BYU vs. Hawai'i: Game Changing Plays

Squally Canada's first half running was game changing (BYU Photo)

Usually, it is pretty easy to identify the game changing plays. They weren't so obvious in this game between the BYU Cougars and the Hawai'i Warriors, but after further review, four plays standout as the ones that led to the final 30-20 outcome.

1. Squally Canada 22-yard run on the first play of the game.

This was game changing in two ways. First, it set the tone for how BYU would control the line of scrimmage most of the game and do what it wanted. Second, Canada lost the ball near the end of the run. Officials ruled he was down. Replay appeared to indicate that was not the case, however, the play did not go through an official review.

BYU retained possession and scored a touchdown just four plays later. Had Hawai'i taken over at the BYU 37-yard line, this game would have been very different.

2. Joe Critchlow fumble that was returned 42 yards for a touchdown (4:42, 1st Quarter).

Critchlow was hit as he prepared to throw the ball, and the ball popped up and landed in a Hawai'i defender's arms. He had a clear path to the end zone. That tied the score at 7-7. However, the only reason this was a game changing play is that it kept the game close. BYU came right back and scored a touchdown to retake the lead, 13-7. The BYU defense continued to control the Hawai'i offense, but this random touchdown allowed the game to get interesting after ...

3. Michael Shelton's fumbled punt return (0:00 3rd Quarter).

The Cougar defense had stopped Hawai'i, again, and forced a punt on the final play of the third quarter. Shelton fielded it, and started his return. He didn't get far, but was fighting for a few more feet when the ball got stripped.

Hawai'i recovered at the BYU 19-yard line, and quickly scored a touchdwon to make it 20-13 with 12:23 to play in the game. Now, the game was interesting. BYU had been dominating for three quarters, but hadn't pulled away.

Many games have been lost this way. Turnovers like this don't just lead to immediate points, but a 180 degree swing in momentum. The team that couldn't do anything all game long becomes unstoppable, and eeks out a win in the final minutes.

4. Michael Shelton's tackle for loss on 4th and 3 (4:27, 4th Quarter).

Shelton redeemed himself for the fumbled punt by getting a big fourth down stop. Down 10, Hawai'i still had a chance to win, but they would need to convert a fourth down. The Warriors tried a quick wide receiver screen. Shelton was able to get past the blockers, and made a solid tackle for a loss of one yard.

That gave BYU the ball back at the Hawai'i 41-yard line, and three plays later BYU scored a touchdown to put the game away.

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