Utah Claims Outright MWC Title with BYU Victory

Utah Claims Outright MWC Title with BYU Victory

<b>Utah 3, BYU 0.</b> <P> When you hold an opposing team to 220 yards of net offense; half their normal passing yardage; and 60 percent of his normal rushing yardage, victory is typically yours to savor and celebrate. Not BYU. Not this year.

When your opponent is flagged nine times for 80 yards, and moves from your red zone backward to a punting situation, the rout is on, right? Wrong. Not BYU. Not this year.

This is the 2003 version of the BYU offense, the worst in 39 years – since 1964. That's so long ago that none of this year's team players were even born. This season closed with a whimper, as the Cougars thankfully didn't embarrass themselves losing to Utah 3-0.

With the win, the Utes wrapped up their first outright conference title in 46 years – since 1957. The Cougars managed to complete all of five passes – on the day. In olden times (two years ago), five passes was a quick scoring drive. This year it's a full day's work.

The good news is the offense was consistent. The bad news is, they were consistently bad. So bad, in fact, they had only one scoring opportunity all day long, a 51-yard Matt Payne field goal attempt into a stiff wind late in the first half. The kick was long enough, but sailed wide. Although the defense again acquitted itself honorably, the offense was embarrassingly bad. The shutout ended BYU's NCAA-record scoring streak, which lasted over 28 years. The Cougars were last shut out by Arizona State in Tempe in 1975 by 21-0. The last shutout at home was a 17-0 loss to UTEP in 1970. BYU finishes the season 4-8, winning only two games in the last 10 weeks.

Matt Berry left the game with an elbow injury in the first half and did not return. He completed just one pass and one interception. Enter walk-on sophomore quarterback Jackson Brown, who started the season as the fourth team and scout team quarterback.

Turnovers again plagued BYU, as the Cougars put the ball on the ground three times, losing one, and threw two interceptions, killing consecutive drives. Toby Christensen's fumbled punt at the BYU 25 snuffed out what slim chance remained for the Cougars with just over three minutes remaining.

Showing a lack of offensive discipline that has, sadly, become this team's hallmark, BYU kept multiple Utah possessions alive with mindless penalties. BYU managed to draw at least one personal foul in every game, but one this year.

On the Utes first possession of the first half, the Cougars twice committed foolish penalties and turned would-be Utah punting situations into first downs, allowing the Utes to hold onto the ball for over nine straight minutes and seventeen plays. The Cougar defense forced them to come up empty as their own miscues turned a first down at the BYU 23 into third and forever.

Utah was far from impressive, but, on this day, a safety would have been a comfortable cushion. There was simply no way BYU was going to score without Utah's help. That help was not forthcoming. Even Ute fumbles deep in their own territory bounced their way, producing lost yardage but not loss of possession.

Utah will now face either Southern Mississippi or TCU in the Liberty Bowl as the MWC champion.

New Mexico 26, Wyoming 3.

The Lobos, emotionally charged with the hope of sharing the conference title, handled the Cowboys easily. With BYU's loss later in the day, however, a second place finish and a second straight trip to the Las Vegas Bowl was the Lobos' reward, as they finished the season strong at 8-4.

Colorado State 24, UNLV 23.

CSU needed late game heroics from a back-up quarterback to nip the Rebels in Las Vegas. Justin Holland, subbing for Bradlee Van Pelt, who broke his hand, threw a three-yard pass with 53 seconds left to lift the Rams over the Rebels. UNLV could have iced the game just 1:45 earlier, but Dillon Pfeiffer missed a 23-yard field goal that would have given the Rebels a nine-point lead.

In a matchup that many pre-season pundits pointed to as the game that would decide the conference title, UNLV sputtered and fell to 1-6 and last place in the conference. CSU, widely seen as the conference favorite, barely managed to claim sole possession of third place. The Rams did manage to win at least seven games for the 10th straight year. Rebel coach John Robinson, meanwhile, may be losing ground in Las Vegas with a season many will see as underperforming.

Interestingly, without the CSU win, BYU would have tied for third with CSU, Air Force and SDSU. Instead the Rams finish third at 4-3, while Air Force, BYU and SDSU all finished at 3-4, and tied for fourth place.

San Diego State 24, Air Force 3.

Tied at 3-3 at the half, the Aztecs rolled up 21 points in the second half while Air Force could manage none. Since beating BYU on Sept. 27, the Falcons have gone 2-5, beating only 5-6 UNLV and winless Army, to spoil what was shaping up to be a successful season.

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