PROVO -- On a night when the Cougars out-gained the Rebels 449 yards to 259, turnovers came back to haunt BYU in a 24-20 loss to UNLV Saturday.
"I felt that the team fought hard," BYU coach Gary Crowton said. "I was pleased with how they fought to the end. The key to the game was the turnovers. We had a hard time holding on to the football."
John Beck set BYU and Mountain West Conference records with 67 pass attempts. He completed 34 for 358 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Todd Watkins scored BYU's only offensive touchdown and finished with nine receptions for 117 yards. Curtis Brown rushed eight times for 102 yards, the highest output of any BYU runner in 2004.
"Curtis had some good holes in there," Crowton said. "I was pleased with his performance and he made some good plays."
Cameron Jensen turned in an impressive performance on defense finishing with 12 total tackles, one interception that he returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery. Matt Payne finished the game connecting on two field goals of 47 and 50 yards and 316 yards on seven punts, good for an average of 45.1 per attempt.
Dominique Dorsey led the Rebel attack by amassing 106 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. Kurt Nantkes also contributed a touchdown pass and finished 9 of 27 for 130 yards and one interception. The story for UNLV was the ability of the defense to knock the ball away from BYU and come up with the big plays.
UNLV coach John Robinson was very pleased with his team's defensive performance.
"It was one of the finest defensive performances I've ever seen," he said. "I think we knocked the ball away from their receivers hands quite a bit."
The Cougars appeared to move the ball at will during parts of the game but five turnovers, four fumbles and an intrerception, cost them many scoring opportunities.
With the score at 21-20 in favor of UNLV at the start of the fourth, both teams remained cold throughout the quarter, punting the ball back and forth until UNLV was able to gain good field position on the BYU 39. After an eight play, 22-yard drive, Sergio Aguayo connected on a 35-yard field goal to give the Rebels the 24-20 advantage with 3:49 remaining.
BYU made a move on its next drive, converting on a fourth and two when Beck hit Brown on a swing pass for 11 yards. Beck was sacked on the next play, but a facemask penalty put the ball on the UNLV 41. On the next play, Beck hit Watkins cutting across the middle, taking the ball to the 15 before fumbling it to the Rebels. It was the sixth Cougar fumble of the night and the fourth lost.
"Most of the fumbles came from behind as our guys were running down the field and they came up and knocked it out," Crowton said.
After using all three timeouts and stopping the UNLV running game, BYU regained possession with 1:10 remaining. Beck found Antwaun Harris twice for 37 yards and Austin Collie twice for 11 yards to get the Cougars to the UNLV 10-yard line. The Rebel defense then tightened up and kept BYU out of the end zone, preserving the 24-20 victory.
Crowton said the team made the necessary plays but could not get the ball into the end zone.
"On the last play, Beck thought he had a man open and went to throw but his arm got hit," Crowton said. "It made the ball go high. I felt like if he'd got the ball in there we would've had the touchdown."
BYU started out slow, with the first four possessions ending in two lost fumbles, a punt, and a missed 29-yard field goal. Despite finishing the first quarter with 124 total yards, the Cougars finished with nothing to show for it. The defense was strong, limiting the Rebels to 25 yards in the quarter.
The Cougars got on the board with 8:12 left in the second on an eight play, 37-yard drive capped by a 47-yard Matt Payne field goal. It was his eleventh straight field goal from 40-49 yards, pulling him within one of the NCAA record for consecutive field goals from that distance, set by John Carney of Notre Dame from 1984-1985.
UNLV answered on its next possession, coming up with two big plays to score and go up 7-3. A 47-yard pass from Nantkes to Alvin Marshall set up a 27-yard pass to Earvin Johnson for the touchdown. The four-play, 80-yard drive took just 57 seconds.
BYU made sure to go into the locker room with the lead, putting the one-minute drill into effect. Starting from their own 39 with 1:14 remaining, the Cougars moved the ball to the UNLV seven-yard line. Watkins then made an acrobatic catch over a Rebel defender off a Beck pass to give BYU the 10-7 lead.
The second half started with BYU coming out looking to extend its lead. UNLV's Jamaal Brimmer had different ideas, intercepting a Beck pass and returning it 24 yards to the Cougar 13. Two plays later and Dorsey was in the end zone after a 12-yard run, giving the Rebel's the 14-10 advantage.
With 5:59 left in the third quarter, Payne's 50-yard field pulled the Cougars within one at 14-13. The field goal came at the end of an 11 play, 37-yard drive.
The defense got into the scoring act on the first Rebel play of the ensuing drive when Jensen intercepted a Nantke pass and returned it 26-yards for the score. It was the first defensive touchdown since Coby Bockwoldt returned a fumble 13-yards for a score in 2003. John Burbidge had the last interception return for a touchdown with an 80-yard return against New Mexico in 2002.
The UNLV offense regrouped on its next possession, answering with an 11 play, 76-yard drive that ended on a 12-yard run by Dyante Perkins, putting the Rebels up 21-20. The run came on a third and inches play when everyone was expecting a run up the middle. Perkins hit the outside and found his way into the end zone.
The momentum continued to flow in the direction of the Rebel's when Brimmer knocked the ball away from Jason Kukahiko and Beau Bell recovered. The momentum swing was short lived as Dorsey fumbled and BYU's Jenson recovered. The Cougars were unable to capitalize.
