Flashback: BYU has just enough offensive firepower to squeak past Mississippi State

BYU Running Back Luke Staley

As BYU makes its second trip ever to Starkville, Mississippi, here is a look back 16 years to the first game there.

The BYU Cougars piled up 526 yards of total offense and had career bests from quarterback Brandon Doman and wide receiver Reno Mahe to beat the Mississippi Bulldogs, 41-38. Freshman placekicker Matt Payne kicked a 25-yard field goal on the final play of the game to provide the winning margin.

While this game would showcase plenty of offense, the Cougar defense made the first big play of the game. It was also the first play of the game. BYU linebacker Isaac Kelley intercepted the Mississippi State pass.

A few plays later, Doman threw a pass to the end zone. A Mississippi State defender tipped it, but Mahe was still able to snag it for the score.

It was a great start for the Cougars, but it would be awhile before BYU had more to celebrate.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs responded by returning the kickoff to its 48-yard line. Mississippi State quickly moved into scoring position. The drive ended with a 26-yard run up right up the middle that tied the game at seven.

Penalties killed BYU's next drive. BYU committed an illegal procedure infraction, and on 3rd and 1 a false start. Following the false start, Mississippi State sacked Doman for a 15-yard loss. The Bulldogs would get to Doman five times during the game. This disaster of a drive ended with a shanked punt that gave Mississippi State the ball just 39 yards from the end zone.

Mississippi State quickly extended its lead to 14-7 with a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Mississippi State quarterback was under pressure, but still managed to get off a pass that went across the entire field. The Bulldog receiver shook off a Cougar defender and raced into the end zone.

After another punt, the BYU defense forced an incomplete pass on 3rd and 2, but a late hit by a Cougar defender gave Mississippi State a fresh set of downs. At the start of the second quarter, Mississippi State threw a fade into the end zone to go up 21-7.

Looking to get the offense going, BYU turned to Luke Staley. He delivered with a big run up near midfield. A delay of game penalty followed by back-to-back sacks forced the Cougars to punt.

Mississippi State got its second big return of the game on the punt. It was returned all the way to the BYU 28-yard line.

Mississippi State had won just three games all season. They had lost their starting quarterback earlier in the year. Having undefeated and number seven ranked BYU come to town for their season finale was like a bowl game.

On the next possession, the BYU defense finally got a stop. However, the Bulldogs were in scoring positions. Mississippi State lined up for a 42-yard field, but it was no good. Following that miscue, the Cougar offense came to life.

BYU scored quickly as Doman found Mahe for a second touchdown. This one was 62 yards. With 3:49 to play in the half, BYU closed the gap to 21-14.

About one minute later, BYU forced another Bulldog punt, and BYU was back in the end zone while there was still more than two minutes to play in the half. First, Doman found Rod Wilkerson for 19 hard-fought yards as Wilkerson dragged a defender with him for over half of those yards. Next, Soren Halladay got behind the Bulldog defense, and Doman found him for a 45-yard touchdown.

Mississippi State used a 62-yard pass to get into scoring position again before the end of the half. On 3rd and Goal, Ryan Gunderson knocked the ball down at the line of scrimmage for BYU. That forced Mississippi State to kick a field goal with 1:12 left in the half.

That was enough time for BYU to threaten to score again. Mahe took a wide receiver slip screen and weaved through the defense for 49 yards. BYU would end up going into the locker room still down 24-21 because Doman threw an interception in the end zone on the next play.

BYU got the ball to start the second half. The first three plays were runs by Staley that moved the ball up near midfield. A few plays later, Staley got his fourth carry of the drive, and he took the ball into scoring position. BYU was really getting close to retaking the lead after a Doman completion, but the receiver fumbled at the six-yard line, and Mississippi State recovered.

The Bulldogs picked up right where they left off in the first half. They drove 94-yards, and scored on a 27-yard pass. That gave Mississippi State a double-digit lead for the second time in the game, 31-21.

Meanwhile, BYU continued its sloppy play. A fumbled snap on 3rd and 1 was nullified by a delay of game penalty. When the down was replayed, Mississippi State dropped Doman for a loss.

Mike Rigell picked up the punt after a couple bounces, and returned it 19-yards as he raced from one sideline to the other. That provided a spark to the Cougar offense. Back-to-back wide receiver slip screens got the ball all the way to the Mississippi State 17-yard line. A bad shotgun snap on 3rd and 12 resulted in a sack, and BYU had to settle for a field goal to cut the lead to 31-24.

Trying to catch Mississippi State off guard, BYU went with an onside kick. The kick went out of bounds before going the necessary 10 yards for the kicking team to recover. That allowed Mississippi State to take possession at the BYU 42-yard line.

This is when the game became really sloppy. Mississippi State turned the ball over on a fumble, but BYU gave it right back as a deep throw intended for Mahe was intercepted. However, the Bulldogs gave it back, again, with another fumble.

The two teams were done turning the ball over, for a little while, but they didn't have all of the sloppiness out of their system quiet yet. BYU didn't feel it deserved to have possession at the Mississippi State 28-yard line, so one of the players committed a personal foul that moved the ball back to the 43-yard line, and set up 1st and 25. At the start of the fourth quarter, Mississippi State stopped BYU for a loss of one yard on 2nd and 22. However, the Bulldogs committed a personal foul of their own, which gave back the 15 yards BYU had lost and an automatic first down.

Doman found tight end Doug Jolley in the corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. With 14:22 to play, the game was tied at 31.

BYU couldn't force a turnover on Mississippi State's next possession, but the Cougar defense did force a punt. A 17-yard screen pass to Staley on 3rd and 7 made it appear BYU was ready to take the lead for the first time since 7-0. It didn't happen, though, because Doman threw his third interception of the game.

Mississippi State took over at its own 9-yard line following the pick. BYU then got its only sack of the day to move the ball back to the two. The Bulldogs dug out of that hole and completed a 91-yard touchdown drive in 1:32.

Trailing 38-31, BYU wasn't going to get many more opportunities. Staley made sure to do his part. He broke off his longest run of the night (23 yards). On 3rd and 1 he picked up a first down. Doman eventually found Spencer Nead for a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game with 6:11 to play.

Although the Cougar defense wasn't playing one of its best games (506 yards allowed), they rose to the occasion when the game was on the line. Stopping Mississippi State for a loss on both first and second downs set up a 3rd and 16. The Bulldogs came up short, and punted the ball back to BYU with 3:19 to play.

Doman found Halladay for 19 yards on first down. Then, BYU boarded the L-Train. Staley carried the ball five of the next six plays. It turned out to be one time too many. Staley broke his ankle getting it twisted in the turf.

Clouded over by the Staley injury, Payne came in and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. It was good, and BYU escaped with a 41-38 victory.

Doman finished with 390 yards passing on 23 of 32 passing. His five touchdown passes was a career high, and his pass efficiency rating was 207.1. Mahe had a career high 189 yards receiving on 10 catches. Staley didn't see the end zone, but he did amass 149 yards on 28 carries.

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