MWC Wrap Week #13

Eight Mountain West Conference teams played this weekend, but there was really only one game. The conference champ had already been crowned and the bowl picture was set, but there was still a lot on the line when BYU and Utah squared off in Salt Lake City. For the Utes, it was about pride. For the Cougars, it was about adding another exclamation point to the statement: BYU is Back!

BYU 33, Utah 31.

It was one for the history books, if not the record books. BYU came out like gangbusters, scoring on each of its first two possessions and holding the Utes to 30 yards of offense. On their third possession the Cougars threatened to blow the lid off, having promptly marched to midfield. On second and four, a 17-yard sack and fumble killed the drive and sparked Utah to 24 unanswered points. BYU sleepwalked for nearly two full quarters, but the defense finally came alive to stop Utah just often enough to give the offense a chance to redeem itself, including stuffing two straight rushes at the BYU six early in the third quarter.

The game was as close as a football game can be. The Cougars had 27 first downs to 26 for the hosts. Total offense favored Utah 483 to 431. Each team was penalized six times, BYU for 53 yards and Utah for 55 yards. Neither team committed a turnover and the lead changed hands four times.

John Beck – in danger of seeing his legacy tarnished by two close regular season ending losses to the Cougars' archrival – took over at his own 25 with just 1:09 left, needing a touchdown to win, and completed seven of nine attempts, converting a fourth and three in the process to keep the drive alive. On third and ten at the Utah 11 with 3.2 seconds on the clock, knowing that Utah would drop eight into coverage, Beck hoped to buy time. The pocket drifted to the left, then Utah got pressure and Beck scrambled back to his right. As he did, he noticed receivers and defenders clustering in the end zone, and realized someone could break out of the pack and be all alone. That someone was Jonny Harline. Beck, throwing across his body from the opposite hash mark while falling backwards, got the ball to the end zone. Harline slid forward on his knees three yards deep in the left side of the end zone, cradling the winning throw, and Beck claimed his rightful place in the company of the great BYU quarterbacks.

The Cougars wrapped up sole possession of the league title last week, but this was still a major win. Why? First, anytime you beat your archrival it matters. Further, the win snapped Utah's four-game streak in the series as well as their current three-game winning streak and dropped them to 7-5, a very different picture from 8-4. On the BYU side, the Cougars reached 10 regular season wins for the 11th time in team history, one of only 12 teams nationally to do so at this point, beat Utah on the road for the first time since LaVell Edwards' last game, finished undefeated in league play, and showed that they have recovered the ability to go the distance and win at the wire in a hostile environment.

Next up: For BYU, a trip to Las Vegas against a Pac-10 opponent to be named. For Utah, a bowl game to be determined.

TCU 45, Colorado State 14.

TCU exploded for 28 second-quarter points in a yawner in Ft. Collins and had 19 first downs and 361 yards of offense at halftime.

Next up: For TCU a trip to the Armed Forces Ft. Worth Bowl.

UNLV 42, Air Force 39.

UNLV rocked Air Force with 555 yards of offense and managed to avoid a winless conference season. The Falcons now go home 4-7, their third losing season in a row and 13-20 over that span, putting pressure on Coach Fisher DeBerry.

New Mexico 41, San Diego State 14.

The Lobos took advantage of three Aztec turnovers and locked up a bid to the inaugural New Mexico Bowl, leading 41-0 after three quarters.

Wyoming did not play and although the Cowboys are bowl eligible, they are not likely to get a bid.

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