahiko took in the second touchdown pass from Mortensen, a 24-yard reception, with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter to make the score 14-6 at the half.
The Rebels dominated in possession time, 36:42 to the Cougars' 23:18, but perhaps that was due to the fact that BYU's three scoring drives took a total of three plays, 156 yards and only 133 seconds. Dixie's only touchdown drive (a three yard pass from Casey Rehrer to Christia Smith followed by a two-point conversion ran in by Josh Burkman) took ten plays, 36 yards and just over four minutes during the third quarter to give the game a 14-point tie.
Freshman Matt Berry saw action at quarterback during the second half, passing for 144 yards (23-12-0) and one touchdown, a 39-yard pass to senior receiver Kish Beverly.
For the second night in a row, the Cougar receivers and tight ends made an impressive showing, led by sophomore Jason Kukahiko with nine receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown. Junior tight end Andy Hadfield recorded four receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown.
"Several of them really stepped up and played well," Reynolds said. "A lot of them got a chance to perform. We felt like a lot of the young players really stepped up and stood out, and it gave us a chance to give our quarterbacks live experience, and some time for us to evaluate all of them."
Later led the Cougars in rushing with seven carries for 41 yards and one touchdown.
Freshman linebacker Lance Reynolds intercepted the ball on a Rehrer pass, bringing the Cougars into another scoring campaign in the middle of the fourth quarter. Six plays later, BYU scored on a 39-yard pass from Berry to senior receiver Kish Beverly, followed by a McLaughlin kick to bring the score to 21-14 with 4:50 left in the fourth.
"BYU did a great job," said Dixie head coach Greg Croshaw. "We had a lot of opportunities and we just didn't get it done. We hurt ourselves in a lot of areas and BYU took advantage of that. Congratulations to them. We just got out played tonight. We're playing a lot of young guys right now and they surely got an eye opening tonight."
The last BYU touchdown was followed by the zealous Cougar cheerleaders running three flags down the sideline reading "B-U-Y", perhaps in an effort to encourage fans to purchase tickets for next week's varsity game against the Hawaii Warriors. The error was corrected and the flags, correctly spelling "B-Y-U" were carried down the sidelines once more to a standing ovation from the crowd.
The Cougar JV team will play Snow College next Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002 at 5 p.m. in Ephraim, Utah.