Editor's Note: With the football season starting up this week, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL will return to featuring a past football game in the weekly flashback.
On this date 15 years ago, the Brigham Young Cougars followed up a stunning upset of Texas A&M in the Pigskin Classic by slaughtering Arkansas State. The Red Wolves were a replacement for Alabama on the schedule. If there was any doubt after the Texas A&M win about how special this 1996 team could be, then game two of the year answered those doubts. Not only could BYU beat the big boys, but they could also destroy the little ones. (Something a 10 win BYU team struggled to do just two years earlier.)
Quarterback Steve Sarkisian threw only half (23) as many passes as he did one week earlier (44) as BYU focused on improving its ground attack by rushing the ball 60 times. Nevertheless, it was three Sarkisian touchdown passes that guided BYU to a 24-3 halftime lead.
The Cougar defense clearly outmatched the Arkansas State offense. The Red Wolves held the ball for just 21:30, they punted eight times and turned the ball over thrice (two interceptions and one fumble). BYU stopped Arkansas State 14 of the 17 times the Red Wolves faced a third down. Arkansas State completed less than 50% of its 40 pass attempts, and barely mustered five yards per pass. BYU was just as effective against the run. Arkansas State only netted 71 yards rushing while averaging less than three yards per rush. The Red Wolves total offense was just 274 yards.
The BYU offense more than doubled Arkansas State’s output with 560 yards. The Cougars offense used a very balanced attack. Of those 560 yards, 54% were from passing (302) and 46% came on the ground (258). No BYU running back rushed for more than 88 yards (Dustin Johnson) as nine players carried the ball. No BYU receiver had more than 90 yards (K.O. Kealaluhi) as 11 different Cougars caught passes. Six different players scored touchdowns; Mark Atuaia was the only player to register more than one TD.
BYU’s balance played out on the scoreboard as well. BYU scored at least 10 points in each of the four quarters, but never more than 17 (first: 14, second: 10, third: 17, fourth: 17).
Not only was the game a great opportunity for BYU to improve the ground game, it provided soccer convert Ethan Pochman plenty of practice kicking the ball. Pochman totaled 15 points in the game as he made all 6 of his point-after-touchdown kicks, as well as field goals from 28, 30, and 33 yards.
BYU was now 2-0 after scoring 99 points in the two contests, and ranked number 16. The 1996 season was off to a better start than anyone could have imagined.
More Flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.
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