St George News

Nelson leads cougars with consecutive touchdown drives to win

PROVO – BYU hosted the Aggies of Utah State University on Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The Aggies were able to pick up more rushing yards than any other Cougar opponent this season as they racked up 284 yards on the ground. The Aggies started strong and took a 21-13 lead into the fourth quarter. BYU may have created a quarterback controversy as it was Riley Nelson, not Jake Heaps, that led the Cougars on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter for a come from behind victory to win the game 24-27.

USU got the ball first and on the first play of the game Robert Turbin ran a sweep and got outside the BYU defense before turning down field and running 80 yards for a touchdown. BYU’s defense was obviously not prepared for Turbin’s speed to the outside as the Aggies take a 7-0 lead.
On BYU’s first possession the cards all fell in place to help them start and maintain a drive to quickly get into the red zone. With everything going their way on the drive including a fourth down conversion on a quarterback sneak and a USU off sides penalty on third down they still weren’t able to pick up the touchdown despite 9 plays in the red zone and had to settle for a field goal. Heaps who was way off on four different passes inside the 10-yard line. After the field goal Heaps looked very confused and frustrated on the sideline.

BYU’s defense made some nice adjustments and held the Aggies for -1 yard and 8 yards on their second and third drives of the game to keep BYU’s offense on the field almost the entire first quarter.

After starting the game by completing only one of his first six passes, Heaps flipped the switch and completed 7 of his next 10 passes. In so doing, he helped them sustain another drive which ended in a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak to put BYU up 7-10. They were able to hold onto that lead through the end of the first quarter as BYU’s defense held USU without a first down the entire first quarter.

In the second half of the second quarter, Utah State finally had some success on offense. They decided to use a healthy mix of passing and running the ball and drove the ball 78 yards. The drive was capped off with a 13-yard pass from Chuckie Keeton, who hadn’t done much at all before this drive, to Eric Moats for a touchdown to go up 14-10. Keeton, a Freshman, looked like an experienced Senior as he eluded BYU linemen, who were continually putting pressure on him, to either buy time until he had a receiver open or to pick up the needed yardage himself.

BYU got the ball back with four minutes left in the half. They had no trouble driving 54-yards to get into the red zone, but they choked once they got into the red zone. After crossing the 20-yard line they couldn’t pick up another yard and had to settle for another field goal to make the score 14-13 at halftime.

On their first possession of the second half, JJ DiLuigi ran for 1 yard and Heaps threw two passes without picking up any yards to force BYU to punt the ball to the Aggies who decided to go back to their running game. Utah State used all three of their running backs on the possession and all three were productive as Turbin picked up nine yards on two carries. Michael Smith then took the next two carries and picked up 11 yards. After Smith, Kerwynn Williams ran it three times for 19 yards. The Aggie running game had BYU’s defense confused. Keeton then completed consecutive passes to Matt Austin for 4 yards followed by a pass to Turbin who caught the ball in the middle of the field with space and was able to weave through the BYU defense for a 24 yard touchdown to put the Aggies up 21-13.

After the Cougar offense was unable to move the ball effectively on their next possession, BYU called an audible. Almost every pass thrown by Heaps this season has either been thrown with deadly accuracy or has been completely uncatchable. With about five minutes left in the third quarter, Riley Nelson came into the game. Nelson hasn’t hardly thrown a single pass with great accuracy, but almost every pass he has thrown has been catchable. They have brought him in at quarterback in specific, one play situations all season long, but this time he came in to finish the game. His presence sparked the offense, which played with more energy the rest of the game. On BYU’s first drive with Nelson running the offense they were able to pick up 36 yards and get in field goal range, but they weren’t able to finish off the drive. The receivers were obviously thrown off by the style of Nelson’s throws, to make matters worse, Justin Sorensen missed the 47-yard field goal.

Utah State started the next drive soundly. They drove 62 yards switching between their three running backs to get the ball to the BYU 8-yard line, but BYU’s defense stepped up big and forced the Aggies to kick a field goal to go up 24-13.

Nelson decided to show the Aggies that the Cougars could also run the football. On the next drive JJ Di Luigi ran for 19 yards on two carries and Nelson ran for 7 yards. The defense, finally forced to respect the run, gave up a 10-yard pass to Bryan Kariya and a 24-yard touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman, who caught it at about the goal line and barely got the ball across the line with one foot down in-bounds before getting pushed out to pull BYU within four points 24-20.

Utah State then almost made it a seven point game. Michael Smith ran the ball 53 yards to put the Aggies within field goal range, but they were unwilling to settle for only three points and they faked a field goal. Josh Thompson threw the ball to Tarren Lloyd, but BYU’s Daniel Sorensen knocked the ball down to force a turnover on downs.

BYU got the ball back, down by four with almost eight minutes left in the game. Nelson engineered a nice drive that took the Cougars 42 yards to the USU 26-yard line before Di Luigi fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Chris Harris for the Aggies with less than four minutes left in the game.

BYU’s defense stepped up big and held the Aggies to only 1 yard. The Aggies punted the ball and JD Falslev was back to receive the punt. Falslev decided not to catch the punt, which bounced at about the 30-yard line and traveled all the way to the 4-yard line with less than two and a half minutes left in the game. On the first play, Nelson scrambled and lost almost three yards. Nelson then went about a two minute offense in a very strange way. Instead of throwing to the side of the field so that his receivers could get out of bounds and stop the clock, Nelson decided to run the ball and throw passes down the middle of the field most of the drive.

Consequentially, the clock just kept ticking. It took BYU well over a minute to go the first 32 yards, but this threw off Utah State’s defense. With less than a minute on the clock Nelson dropped back to pass the ball. The Aggies blitzed from both sides and forced Nelson to scramble. After dodging two defenders, Nelson completed a 40 yard pass to McKay Jacobson who was tacked at the USU 26-yard line. Nelson then ran up the middle and picked up 13 yards before he tripped and was tackled on the 13-yard line. With 15 seconds left in the game, Nelson threw a pass towards the end zone, but Will Davis tipped it away from the receiver, and right into the hands of Marcus Mathews who held on for the winning touchdown.
After the Aggies were unable to score on the last drive of the game Cougar fans, who were very excited after thinking they were going to lose again to the Aggies, swarmed the field to celebrate the victory.

sports@stgnews.com

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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