PROVO -- Too many mistakes early on Saturday night cost BYU, now 2-1, as Virginia, now 3-1, upset the17th-ranked Cougars, 45-40.
BYU spotted the Cavaliers 21 first quarter points before it could get on the scoreboard with the first of two Luke Staley touchdowns. Staley scored on a two-yard run, then cracked a 45-yard run off a draw, but the Cougars failed to convert both PATs off those second quarter drives.
Virginia scored its second and third TDs of the first quarter after picking off Kevin Feterik passes. Feterik was 28 of 47 for 303 yards passing with three interceptions and three touchdown passes.
Cavalier running back Thomas Jones netted 210 yards off 35 rushes and had two touchdowns on the ground. Of that total, 148 yards came in the first half when he scored a first quarter TD on a 23-yard run and a second quarter 45-yard scamper, his longest of the night.
When BYU cornerback Brian Gray returned a 28-yard interception for a touchdown with 1:47 on the clock, the Cougars had closed the gap to 28-19 at halftime.
"I felt good about our position coming out of the half," said BYU Coach LaVell Edwards. "The turnover off the lateral put us behind the eight ball again. Kevin was under the center, so it was pretty close.
"That play is a forward pass," said Feterik of the controversial call. "I didn't watch the replay. I'd like to see it on film."
Virginia cornerback Tim Spruill scooped up the dropped lateral and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown with 14:12 showing on the third quarter clock.
BYU scored with 13:40 in the third quarter when Feterik connected on the first of three second-half TD passes. The first TD pass was a 30-yard strike to Margin Hooks culminating a four-play drive. With 7:06 Feterik found Ben Horton for an eight-yard score off a five-play drive. And with 10:54 left in the game, tight end Carlos NuÃ±o caught a ricocheted pass in the endzone to cap an eight-play drive.
The Cougars had a final chance at the endzone with less than two minutes in the game. Virginia was called for holding and BYU whittled it to a first and goal from the eight-yard-line before a holding call against the Cougars put it back to the 16-yard-line. With first-and-goal from the 16, BYU couldn't punch it in and Feterik's final attempt was intercepted in the endzone.
"I knew that we would have to score a lot of points, but I didn't think we would have to score 45," said Virginia Coach George Welsh, who now has a 3-0 record against BYU, dating back to his time at Navy. "Our offense can't ordinarily generate all those points because we are a ground oriented team."
BYU's defense against the run was hampered by the absence of Butkus Award candidate Rob Morris who has been out all week with a groin-lower abdomen injury.
"I wouldn't have lasted more than a couple of plays," said Morris, who tried to jog on Friday and Saturday. "I've come to the realization that I'm not invincible, but I'm not the reason we lost. We lost to a good football team and made mental mistakes in the first quarter that we shouldn't have done."
Linebacker Jeff Holtry, who substituted for Morris, was sidelined in the first quarter with a concussion, so walk-on Dan DeCoite was forced into plenty of action.
"We missed Rob," said co-captain Byron Frisch. "He is good at stopping the run. They don't talk about his pass coverage. Virginia surprised us in the first quarter and we underestimated them. They were fast, they were physical, and they were great."
The loss to Virginia ended an eight-game home winning streak for BYU.