Add Mississippi State to the list of victims of a comeback from the cardiac Cougars.
Matt Payne's 25-yard field goal split the uprights just as time expired and the No. 7 Cougars knocked off Mississippi State 41-38. The Cougars found themselves down 10 points in the second half, but as they have all season, they found a way to win. The victory moves BYU's record to 12-0 to remain undefeated and keep BYU's BCS hopes alive.
"A game-winning field goal is something you dream about ever since you are a kid," Payne said.
The final field goal came at the end of another strong final-minute drive from the Cougars, but the game-winning drive may have proved costly. Doak Walker Award finalist Luke Staley, who almost single-handedly moved the ball down the field for BYU on the final drive, came down awkwardly on his left leg at the end of a carry. Team doctors said Staley has a possible broken left fibula. Doctors will perform further tests on Sunday, but if the fibula is broken, Staley is done for the year.
"I really don't think he will be ready to play in Hawaii," BYU head coach Gary Crowton said.
Despite Staley's premature exit from the game, he had another stellar night. The Bulldogs managed to keep him out of the end zone, but Staley racked up 149 yards rushing on 28 carries. Staley's partner in the backfield, Brandon Doman, threw for a career high five touchdowns and 390 yards, off-setting another career high of three interceptions.
"The guy that makes BYU go is the quarterback Doman," Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill said. "They had a lot of plays that wouldn't have happened tonight if it wasn't for Doman. They certainly wouldn't be 12-0 without him."
And if Staley and Doman weren't enough, wide receiver Reno Mahe caught 10 passes for a Mountain West Conference record 189 yards and two touchdowns. Mahe made several plays throughout the game that helped BYU make yet another dramatic comeback.
"We just know we are going to pull it out," Mahe said. "If it's a close game, we just know we are going to win it."
Head coach Gary Crowton celebrates the Cougars' 41-38 come-from-behind victory at Mississippi State. Crowton's Cougars are only the second non-conference opponent to defeat the Bulldogs on their home field since 1996. (BYU Photo / Mark Philbrick)
The game could not have started off better for the Cougars. On the first play from scrimmage, Isaac Kelley picked off a Kevin Fant pass. On the ensuing drive, Doman threw a pass that bounced in and out of a Bulldog defender and right into the hands of Mahe. Payne kicked the extra point for the quick 7-0 lead.
But Mississippi State owned the rest of the first quarter and the first part of the second as well. The Bulldogs raced out to a 21-7 lead before BYU scored on two long touchdown receptions to tie the game up. The fourteen-point deficit was the largest deficit for BYU all year.
"There's no question that there were two good football teams out there tonight playing a great football game," Sherrill said.
Whether it has been by a blowout or a last-second field goal, the Cougars have managed to win each game this season. But Crowton knows there are still doubters around the nation.
"How can anybody doubt us? We're 12-0," Crowton said. "We've done everything anyone can ask of us."
The Cougars will have a short week of preparation before the regular season finale at Hawaii on Saturday, December 8. The Cougars have already secured a spot in the Liberty Bowl and are now hoping to get an at-large bid into a BCS bowl game.
"It's not over yet, I have to focus in and find a way to beat Hawaii," Crowton said. "I don't know what is going to happen. We're just going to keep fighting to the end."
THE STREAK CONTINUES
Reno Mahe's touchdown reception in the first quarter continued BYU's streak of consecutive games without being shut out. The streak now stands at 336 games.
BIGGEST LITTLE RECEIVER IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST
Just three weeks after an emergency appendectomy, Reno Mahe had a career night. Mahe grabbed 10 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The 189 yards breaks teammate Doug Jolley's Mountain West Conference receiving yards' record. In the Air Force game, Jolley caught 10 passes for 177 yards.
FEAST OR FAMINE
Brandon Doman had a career night as well. Despite a career-high three interceptions, Doman threw for five touchdown passes and 390 yards. Two of Doman's TD passes were 45 yards or more. The three interceptions marked the first time this season Doman has had more than one interception in a game.
With 148 yards rushing, the Doak Walker Award finalist eclipsed the century mark for the ninth time in 11 games. He failed to score in the game for the first time since the UNLV game. The 148 yards also marks the seventh game in a row that Staley has had more than 100 yards rushing.
DIGGING A HOLE
BYU found itself down 21-7 early in the second quarter. The 14-point deficit is the largest deficit the Cougars have had all season. The previous high was 11, which happened in the Utah game and the UNLV game.
Isaac Kelley snagged his third interception of the year on the first play from scrimmage. The Cougars now have at least one interception in each game this year.