Huskies fans were excited for the opportunity to spoil BYU’s “Quest for Perfection” in 2008. They were excited until the infamous Locker penalty and subsequent extra point block by BYU that left them with the win.
Huskies fans were equally excited to see their team come down to Provo and spoil BYU’s All-American quarterback reunion. I’m sure they also felt that BYU could use a dose of humility before they go on with their new quest for independence.
It turns out that Huskies fans get disappointed a lot, especially when it comes to BYU.
In 1984, the Huskies finished second in the polls after beating #2 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. BYU beat an unranked Michigan team in the Holiday bowl, took the #1 ranking, and the 1984 National Championship along with it. They lost in Provo in 1999. They lost in Seattle in 2008. They lost in Provo today. Any good Huskies fan will tell you that they should have beaten BYU on each of these occasions, and they can’t find a good reason why they lost.
Luckily, there was no controversial penalty to end the game today. The Huskies, and Jake Locker simply came up short. Most of the game stats were basically even for the teams. 20 some first downs. 260 passing yards. 120+ rushing yards. Around 30% third down completion. Where the stats deviated? BYU had possession of the ball for a full ten minutes more than UW. BYU was 1-1 on fourth down attempts. UW was 0-3, including twice in the fourth quarter.
In the end, BYU’s two quarterback system won out over Heisman hopeful Jake Locker. Heaps and Nelson each threw for 131 yards. Nelson looked more composed, and completed a greater percentage of his passes, not to mention the two touchdowns he threw. Heaps looked good at times, but his nerves seemed to get the best of him, and many of his passes were thrown a little fast and a little off the mark. All in all though, for his first collegiate game, he was impressive. As for Locker – he had his Heisman moment handed to him. Down by the magic number 6 late in the fourth quarter, and you’ve got the ball. The moment passed almost as soon as it arrived, and it was Riley Nelson that knelt in the victory formation with his team to run out the clock.
Not to be overshadowed by the highly publicized QB battle, BYU’s defense really turned it up in the second half and shut out the Huskies for more than 30 minutes. The highlights were the two fourth down stops, including a pass that was swatted down by Eathyn Manamaleuna, who blocked what would have been the game winning field goal from UCLA in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl. Glad to see he’s still got that talent.
Another highlight for the Cougars – RB JJ Di Luigi led the team in rushing yards with 69, and also led the team in receiving yards, with 83. One of those receptions was a beautiful throw by Nelson up the middle of the field to a wide open Di Luigi, who turned on the jets and reached the end-zone untouched.
It was another great close came. The Cougars have won 12 straight games decided by 7 points or less. Bronco Mendenhall credited the win to better special teams play and superior conditioning, which he said was especially evident in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars are still being overshadowed in the media by treatment to fellow Non-AQ schools TCU and Boise St. Perhaps that will make victories like this one all the sweeter for the fans. Not many outside of Vegas (by 2.5) chose the Cougars to win today. Other teams on BYU’s schedule may want to watch out though, because what was expected to be a rebuilding year may turn out to be something much, much more.