September 13, 2006

Hello, win column

Lightning forced BYU's offense off the field with six minutes to play in the game but the Golden Hurricane couldn't easily duplicate the feat, leading to a 49-28 BYU victory. BYU's running backs were instead the dominant force with an additional spark provided by John Beck's sharp passing and a solid performance by the BYU defense.

A partially blocked TU punt gave BYU it's first chance, starting at its own 45 yard line. From there, BYU mixed a couple of short passes with four runs to reach the 6 yard line. Fui Vakapuna then caught a lateral pass and ran it in for the first score.

TU reached the BYU 38 using several nifty plays by quarterback Paul Smith, but couldn't advance the ball from there and punted.

BYU's next effort on offense had 4 straight passing plays but a sack and a holding penalty doomed the series. TU converted a 4th down play during its next drive while on its way to the BYU six. Smith completed a 3rd down TD pass and, after the extra point, the score was knotted at 7 - 7.

BYU was again forced to punt but Derek McLaughlin's kick was low and deflected off the back of one of his blockers, resulting in a TU possession at the BYU 15 yard line. The BYU defense may have changed the direction of the game by keeping Tulsa from the endzone and forcing them to settle for a field goal and a slim lead of 10 - 7.

BYU's offense built on the defense's performance, moving 65 yards for a score. On a second and three, Curtis Brown shot-putted a perfect 50 yard pass which slipped through the receiver's fingers after just enough defensive distraction. The key play, however was Beck completing a crucial third and 10 pass for 16 yards to Matt Allen. With additional timely passing and effective running by Brown and Vakapuna, BYU reached the 6 yard line. There, Brown traded roles and blocked for teammate Manase Tonga who sliced into the endzone, allowing BYU to regain the lead at 14 - 10.

On the following series, Tulsa was spared a turnover when, after a sack, an apparent fumble was nullified by a quick whistle. With under 2 minutes left in the half, though, Tulsa had to punt, setting BYU up on their own 45 yard line. BYU quickly moved into scoring range when Beck scrambled and completed a 38 yard pass to Allen at the nine yard line. Beck finished the drive with a 3 yard toss to Allen in the endzone.

After halftime, Brown made a brilliant run after a short pass, breaking 4 tackle attempts by 5 defenders en route to a 62 yard touchdown. His determination infused the entire team, and despite another touchdown drive by TU to close the gap to 28-17, the team began playing at a higher level.

Taking its turn, the defense asserted itself, and cornerback Ben Criddle tipped a pass allowing freshman defensive end Matangi Tonga, to hustle up-field for the interception. Fui Vakapuna finished the ensuing 50 yard drive with a powerful 11 yard off-tackle TD run.

Fraying around the edges, Tulsa couldn't move the ball on its next two series which sandwiched a short BYU 30 yard TD drive. Fui Vakapuna then administered the coup de grace with a dominating run in which he broke three tackle attempts in the backfield, cut up-field, broke past 4 more tackles and an attempt at stripping the ball, and was finally brought down after a 38 yard gain.

After a 50 minute lightning delay, backups took over and Harvey Unga drove into the endzone on his second collegiate carry for a BYU score. Tulsa retaliated with a quick 65 yard touchdown drive, after which BYU ran out the clock.

BYU running backs accounted for 236 rushing yards, 100 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. Brown led the group with 21 carries and 3 catches while he and Vakapuna motivated each other to excel. Beck was extremely efficient with fewer passing attempts than usual, and completed 16 of 21 passes for 3 touchdowns, 240 yards, and 0 interceptions.

This was the most well-rounded effort by the Cougars in years, with significant contributions from the offense, defense, and special teams.

BYU seeks to maintain its momentum as it travels to meet a strong opponent in Boston College next Saturday. The Cougars may be hoping that lightning will strike twice.

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