HONOLULU, Hawaii — BYU improved to 9-3 on the year with a highlight-filled 41-20 victory over Hawai'i Saturday afternoon in Aloha Stadium.
In BYU’s first return to the Islands since 2001, the Cougars put up 28 points in the third quarter to turn a close contest into a blowout victory. Junior quarterback Riley Nelson returned to the lineup after being injured on Nov. 12 against Idaho.
Nelson would have a career day, setting personal bests on 25 of 37 passing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Other top performers for the Cougars included sophomore receiver Cody Hoffman with seven receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown and freshman receiver Ross Apo with two touchdowns on four catches and 55 yards.
The Warriors led 13-10 at the half thanks to a 79-yard scoring play with 3:41 to go in the second quarter. Hawai'i quarterback David Graves hit receiver Trevor Davis on a slant that he then took all the way to the end zone to put Hawaii up 13-7. The reception was the longest scoring play for the Warriors this season.
BYU only punted once in the first half—a 55-yarder downed inside the 20-yard line—but the Cougars put only 10 points on the scoreboard as two drives ended with missed field goals. Meanwhile, the Cougar defense forced three UH punts while allowing just one sustained drive in addition to Hawai'i’s one-play scoring strike.
Apo scored BYU’s lone touchdown of the half on a 22-yard grab to go with a late field goal by Justin Sorensen.
The Cougars broke out in the third quarter with four touchdowns to clearly claim control. While BYU scored on all three of its offensive possessions, the momentum changer came on defense when Uona Kaveinga forced a fumble on Hawai'i’s first series and Joe Sampson returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. It was BYU’s second fumble return for a touchdown and third defensive score this year and gave BYU a 24-13 lead.
Apo scored his second touchdown of the game on BYU’s first possession of the half, Bryan Kariya bulled in from 1-yard out and Hoffman made a one-handed grab for a 38-yard score.
The quarter provided plenty of intrigue but some of it came from neither team as two fans ran out onto the field, one dressed as Santa Claus.
On the field, Hoffman’s left-handed, one-handed touchdown catch was one for the highlight reel along with an 18-yard run by wide receiver Spencer Hafoka to set up Hoffman’s score. The senior from Kahuku, Hawai'i, earned the passionate praise of his teammates and many local fans when he leaped through the air to extend his end-around run. Another big play was a 40-yard pass over the middle to tight end Marcus Mathews that set up Kariya’s one-yard score.
For the game BYU held Hawai’i to just 17 yards rushing and 299 yards of total offense compared to a season-high 530 yards of total offense for the Cougars. Sophomore linebacker Tyler Beck set a career high and led the team with six tackles, including five solo, while Jadon Wagner and Mike Muehlmann added sacks for BYU.
Justin Sorensen added his second field goal of the day in the fourth quarter to make the score 41-13 with 9:44 remaining. The Warriors added a final touchdown late for the final margin.
The Cougars will now prepare to play in the 2011 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 30. An opponent will be announced on Sunday.
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