BYU vs. Washington State: Mo Moments

There were approximately 150 plays in the Brigham Young Cougars season opener against Washington State. Some of those plays were more important than the others. The most important plays were those that created momentum. The momentum, or potential momentum, of a play is influenced by several factors. It isn’t just the 50-yard scoring pass, or fumble returned for a touchdown that define the momentum of a game. The score at the time of the play and the down and distance can make a 5-yard pass just as much of a momentum changing play, as the 50-yard touchdown.  

The final score of a game is what matters the most, but the momentum changing moments do a lot more to tell the story of the game. The purpose of “Mo Moments” is to identify and analyze these moments and their impact on the game’s final score.   

Mo Moment 1
The first “mo moment” of the BYU-Washington State game came on Washington State’s first drive. The Washington State defense had stopped the BYU offense and forced a punt. Now, the Washington State offense was steadily driving the ball against the BYU defense, including a 8-yard pass on 4th and 5 at the BYU 44-yard line. The game was young, but Washington State was in control.

On 3rd and 11 at the BYU 23-yard line, Washington State dropped back to attempt another pass. BYU defensive back Daniel Sorensen was in coverage and tipped the ball, and linebacker Uona Kaveinga was there to make the diving interception.

Momentum swing! With an incomplete pass, Washington State can still attempt a field goal and take a 3-0 lead. The interception took that opportunity away. It put the ball in the BYU offense’s hands. The BYU offense took the ball and scored a touchdown. That was a 10-point swing. The interception gave the BYU defense a boost of confidence as well. Washington State had 57-yards of offense on that first drive. They had just 54 more yards the rest of the first half.

Mo Moment 2
BYU faced a 4th and 1 at the Washington State 18-yard line. Rather than kick a field goal and take the easy points, BYU elected to go for the first down. True freshman Taysom Hill was inserted at quarterback. He scrambled and could have run for the first down, but he spotted an open receiver and got a touchdown.

Momentum boost! With a 7-0 lead, a field goal would have made it just 10-0. The touchdown made it a 14-0 game. The two touchdown lead resulting from touchdowns on back-to-back possessions signified that BYU was in complete control of the game.  Adding to the momentum was that the play came on fourth down. A stop by Washington State keeps the game at 7-0. The red Cougars would have the ball and could tie the game. The fact that Taysom Hill, and not Riley Nelson, threw this touchdown adds to the overall momentum. Everyone on the BYU sideline knew this was Hill’s very first collegiate snap. To have it turn out so well pumped up everybody in blue.

Mo Moment 3
BYU led 17-3 with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Washington State had the ball with enough time to score a touchdown and go into the half down just 17-10. It was third down. Kyle Van Noy made a six-yard sack that forced Washington State to punt the ball from the back of their end zone.

That gave the BYU offense the ball in prime scoring position. Four plays later, BYU scored a touchdown. It was now 24-3.

Momentum swing! Instead of a possible one score game and Washington State getting the ball to start the second half to possibly tie the game, BYU now led by three touchdowns. The sack by Van Noy reasserted BYU’s defensive dominance. The quick score by the offense emphasized who was in control.

Mo Moment 4
Washington State still managed to get a field goal just as the first half ended to make the score 24-6. They received the second half kickoff and returned it 63 yards to the BYU 35. A momentum swing for Washington State was in the making. Back-to-back scores by Washington State and just a 24-13 deficit would have made this a game again.

The BYU defense wouldn’t tolerate that. First down, Van Noy stormed off the edge and made a sack. Two plays later, Jordan Johnson intercepted a pass and returned it 64 yards to the Washington State 9-yard line.

Momentum swing! BYU kicked a field goal to make it a three touchdown game again 27-6. The game was, essentially, over. Not even with great field position from a huge kickoff return could Washington State get in the end zone. There was no reason to believe that Washington State could score three touchdowns in less than 27 minutes, and hold BYU scoreless the rest of the game.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at