BYU vs. UNLV: A Low Tech Preview

9th in a series <p> The College Top 25 section of this week's Sports Illustrated magazine features a picture of Cougar defensive stars <b>Jernaro Gilford</b> and <b>Aaron Francisco</b> with their arms folded and looking as tough as ever. The photo caption reads: "BYU gets no respect from media pollsters."

This year's version of NCAA Football 2004 by EA Sports comes complete with a Sports Illustrated feature, with a cover page and sections that include; BCS Rankings, Top 25 Polls, Heisman Watch, Awards Finalists, Bowl Projections, Players of the Week and Conference Standings with the top story and headline and picture in each section.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an exclusive COMPUTER vs. COMPUTER 2004 NCAA PS2 simulation with exact scores and stats for ANYONE that replicates these games with updated team rosters -- whether you are a Cougar fan or not. We have pre-played BYU's upcoming season for Cougar fans waiting out the summer football doldrums. This article is part of a fantasy game-by-game summary and analysis with actual player names and stats provided.)

This is a game between two teams undefeated in MWC conference play with 7-1 and 6-1 records respectively and little or no respect from national pollsters.

BYU's pounding last week of Wyoming has finally captured the attention of many media types inside and outside the MWC. It's not the opponent BYU faced, but the now undeniable facts the Cougars present: BYU is 7-1 with their sole loss against PAC-10 favorite USC, is undefeated in MWC conference play, and still not ranked in the Top 25.

The thing that annoy Cougar fans more than anything is that Colorado State is still nationally ranked (17th in coaches poll and 20th in AP media poll) even after BYU defeated them soundly.

For their part, UNLV is in the same situation as BYU. They enter the game with a 6-1 overall and 2-0 conference record, with heir only loss at the hands of Kansas 34-41. In this week's match up, both teams feel they have something to prove in this regionally televised ABC-TV network game in Las Vegas.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Berry has just been named as a finalist for the Davey O'Brien award. He is currently ranked #3 nationally in quarterback efficiency ratings. His 2003 campaign stats are 163 completions on 317 attempts (51%) for 2569 yards and 21 TDs.

Sophomore defensive tackle Manaia Brown was a Bednarik Award semi-finalist, but did not make the final cut. However, he is currently in first place for the "Best DL" Award running.

The Cougars unexpected success also had BYU coach Gary Crowton in contention for National Coach of the Year honors, but he also did not make the final cut. Instead, Colorado State's Sonny Lubick is currently the leading contender.

Interestingly, Jamaal Brimmer of UNLV, a 2nd Team All-American selection at defensive back and BYU's Kip Nielsen are both neck and neck for the Jim Thorpe Award. Brimmer has 53 tackles on the year (five tackles for loss - TFL) and six interceptions. Nielsen has shined in Bronco Mendenhall's scheme with 32 tackles (eight TFL), six Interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Gilford did not make the final cut, finishing at 4th place with 49 tackles (4 TFL) and six Interceptions.

Game time.

Taking the field in Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, BYU knows what they need to do to win: "Keep the ball on the ground, avoid making turnovers and this one should be a victory," says ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit.

Seemingly oblivious to the chorus of boos entering the stadium, BYU takes the field knowing full well this could be a tough game. They also remember well their bitter defeat last year in Provo when Brimmer intercepted the ball late in the 4th, sealing the Rebel victory.

UNLV takes the ball first and drives down to the BYU 35 with two consecutive15-yard passes from quarterback Kurt Nantkes to receiver Michael Johnson. UNLV scores a few plays later on 3rd and goal with a 5-yard toss from Nantkes to Johnson.

BYU and UNLV exchange punts back and forth throughout the quarter. However, with just 35 seconds remaining in the quarter, BYU's Marcus Whalen finds the end zone on a 23-yard scamper down the sidelines. Because of a late hit by a UNLV defender, Berry is taken out of the game with a strained pectoral muscle and team doctors announce he will miss the rest of the game.

1st Quarter - BYU 7 UNLV 7

In the second quarter, BYU and UNLV both struggle offensively. This quarter belongs to the BYU defense which sacks Nantkes twice and keeps the Rebels on their side of the 50 the entire quarter. Mortensen proves to be an adequate back up, going 7-12 for 67 yards. He leads the Cougars on a 75-yard drive which ends with a 12-yard touchdown strike from Mortensen to receiver Chris Hale with 2:33 left in the half. The Rebels would go three and out and would give the ball back to BYU who run the clock out and head to the locker room with a slim 7-point lead.

Halftime - BYU 14 UNLV 7

In a quarter where BYU only achieved two first downs, BYU still kept itself in the game. UNLV entered Cougar territory five times in the quarter and scored three times with a touchdown to Johnson and two field goals. BYU ends the quarter with a Thomas Stancil fumble on the punt return and a pumped up rebel team and crowd on the Cougar 41.

3rd Quarter - BYU 14 UNLV 20

Led by Manaia Brown and Kip Nielsen, BYU forces a much needed three and out and gets the ball back. BYU drives down the field in a hurry, before stalling on the UNLV 30. It's 4th and 3 and BYU is faced with a tough decision. Crowton opts to kick the field goal and Matt Payne connects from almost 55 yards out.

The Cougars and Rebels exchange punts throughout much of the quarter. Late in the game, UNLV finds themselves with a 1st and 10 at their own 45 with just 2:25 remaining and a slim 3-point lead. UNLV runs down the clock to just 1:32 facing a 3rd and 4 situation. Head coach John Robinson decides to pass for the first down and into the hands of BYU's defensive back Nielsen, who intercepts it and returns it for a touchdown with just 1:18 remaining in the game.

UNLV comeback attempt fails and BYU escapes with a victory. Players of the Game were Kip Nielsen with three tackles (1=one TFL) and an interception for a touchdown. For UNLV, it was Michael Johnson with six receptions for 67 yards and two TDs.

Final Score - BYU 24 - UNLV 20

BYU now hosts one of the biggest games of the season in Provo versus 8-0 Boise State with their running back who is a top frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy this year. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Stay Tuned.

Stats: BYU ~ UNLV 1st Downs 16 15 Total Off. 287 301 Rushes - Yds. 46 - 132 29 - 112 Comp-Att-TD 19 - 32 - 1 16 - 32 - 2 Pass Yds. 155 285 Sacked 3 4 Turnovers 2 2 T.O.P 30:15 29:45

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