|Fans celebrate 2006 Las Vegas Bowl win with Cameron Jensen (R. Marsh Starks, AP Photo).|
All BYU Cougars coaches, players, and fans are hoping to see BYU return to its winning ways next season. The last time BYU underwent such a project was after the Gary Crowton regime. The exclamation point on BYU's return to prominence was the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl. Tomorrow is exactly 11 years since that game.
BYU went to Vegas with a nine-game win streak. The Cougars had won the Mountain West Conference for the first time in five years, and were hoping to win its first bowl game in the last five tries. Although BYU was nationally ranked (no. 19), the Oregon Ducks were not giving the Cougars much respect. It took awhile for the Cougar offense to show they deserved respect, and the national ranking.
BYU received the opening kickoff. On first down, quarterback John Beck's pass was dropped. Curtis Brown would run for six yards on the next play to set up a manageable 3rd and 4, but another incomplete pass created a punting situation. Oregon returned the punt 31 yards to start its first drive at the BYU 45-yard line.
Crowton was now the offensive coordinator at Oregon. Perhaps that motivated the Cougar defense and kept them focused, because they didn't take any time at all to demand respect. Team captain Cameron Jensen got a sack on the Ducks' first play, a flea flicker. That set up 2nd and 19. After Oregon had a drop of its own, David Nixon got into the backfield for a second sack.
Meanwhile, the Cougar offense continued to sputter. Beck saw one of his receivers drop another pass on first down. Brown didn't get anything on a second down run, and Beck was hit as he threw the ball on third down.
It was rinse and repeat for Oregon. Then BYU, and then Oregon again. Each side punted on its first three possessions.
Oregon's third punt pinned BYU back at the two-yard line. Beck quickly got the Cougars out of that hole with a 17-yard completion to Jonny Harline. Two plays later on 3rd and 9, Beck found Harline again for 17 yards. Harline was interfered with on the play, but made the grab anyways. Two plays later BYU faced another third down. Needing just two yards, Oregon jumped off sides. The defensive lineman who jumped got carried away and threw Beck to the ground. That added an extra 15 yards to the five yard encroachment infraction. On the next third down play, Beck found fullback Manase Tonga for 18 yards. Beck scrambled for seven yards when it was 3rd and 9, so BYU was forced to kick a field goal.
The 24-yard kick gave BYU a 3-0 lead with 13:25 to play in the second quarter.
At this point, Oregon switched quarterbacks. It was the game plan to do so, but with the complete ineffectiveness of the Ducks' offense it might have happened anyways. However, it didn't do anything to change Oregon's fortunes. Three plays later, the Ducks were punting again.
BYU, on the other hand, was running on all cylinders. Beck completed a nine-yard pass to Brown to pick up a first down. Beck then found freshman McKay Jacobson for 19 yards. After a four-yard run by Brown, Beck struck again with an 18-yard completion to Harline. BYU then powered the ball into the end zone with a five-yard run by Tonga followed by a six-yard run by Brown for his first touchdown of the game.
|BYU RB Curtis Brown.|
The Ducks returned the ensuing kickoff to their 47-yard line, but shot themselves in the wing with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved them back 15 yards. Back-to-back seven-yard passes gave Oregon a first down, but back-to-back incompletions set up 3rd and 10. BYU dropped eight men into coverage. Despite having tons of time to throw the ball, the Oregon quarterback could not find anyone, and the play ended in a sack by Russell Tialavea.
Beck and co. just picked up where they left off the previous drive. Brown caught a seven-yard pass, as did Jacobson. Brown then broke loose for 18 yards on the ground to move into Oregon territory. Beck took a shot deep on the next play, but the Oregon defensive back was there to break up the pass. He went deep again two plays later. While Beck was scrambling in the pocket, Harline managed to get behind the defense. Beck found him for a 41-yard touchdown, and a 17-0 lead.
Oregon still had 1:50 to try and score before the half to get some momentum. The Ducks couldn't pick up more than one first down, and ended up punting the ball back to BYU.
The Cougars thought there was enough time to get one more score. Harline caught passes for 12 and 11 yards on back-to-back plays. That got BYU close enough to try a hail Mary with three seconds left in the half. That ended up being intercepted.
Oregon had just 73 yards of total offense in the first half. Not much was done in the locker room during the break to fix that. The Ducks did complete a 12-yard screen pass to convert a 3rd and 10, but Jan Jorgensen and Hala Paongo teamed up for an 11-yard sack two plays later. Oregon ended up punting after an incompletion the next play.
Beck connected with Harline for 28 yards on the Cougars' first play of the second half. A pass interference penalty on Oregon, and a QB sneak on 4th and 1 kept the chains moving for BYU. A holding penalty put BYU in a tough spot. On 3rd and 19, Beck threw his second interception of the game.
The turnover gave Oregon the ball near midfield. The Ducks would attempt to convert a fourth down as well, but cornerback Justin Robinson made a great break on the ball and intercepted it for BYU.
Following a false start penalty, Harline got the drive going, again, with a 28-yard catch. Brown then moved the ball 27 yards in three plays (two runs for a total of 19 yards and an eight yard reception). That set up first and goal at the five. BYU kept going with Mr. Reliable, and two plays later, Brown had his second touchdown of the game.
With 3:42 to play in the third quarter, BYU now held a 24-0 lead.
Oregon was starting to feel the pressure. As the third quarter ended, the Ducks were on the move. An errant throw on the first play of the fourth quarter, however, went right to Robinson, who had slipped and fallen to his knees. That didn't stop him from making his second interception of the game.
Although they had a four score lead, the Cougars were not getting complacent on the offensive side of the ball. Beck connected with Brown for 14 yards on first down. Beck then found Tonga for nine, and Brown picked up the first down with a two-yard run on the next play. Following a delay of game penalty, Brown broke loose for 47 yards. Three plays later, Beck couldn't find anyone to throw the ball to, but when he scrambled out of the pocket, he found a clear path to the pylon. He raced 14-yards to extend the lead to 31-0.
BYU kicked the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff. That gave the Ducks the ball at the 35-yard line. Oregon crossed midfield the next play with a 17-yard scramble by its quarterback. Oregon crossed the goal line the next play with a 48-yard bomb. The Ducks used a run up the middle for a successful two-point conversion.
That closed the gap to 31-8 with 10:27 to play. For Oregon, it wasn't too early to try an onside kick. Andrew George got up very high to pull it in, but paid a price for it. As he was coming down, an Oregon player took out his legs, so he landed hard on his back and stayed on the turf for a few minutes.
|Manase Tonga (Keith Shimada, AP Photo)|
That made the score 38-8. It was the third touchdown in the fourth quarter, which still had 9:14 remaining. Neither team, however, would score again. The most exciting moment in the final minutes was linebacker Bryan Kehl breaking up a long pass near the goal line. While he was doing his best to prevent an Oregon touchdown, he probably prevented a third interception for Robinson.
Jonny Harline was voted the MVP. He finished with nine receptions for 181 yards and one touchdown.
Brown made a strong case for MVP honors. He racked up 120 yards on the ground (17 carries) and 55 yards through the air (7 receptions) and two touchdowns.
Beck completed 28 of 46 attempts for 375 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He also had a rushing touchdown.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org