PROVO, Utah - Special teams, defense and the running game helped the BYU football team hang on to a 24-17 win against the UCF Knights at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of 59,874 fans on Friday.
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Defensive back Joe Sampson intercepted a pass tipped by linebacker Kyle Van Noy at the BYU three-yard line to save a potential game-tying touchdown with 3:10 left in the game. UCF got the ball back with just over one minute remaining but sacks by Van Noy and defensive end Mike Muehlmann sealed the victory for the Cougars.
The back-and-forth finish to the game also featured wide receiver Cody Hoffman taking a kickoff 93 yards to the house for a touchdown to tie the score at 17-17 in the third quarter. The touchdown return was the first by a BYU player since 1998 when Mike Rigell ran one back 96 yards against Hawaii.
"Special teams were critical for us," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We also had timely turnovers forced by our defense and that kept the points where we had a chance."
The special teams unit struck again in the fourth quarter when Michael Alisa recovered a muffed punt at the Knights 8-yard line, setting up BYU’s go-ahead score from running back Bryan Kariya on a 6-yard run with 10:29 left in the game.
Kariya had 14 carries for 52 yards and one touchdown and caught two passes for 11 yards. Running back JJ Di Luigi rushed seven times for 38 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run to go along with a pair of receptions for 16 yards. Altogether, BYU’s running backs had their highest output of the season with 127 yards on the ground.
"I just saw progress overall as a team," Mendenhall said. "I was very happy with the victory. It was hard-fought against a good team and a positive game overall."
UCF got on the board on its first possession. The Knights elected to receive the football first and drove 63 yards and connected on a 34-yard field goal to take the early 3-0 lead.
The Cougars matched UCF on their opening drive with a field goal. Kicker Justin Sorensen connected from 37 yards to tie the score at 3-3.
On BYU’s next possession quarterback Jake Heaps was intercepted, setting up a short field for the Knights at the BYU 17. Three plays later UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey rushed the ball into the end zone from 10 yards out for the touchdown and a 10-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Defense was the story of the second quarter with both teams trading stops, holding each other scoreless for the second quarter. The Knights took their 10-3 advantage into the break.
The Cougars stopped UCF on a third down attempt, forcing a punt from the Knights own 3-yard line. BYU returned the ball to the UCF 38-yard line. With a short field, the Cougars finally got into the end zone on a 16-yard touchdown run from Di Luigi. Sorensen made the extra point to knot the score up 10-10 with 8:13 remaining in the third quarter.
UCF took the lead right back on the ensuing drive. Godfrey connected on a 54-yard pass as part of a seven-play 84-yard drive, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from Godfrey. UCF would go up 17-10 after the made extra point.
The lead wouldn’t last long as Hoffman’s 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 4:37 left in the third quarter got the Cougars right back in the game. Sorensen tied the score at 17-17 with the extra point.
After a muffed punt from UCF in the fourth quarter, BYU recovered the football on the eight-yard line but suffered a 15-yard penalty, setting the Cougars up on the Knights 23-yard line. It didn’t phase the running game as three straight handoffs to Kariya proved to be lethal, the last coming in the form of a 6-yard touchdown run. BYU went up 24-17 with just over 10:29 to play and held on to win.
Up next, the Cougars play Utah State on Friday at 6 p.m. MT at LaVell Edwards Stadium, televised live on ESPN.
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BYU will host UCF for the first time in program history on Friday, Sept. 23, with kickoff set for 6:05 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast live from LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on ESPN, WatchESPN.com and KSL Radio 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and ksl.com.
BYU (1-2) vs. UCF (2-1)
Sept. 23, 2011
6:05 p.m. MT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
For the complete BYU vs. UCF game notes, download the attached PDF file below.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- BYU is facing its third school from the state of Florida in its first-ever matchup against UCF. BYU is 1-4 all-time against Florida schools overall with its lone home win against No. 1 Miami (FL) in 1990.
- BYU is looking to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time since dropping its last game in 2004 and home opener of 2005. The Cougars have not lost back-to-back home games on consecutive weekends since 2003 after losing to Stanford and Air Force.
