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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Flashback: BYU blocks last second field goal to win second consecutive Las Vegas Bowl

Five years ago, the Brigham Young Cougars won their second consecutive bowl game in an improbable way.

After completing its second consecutive sweep of the Mountain West Conference and 10-2 regular season record, BYU went back to the Las Vegas Bowl hoping to repeat the dominating performance of a year before when they beat the Oregon Ducks, 38-8. In 2007, the opponent was familiar. BYU had played UCLA in game two of the season. The Bruins won that contest 27-17. The Cougars, however, were expected to convincingly win the rematch.

BYU and UCLA followed opposite paths after their week two meeting. After starting 4-1, UCLA stumbled to a 6-6 finish to barely qualify for a bowl. With revenge on their minds and momentum on their side, BYU figured to win easy.

The first quarter was a defensive battle, and finished in a 3-3 tie.

UCLA fumbled a BYU punt early in the second quarter. Matt Bauman recovered the fumble for the Cougars, and it gave them life.

Max Hall hit Austin Collie for a 14-yard touchdown on the very next play. The touchdown gave BYU its first lead of the game at 10-3.

After trading punts, UCLA scored its second field goal. This one was from 52-yards away. It, momentarily cut the lead to four, 10-6, with 4:44 to play in the first half.

BYU quickly answered the UCLA field goal with another touchdown. Collie set up the offense nicely with a 34-yard kickoff return to the BYU 45-yard line. Hall completed all four of his pass attempts for 44 yards on the drive. The final throw was a 13-yard scoring strike to Michael Reed.

At this point, BYU was in control. The Cougars led 17-6 with 1:03 left in the first half. The Cougar D reinforced this fact by forcing the Bruins to punt just four plays later. With just 19 seconds to go before halftime and pinned back at the 8-yard line, BYU needed to just run out the clock and get into halftime safely.

BYU fumbled on first down, and UCLA recovered. On the final play of the first half, UCLA scored a touchdown to pull within four, 17-13.

Those final few seconds of the first half completely changed the second half. BYU had lost its offensive mojo, and didn’t score at all in the second half. Fortunately, the BYU defense was up to the task of stopping UCLA.

The Bruins were held scoreless in the third quarter. A 10-yard sack by David Nixon took UCLA out of field goal range and forced a punt, and a Corby Hodgekiss interception stopped the other third quarter Bruins drive that crossed into BYU territory.

While the score on the score board stayed the same, UCLA gained the upper hand in field position during the third quarter. It paid off in the fourth quarter. With 10:14 to play, UCLA took over at the BYU 46-yard line. The Bruins could only manage to gain 14 yards on seven plays, but it was enough to get into field goal range. A 50-yard field goal cut the lead to one, 17-16, with 6:24 to play.

Both teams then punted without gaining a first down. That gave BYU the ball with 3:46 to play. BYU could run out the clock and win with just a couple of first downs. However, the Cougars had not run the ball well all night. They had just 34 yards on 28 carries, so Hall took to the air.

He found Collie for 37-yards on the first play of the drive. On second and seven, BYU got a false start penalty that proved very costly. Hall found Collie again for seven yards to set up a third and five situation at the UCLA 32, rather than first and ten with less than two and a half minutes to play. Hall’s third down pass was incomplete, and BYU punted.

The punt was downed at the two-yard line. It seemed very improbable that UCLA could move into field goal range in the final 2:02, but they did. On third and nine just past midfield, a BYU defender gambled. He tried to make a play on the ball and knock it down. He missed. The UCLA receiver caught the ball and rumbled 36 yards to the 13-yard line.

After a two-yard run, UCLA called timeout with three seconds to play to set up a potential game winning field goal. The 28-yard attempt was a chip shot by any standard, but in light of the two 50-yard field goals that UCLA had already made. 

Defeat seemed imminent. The snap was good; the hold was clean; the kick was up, and true freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna was breaking through the UCLA line. He put his hand up, and got a piece of the ball. Nevertheless, the ball continued towards the uprights.

But, it did not make it through. Manumaleuna had sent the kick off course just enough that the kick missed.

BYU had made a major mistake on offense to end the first half. The play made on special teams at the end of the second half made up for it. BYU won 17-16.

The win, coupled with Hawaii’s loss a few days later in the Sugar Bowl gave BYU the nation’s longest win streak at 10 games. BYU had back-to-back 11-2 seasons. With Hall, Collie, and several other key players returning for 2008 the expectations would be sky high.

Collie finished the game as the MVP with 195 all-purpose yards (107 receiving, 88 kickoff returns).

UCLA outgained BYU in total offense 316 to 265, but BYU forced one more turnover than UCLA did (3 to 2).

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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