Oct. 20, 2007
Brigham Young scored quickly in both halves and went on to defeat Eastern Washington University 42-7 in a non-conference college football game Saturday (Oct. 20) at sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.
The Cougars scored a touchdown just 1:34 into the game on an interception return, then used a 61-yard kickoff return to a score just 41 seconds into the second half. The latter touchdown helped break open a close game as Eastern had entered the game as the 22nd-ranked team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Only one of BYU's six touchdowns came on a drive of more than 50 yards. Eastern was only out-gained in total offense by 111 yards.
"Our kids played hard and there is no way they are 42-7 better than us," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "It should have been a lot closer than that, but we gave them a lot of opportunities to score 21 or 28 points. If you do that to any team you are not going to win the ballgame."
"There were a lot of things that didn't go our way, but, unfortunately, that's the way it worked out," he added.
Despite the loss, the Eagles are still in the hunt for a post-season playoff berth. Eastern is now 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Sky Conference, and begins a four-game conference stretch run on Oct. 27 at Sacramento State.
"Our kids know our backs are against the wall and we have to win out," Wulff said. "Every game is important."
The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Cougars are now 5-2 overall and lead the Mountain West Conference with a 3-0 mark.
The game was a sell-out at the 64,045-seat stadium, but wind, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn't keep many of those fans at home. The announced crowd of 64,522 made it the largest crowd and Eastern team has ever played in front of. Last season, there were 59,504 fans at EWU's game at West Virginia.
Quarterback Matt Nichols and receiver Aaron Boyce continued to produce big numbers, but didn't have a win to show for it. Both sophomores, Nichols passed for 216 yards on a 20-of-32 performance, and Boyce caught nine passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Nichols had entered the game third in FCS in total offense with an average of 327.2 yards per game, including an average of 306.2 passing to rank fifth. Boyce entered ranked sixth in receptions with an average of 7.7 per game (total of 46), and was fourth in receiving yards with a 119.8 average (total of 719 yards).
The Eagles had more yards passing -- 224-156 -- but were badly outplayed in the running game. The Cougars had 221 rushing yards, led by the 145 on 21 carries by Harvey Unga, while Eastern had just 42. Nichols was sacked three times.
"We had the opportunity to move the ball and do some things, and we were," Wulff said. "We just didn't really capitalize when we got (near their goal line). Field position played the biggest role in this ballgame."
The Eagles dug themselves an early 7-0 hole just 1:26 into the game when Corby Hodgkiss stepped in front of a Nichols pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. After an Eastern punt, the Cougars scored on a 13-play, 85-yard drive to take a 14-0 lead.
In the first quarter, BYU had a 133-50 advantage in total offense. But Eastern's toughened and EWU's offense got untracked to come within a touchdown in the second quarter.
Nichols engineered a 10-play, 71-yard drive to cut the lead to 14-7 with 13:12 to play in the half. Nichols completed 5-of-6 passes for 60 yards in the drive, with three of those going to Boyce for 49 yards.
The last 28 yards came on a Boyce's catch between two defenders in the end zone after Nichols avoided a sack attempt by a blitzing linebacker.
Late in the quarter, BYU put together an eight-play, 50-yard drive that put them ahead 21-7. Unga, who had 118 yards in the first half, had a 13-yard run to give the Cougars a two-touchdown with 1:35 left.
The Eagles drove the ball to the BYU 29 in the final seconds, but Nichols was sacked to end the half. A 61-yard kickoff return began the second half for the Cougars, and they turned that into a touchdown and a 28-7 lead just 41 seconds into the half.
Brigham Young scored two more touchdowns, one set-up after an interception and 27-yard return. A fourth-quarter BYU touchdown came after a 25-yard punt return.
Eastern is now 7-15 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams, and 0-4 versus current members of the Mountain West Conference. This is the first time since 2000 (Boise State) that Eastern has played a FBS team later than September, and is the latest upper division date for the Eagles since playing Idaho on Nov. 1, 1997.
The Cougars entered the game with one of the top offenses and defenses in FBS, in fact, are one of just five teams nationally to rank in the top 21 in both categories. The others are Boise State, Rutgers, Oklahoma and West Virginia, a team the Eagles played in the 2006 season.
Brigham Young entered averaging 462.8 yards of offense to rank 16th in FBS and allowed only 313.3 yards per game to rank 21st. The Cougars had the sixth-best passing offense (329.0) as quarterback Max Hall ranks sixth nationally in total offense (330.8). Hall finished the game 15-of-30 for 156 yards and one touchdown.
BYU is 3-0 in the Mountain West Conference with victories over UNLV (24-14 last week), New Mexico (31-24) and Air Force (31-6). The Cougars started the season 1-2, with a victory over Arizona (20-7) followed by losses to UCLA (27-17) and Tulsa (55-47).
Last year, BYU was even better as it finished the 2006 season ranked 15th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 16th in the Associated Press top 25. The Cougars won their final 10 games, including a 38-8 victory over Oregon in the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl to finish the season with an 11-2 record.
Eastern, meanwhile, has been impressive in its own right on both offense and defense, ranking third in FCS with an average of 486.7 yards after six games. Eastern was 20th in both scoring offense (34.3) and scoring defense (19.3) as the Eagles were impressive on both sides of the ball in their last two Big Sky games.
In those two outings -- a 24-23 loss to top-ranked Montana followed by a 35-13 victory over 11th-ranked Montana State -- Eastern piled up 1,040 yards of offense and allowed just 604 on defense. Eastern allowed just 22 rushing yards in the rout over the Bobcats.
Eastern is back in the national rankings this week after the MSU win, earning rankings of 22nd by The Sports Network, 22nd in the FCS Coaches Poll, 24th by Anygivensaturday.com and 18th by the Football Gazette. Ranked 21st at the time, Eastern lost 28-21 to Portland State at home on Sept. 29. That and the Montana loss dealt a blow to Eastern's hopes for the league title and the FCS Playoffs, but Eastern still could run the table in the conference and be in the hunt for a berth in November.