Crowton said the Cougars now will look to improve and prepare for next week.
"We saw the chance to win the conference but it becomes more difficult when you lose one," he said. "We need to focus on Wyoming."
The Cougars (2-4, 1-1 MWC) will look to get back to their winning ways next Saturday against Wyoming at LaVell Edwards Stadium at 8 p.m.
Box Score (Final)
UNLV vs Brigham Young (Oct 08, 2004 at Provo, Utah)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
UNLV................ 0 7 14 3 - 24 Record: (2-4,1-1)
Brigham Young....... 0 10 10 0 - 20 Record: (2-4,1-1)
2nd 08:12 BYU - PAYNE, Matt 47 yd field goal, 8-37 3:55
07:15 LV - JOHNSON, Earvin 27 yd pass from NANTKES, Kurt (AGUAYO, Sergio kick)
00:14 BYU - WATKINS, Todd 7 yd pass from BECK, John (PAYNE, Matt kick), 7-61 1:00
3rd 13:15 LV - DORSEY, D. 12 yd run (AGUAYO, Sergio kick), 2-13 0:43
05:59 BYU - PAYNE, Matt 50 yd field goal, 11-37 3:17
05:51 BYU - JENSEN, Cameron 26 yd interception return (PAYNE, Matt kick)
01:58 LV - PERKINS, Dyante 12 yd run (AGUAYO, Sergio kick), 11-76 3:47
4th 03:49 LV - AGUAYO, Sergio 35 yd field goal, 8-22 3:17
FIRST DOWNS................... 15 26
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 46-129 28-91
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 130 358
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 27-9-1 68-34-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 73-259 96-449
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 1-10 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 2-13 2-30
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 1-24 5-132
Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-24 1-26
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 12-43.8 7-45.1
Fumbles-Lost.................. 1-1 6-4
Penalties-Yards............... 10-85 6-59
Possession Time............... 27:48 32:12
Third-Down Conversions........ 6 of 19 7 of 21
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 0 of 0 1 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 3-3 1-3
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 4-27 4-18
RUSHING: UNLV-DORSEY, D. 26-94; PERKINS, Dyante 13-44; MARSHALL, Alvin 1-8;
JACKSON, Erick 1-2; TEAM 1-minus 1; NANTKES, Kurt 4-minus 18. Brigham
Young-BROWN, Curtis 8-102; TAHI, Naufahu 12-11; BECK, John 8-minus 22.
PASSING: UNLV-NANTKES, Kurt 9-27-1-130. Brigham Young-BECK, John
34-67-1-358; PAYNE, Matt 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: UNLV-JOHNSON, Earvin 4-56; MARSHALL, Alvin 3-66; PERKINS, Dyante
1-6; HANLEY, Chad 1-2. Brigham Young-COLLIE, Austin 10-70; WATKINS, Todd
9-117; COATS, Dan 4-46; KUKAHIKO, Jason 3-36; PITTA, Dennis 3-35; BROWN,
Curtis 3-17; HARRIS, Antwaun 2-37.
INTERCEPTIONS: UNLV-BRIMMER, Jamaal 1-24. Brigham Young-JENSEN, Cameron
FUMBLES: UNLV-DORSEY, D. 1-1. Brigham Young-KUKAHIKO, Jason 2-1; COLLIE,
Austin 1-1; WATKINS, Todd 1-1; TAHI, Naufahu 1-1; ALLEN, Matt 1-0.
SACKS (UA-A): UNLV-CLARIDGE, Ryan 1-0; NICHOLSON, B. 1-0; FUIMAONO, Howie
1-0; MOORE, Leon 1-0. Brigham Young-POPPINGA, Brady 2-0; BROWN, Manaia 1
-0; WHITE, Spencer 1-0.
TACKLES (UA-A): UNLV-CLARIDGE, Ryan 7-4; DODD-MASTERS, R 10-0; SEWARD,
Adam 4-6; BRIMMER, Jamaal 6-3; MIKLOS, Joe 5-2; BELL, Beau 3-2; BUTLER,
Reggie 2-3; MOORE, Leon 2-2; ANDREWS, John 2-2; FUIMAONO, Howie 2-2; EALY,
Charles 2-1; HEISE, Ryan 1-1; YOUNG, Terrence 1-1; MERHI, Kareem 1-0; FAGA,
Faauo 1-0; GORDON, Ernest 1-0; NICHOLSON, B. 1-0; HILL, Mario 0-1. Brigham
Young-JENSEN, Cameron 2-10; ALBA, MICHA 4-5; POPPINGA, Brady 5-3; WHITE,
Spencer 1-7; LUETTGERODT, Ju 2-4; FRANCISCO, Aaro 2-3; FEULA, Vince 1-3;
HEANEY, Brandon 3-0; NUA, Shaun 1-2; PAONGO, Hala 0-3; DENNEY, John 2-0;
ALLEN, Matt 1-1; BROWN, Manaia 1-1; BAUMAN, Matt 0-2; GOOCH, Quinn 0-2;
GABRIEL, Dustin 1-0; CARLSON-MADDUX 1-0; PITTA, Dennis 1-0; KUKAHIKO, Jason
1-0; BATES, Dan 0-1; COOPER, Brett 0-1; SOELBERG, Natha 0-1; TAFUNA, David