Nelson and BYU Come Back to Win 27-24

Sophomore Marcus Mathews caught his first-career touchdown pass, the game-winner, in BYU's 27-24 win over Utah State. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah - Quarterback Riley Nelson connected with tight end Marcus Mathews off a deflected pass for a 13-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left on the clock to give the BYU football team a 27-24 come-from-behind victory over the Utah State Aggies on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 63,513 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

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Starting at the BYU 4-yard line, the 96-yard winning drive started with just 2:36 remaining in the game. Nelson created play after play with his feet, highlighted by a 40-yard pass to wide receiver McKay Jacobson. Nelson completed 4 of 5 passes for 66 yards and rushed four times for 30 yards on the drive.

"Our team is battered and bruised and sweating and dripping and that is the way I want to win games," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "It's right to the end to find a way to win and that should make for an exciting season."

The Cougars (3-2) rattled off 14 points in the fourth quarter to come back from a 24-13 Utah State (1-3) lead. Nelson entered the game with 5:06 left in the third quarter and put together two touchdown drives to lead BYU back for the win. He finished the game 10 of 14 passing for a career-high 144 yards with two touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 62 yards.

"We have a tough schedule and every game is going to be decided by a touchdown or less," Nelson said. "We are ready for it and I know Cougar fans are too. It's going to be a fun season."

Rushing for its highest total of the season, the Cougar backfield accounted for 200 yards on the ground. Nelson led the way with his 62 yards but all three running backs contributed with at least 10 carries each. JJ Di Luigi had 50 yards on 11 carries, Bryan Kariya picked up 42 yards on 11 attempts and Josh Quezada added 10 carries for 41 yards.

On the first play from scrimmage the Aggies’ Robert Turbin rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown. Just 14 seconds into the game Utah State would take a 7-0 lead.

BYU came back with a field goal on their opening drive. The Cougars drove to the Aggie 5-yard line before stalling and settling for the 23-yard chip shot from Justin Sorensen to cut the lead to 7-3 with 8:09 left in the first quarter.

On its next possession, BYU got into the end zone for the first time with 1:47 left in the first to take a 10-7 lead. Quarterback Jake Heaps ran it in on a 1-yard quarterback keeper after Nelson came in and rushed for four yards on a fourth down to keep the drive alive.

Utah State answered back late in the second quarter. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton found an open Eric Moats from 13 yards out. The Aggies were 4 of 4 on third down on the drive. With the extra point, Utah State regained the lead 14-10 with 4:02 left in the half.

With 55 seconds remaining in the half, BYU cut the lead to just one point with another field goal. Sorensen hit from 29-yards to make the score 14-13.

The Aggies continued to be efficient on third down, scoring on a 24-yard pass to Turbin on third down to extend their lead to 21-13 with 8:37 left in the third quarter.

Another field goal at the start of the fourth quarter gave Utah State a 24-13 lead with 12:43 left to play.

With Nelson in at quarterback, BYU cut the lead down to 24-20 with 10:05 left in the game. Nelson put together an 8-play, 60-yard drive ending in a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Hoffman, Hoffman's first touchdown catch of the year.

The Cougars got a big stop when the Aggies faked a field goal from the BYU 30-yard line. Safety Daniel Sorensen batted down a pass from Utah State’s placekicker to give the Cougars the ball back with 7:51 remaining in the game.

The stop would prove to be a game-changer with the ensuing BYU comeback.

Up next, the Cougars take on the San Jose State Spartans at 8:15 p.m. MT on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium, televised live on ESPNU.

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