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.
CLICK HERE to read the postgame notes
BYU will play Utah State for the 81st time in program history on Friday, Sept. 30, 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 (2-2) vs. Utah State (1-2)
Sept. 30, 2011
6:05 p.m. MT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
For the complete BYU vs. Utah State game notes, download the attached PDF file below.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- BYU has won 15-straight games against Utah State at home, last losing to the Aggies in Provo in 1978. Since that time, BYU has outscored USU by an average of 39.8-15.7 at Edwards Stadium.
- Excepting three occasions, BYU has played Utah State on a Friday since 1987 in order to avoid conflict with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ General Conference held the first weekend of every October. BYU had two byes and played on a Thursday the other three Conference weekends.
- BYU kick returner Cody Hoffman was named the Independent Special Teams Player of the Week and the College Performance Awards Kick Returner of the Week for his efforts vs. UCF. The sophomore returned a kick 93 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Knights, totaling 129 yards on two returns. Sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy was named Independent Defensive Player of the Week after a career-high eight tackles with a quarterback hurry and late-game heroics including a sack and a pass breakup which led to a BYU interception.
- The winner between BYU and Utah State is traditionally awarded the Old Wagon Wheel, a wheel from a pioneer covered wagon that has traveled between the two schools since 1948.
THE BYU-UTAH STATE SERIES
BYU and Utah State are meeting for the 81st time. The Cougars lead the series 43-34-3 and have played the Aggies almost every season since 1922, taking a break during WWII from 1943-1945 and from 2003-2005. In last year’s matchup Utah State won its first game against BYU in over 16 years with a 31-16 victory at Romney Stadium in Logan. The Aggies rushed for 242 yards while taking advantage of three BYU turnovers and never trailing in the game. The win was the largest margin of victory over the Cougars for Utah State since 1978’s 24-7 win.
TOUGH FLORIDA WINS
BYU’s 24-17 win over UCF was just the program’s second win over a team from the state of Florida in team history, improving the overall record against the state to 2-4. The only other win over a Florida team was 1990’s contest against No. 1 Miami in Provo. Ty Detmer jumpstarted his Heisman campaign with three touchdowns and 406 passing yards in route to a 28-21 victory over the No. 1 ranked Hurricanes.
Coming into the last week’s game, UCF was holding opponents to 72.3 ypg rushing, 93.7 ypg passing and 166.0 ypg total defense. BYU totaled 127 yards rushing, 133 yards passing and 260 yards of total offense, all season highs against the Knights.
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 conecutively, 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, it is the most Friday night games the Cougars have played in the Bronco Mendenhall era. Under Coach Mendenhall, BYU is 3-1 on Friday night games, three coming against Utah State. This is also the first time under Mendenhall that the Cougars are playing back-to-back Friday night games, with UCF last week and Utah State this Friday night.
KARIYA MAKING AN APPEARANCE
Running back Bryan Kariya has been relatively quiet to start the season, with just 39 yards on 12 attempts on the year. That wasn’t the case Friday night against UCF as Kariya led all ball carriers with 14 carries and 52 yards. The senior’s night was highlighted by a series in the fourth quarter where he took three-straight handoffs on a short field, the last coming in the form of a six-yard touchdown. The six-yard scoring run proved to be the winning score of the game. Kariya also caught two passes for 11 yards.
DON'T HASSLE THE HOFF
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman has finally gotten involved offensively after catching just three passes for 20 yards in the first two games. Against UCF, Hoffman had his biggest play on special teams, returning a kickoff 93-yards to the house to tie the score late in the third quarter. Hoffman also caught three passes for 24 yards in the game as part of his 153 all-purpose yards. The week before 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 fifteen 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 277 all-purpose yards, the sixth-best mark in BYU history.
Hoffman is still looking for his first receiving touchdown of 2011 after getting seven in 2010. With 1,381 all-purpose yards in his career, Hoffman passes Chad Lewis for 70th all-time at BYU. Just a sophomore, Hoffman will continue to move up the list.
In four games so far this season the BYU defense has forced nine total turnovers. The Cougars are nearly halfway to their total of 23 turnovers in 2010,
which took the team 13 games to accrue last season. The nine turnovers gained currently ranks 18th in the NCAA. Cincinnati is first in the nation with 16 turnovers gained.
BEND BUT DON'T BREAK
For the first time since an October 17, 2009 game against San Diego State, the BYU defense allowed 300 yards passing to an opponent. UCF quarterbacks combined for 318 total passing yards on Saturday but were limited to zero touchdowns and one red zone interception. The Cougar defense has not allowed a passing touchdown in three of the first four games, with the lone exception coming against Utah. BYU won the game against SDSU in 2009, making them 2-0 in the last two games when allowing 300+ yards passing.
FOR THE LONGEST TIME
Cody Hoffman’s 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the first for a Cougar in more than 13 years, a streak that spanned 158
games. Mike Rigell was the last BYU returner to take a kickoff the distance with a 96-yard return in 1998 against Hawaii. Hoffman’s kickoff return was the first touchdown by a BYU special teams unit since McKay Jacobson took a punt return for a touchdown as a freshman in 2006. For his performance, Hoffman was named Independent Special Teams Player of the Week and the College Football Performance Awards National Kickoff Returner of the Week.
PINNING THEM BACK
Junior punter Riley Stephenson twice pinned the UCF Knights inside the 20-yard line, giving him 35 career punts downed inside the 20. Stephenson had a clutch punt in the third quarter that put the Knights inside the five-yard line. Stephenson was awarded College Football Performance Award punter honorable mention for his efforts.