BYU entered the Vegas Bowl as 3-point underdogs to Oregon State . . and left the game with people reconsidering if the Mountain West deserves a BCS-bowl automatic bid.
After Oregon State scored the game's first TD mid-way through the first on a Sean Canfied QB sneak, BYU's offense came to life and rolled off 37 straight points to bury the Beavers.
With this statement win, BYU capped an 11-2 season that started with an upset victory of then #3 Oklahoma in Dallas. With a few bowl games pending, those two wins have people wondering if the MWC belongs with the big boys. After the game concluded, Mark May and Lou Holtz, notorious small conference haters who were on ESPN's color commentary for the game, carried a small discussion about the MWC getting a BCS auto-bid. To paraphrase Holtz, he said about auto-bids that "This whole thing needs to be reconsidered."
Much like their game against Oklahoma, the BYU defensive coaches seemed to have drawn up a perfect game plan to stop the potent Beaver offense. While Canfield struggled much more with the wind than did Max Hall, the Cougars also had a plan for the talented Rodgers brothers. Jacquizz and James Rodgers came into the game averaging 265 yards of combined offense, but BYU held their screen and sweep game in check as the Rodgers accounted for only 120 offensive yards.
The game turned on the following Beaver possession. Jacquizz Rodgers dropped a screen pass from Canfield that was thrown laterally behind the line of scrimmage. BYU LB Jordan Pendleton smartly knocked Rodgers down and away from the ball, and fellow LB Matt Bauman scooped up the ball and scampered 34 yards for the score.
The Cougars added a 28-yard field goal, and a TD when Hall found Luke Ashworth for a 25-yard score to take the halftime score to 23-7. After Hall found consensus All-American tight end Dennis Pitta for a 17-yard TD throw mid-way through the 3rd quarter, the game was all but over at 30-7.
Considering the wind, Max Hall ended his college career with an impressive day, going 19/30 for 192 yards and 3 TD's. Hall's fellow seniors also had the day for the Cougars. Joining Bauman with his fumble return, tight ends Andrew George and Dennis Pitta had 46 and 45 yards receiving, respectively, with Pitta catching a TD pass. Manase Tonga added 42 yards rushing with a score, and 19 more receiving yards with another score.
(main photo: Mark Philbrick - BYU Photo)