- The Cougars have an overall record of 7-4 on Friday games dating back to 2000.
- The game features two of the best pass defenses in the country. UCF is first in the nation after allowing just 93.7 yards per game. BYU is 24th in the nation with a 168.7 ypg average.
- The BYU receiver combination of freshman Ross Apo and sophomore Cody Hoffman have been the bright spots on the offensive side of the ball. Apo has scored a touchdown in each of the Cougars’ first three games this season while Hoffman recorded a career- high 138 yards receiving on eight receptions last week versus Utah.
THE BYU-UCF SERIES
This will be the first game between BYU and UCF. The Cougars and Knights scheduled a home-and-home series beginning with this game. BYU will travel to Orlando in 2014 for the return game.
UCF AT THE NEXT LEVEL
Despite its relatively new presence in FBS college football, the Knights have been able to produce some top talent in the NFL. Notable names include two-time Pro Bowl Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper and two-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Assante Samuel of the Philadelphia Eagles. UCF has 11 current NFL players.
BRING ON THE BCS
Since the start of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, BYU has played at least two BCS-automatic qualifying teams every year. In 2011, the Cougars are playing four BCS schools this year in Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and Oregon State. Only two other seasons (2000 and 2003) has BYU played as many BCS teams. To start the 2011 season the Cougars play three of the four teams consecutively, opening with road games at Ole Miss and Texas before the home opener against Utah. Not since 1998 has BYU started a season against three BCS teams, when the Cougars lost to Alabama and Washington on the road and defeated Arizona State at home.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
With BYU playing UCF on a Friday night, as well as Utah State and TCU later in the season, it is the most Friday night games the Cougars have played in the Bronco Mendenhall era. Under Coach Mendenhall, BYU is 2-1 on Friday night games, all coming against Utah State. This is also the first time under Mendenhall that the Cougars are playing back-to-back Friday night games, with Utah State coming after the Knights this week.
60 PERCENT OF THE TIME
Jake Heaps has completed 73 of 126 passes through three games of the 2011 season for a completion percentage of 58 percent. All-American BYU quarterbacks have always been accurate and Heaps will be in good company if he can get his percentage above 60. Ty Detmer, Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Steve Sarkisian and Robbie Bosco all had completion percentages above 60 for their BYU careers.
DON'T HASSLE THE HOFF
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman got involved with the passing game after catching just three passes for 20 yards in the first two games. Against Utah, Hoffman grabbed 8 balls for 138 yards to lead the team. He set a career mark for receptions and yards in a quarter, catching five balls for 98 yards in the first 15 minutes of play. Hoffman’s catch total and yards for the game were also a career-high mark to add to a new career-high in kick returns as well with 8 returns and 139 yards, giving Hoffman 277 all-purpose yards, the sixth-best mark in BYU history. Hoffman is still looking for his first touchdown of 2011 after getting seven in 2010. With 1,228 all-purpose yards in his career, Hoffman passes Neil Balholm for 80th all-time at BYU. Just a sophomore, Hoffman will continue to move up the list.
RETURN FROM INJURY
After missing part of the Ole Miss game and the entire Texas game due to a concussion, senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree returned to the field against Utah. Ogletree led the Cougars in total tackles, with seven, including two solo and five assisted. Ogletree also helped the Cougars record a turnover in the first quarter after he recovered a fumble that was forced by fellow linebacker Uona Kaveinga.
FIRST HALF SUCCESS
For the second-consecutive game the BYU defense held the opponent’s offense to seven points or less in the first half. BYU did not allow a Utah touchdown untill the waning moments of the first half when just 32 seconds remained on the clock.
BYU also forced two turnovers in the first half for the second-consecutive game. Against Texas, the BYU defense forced quarterback Garrett Gilbert into two early interceptions. In the game against Utah, the Cougar defense forced Jordan Wynn into one interception and forced one fumble.
30, 31, 32, 33 ... 46
With field goals of 30, 33, and 32 yards against Texas, respectively, sophomore kicker Justin Sorensen added to the only field goal of his career, a 31-yarder against Wyoming in 2008. In the third game of the 2011 season against Utah, Sorenson added his fifth career field goal, this one from a career best 46 yards.