Beck Recounts "The Drive"

John Beck

When fans and pundits look back on John Beck's career as a BYU quarterback, one eight-play drive will color their memories more than anything else. During that 69-second march into Cougar football lore, Beck showcased the poise, decision-making ability, and pure physical skill that place him in the company of the BYU great ones.

John Beck did not have his greatest moment as a BYU Cougar against any old team; he saved his best for the biggest game of the season against archrival Utah. It was a Utah team he had failed to beat his previous two outings, and it appeared that he would finish his career the same way as many other recent Cougar seniors, without a single victory over their rival up north. Coupled with the fact that many doubted Beck's ability to deliver down the stretch, the scene was set with much underlying drama.

Down 31-27 and needing a touchdown, Beck went to work with his legacy hanging in the balance. Would he deliver, or would it become yet another "almost-but-not-quite" finish of the kind that had come to define Cougar football in recent years?

BYU started at its own 25 with only one minute and nine seconds to show that this team really was different.

Mindset

"The way I treated it and the team treated it was that it was just another two-minute drill," said Beck. "If it's before the half or at the end of the game it doesn't matter. You treat it the same. We had timeouts, and we were confident in what we were doing. That's just how you have to look at it and we did."

"John was cool," added tight end Daniel Coats. "We all knew that we had done what we needed to do before in practice and in games. We knew we had the tools, and we had enough time to do it. We were all very confident that we could get it done."

First Play

It is important to get off to a good start in such an intense situation, and that is exactly what Beck and the offense did. Beck calmly threw a 15-yard strike to Bryce Mahuika on a crossing route. Mahuika easily got past the first down marker, which stopped the clock until the officials reset the ball for the next snap.

"That first play was big and set the tone for the rest of the drive I think," said Beck. "It was important to get going quickly and Bryce ran a good route and made the play."

Bogged Down

The Cougars were immediately at their own 40-yard line with just seconds gone off the clock, but as quickly as the drive kick-started, it bogged down with the next three plays, which included two incompletions to Michael Reed and Zac Collie. Sandwiched in between those plays was a 7 yard completion to Curtis Brown who managed to get the ball out of bounds saving valuable seconds on the clock.

"Curtis getting out of bounds on that play was huge," said Beck. "If he doesn't get out of bounds there then it would have been very hard to get it down the field to score with the amount of time we had."

Fourth and Three

With time slipping away, the Cougars then had only one chance to pick up three yards. Beck completed a pass to Jonny Harline for 16 yards just over the out-stretched hands of a Utah linebacker in coverage to keep the drive going.

"We obviously don't get another shot and the game is over if we don't make that play," said Beck. "It was one of our best plays and a play we have a lot of confidence to execute. I think they only rushed two guys on that one so when they're dropping nine in coverage, I just knew I had to be patient and go through my progressions.

"With going through my progressions, you try to pull guys off of their coverage with your eyes, which is what I tried to do there. I must have looked at every receiver at least once on that one. I first looked to Jonny and then went back to Jonny after going through everyone else and he made the play."

Beck then hit Harline on a 7-yard pass that put the Cougars at the Ute 30-yard line with only 16 seconds left, but the end zone was clearly in their sights.

Within Striking Distance

After a timeout, Beck connected with McKay Jacobson on a 19-yard pass to the Ute 11-yard line. Fans in attendance then knew that a comeback win was then well within reach, as it appeared that BYU would have at least two plays to pull out the improbable comeback.

"That was the pass that really stands out in my mind as the one that kept it going," said Beck. "We picked up nearly 20 yards there and McKay ran a great route to put us where we had the opportunity to win the game. You don't want to be heaving up passes from thirty yards out to win the game, so completing that pass was what really kept us going."

What They Wanted

The first play from the 11 saw Beck trying to hit Harline in the corner of the end zone. The go-to tight end was matched up in man-coverage with Ute cornerback Brice McCain, who made a great play on the ball by deflecting what may have been the Cougar's most consistently successful play of the game up to that point.

"On the second play we had man coverage all the way across," recounted Beck. "On the first time we were down there they had the same coverage except that Weddle was matched up on Jonny and this time it was #1, so because of that mismatch I immediately went there. I felt that we had it, but the cornerback made a great play and we then just had one more chance."

Last Chance

What then happened as Beck took the snap with a mere 3.2 seconds left on the clock will never escape the minds of Cougar fans ore Ute fans, for that matter.

"I thought they'd only rush 2 or 3 guys and drop everyone in coverage since that is what they did last year at the end of the game," said Beck. "I knew and learned from last year that I'd have time and I didn't need to rush things, just to wait and go through my progressions and that something would open up and something did."

On the play, offensive coordinator Robert Anae called for all the patterns to be run to the right side of the field save for Harline, who started on the far right side and slowly made his way across coverage to the other side of the field.

"I wasn't even looking at Jonny until the very end," explained Beck. "All eyes were on the other wide receivers at first. We had Bryce on a swing, Matt Allen on a corner route and Zac Collie on a post, so when I got the ball that's where I was looking. As I was looking that way I started moving right and my eyes weren't even on Jonny until I started to feel pressure from the left and had to really start moving that way."

Beck said that he was never really tempted to try to run for the touchdown. He knew from past experience that if he just remained in the backfield and moved in and out of the pocket, then someone would eventually get open.

"Like the fourth down play before, I knew that I just had time and just had to keep back there and someone would get open as they only rushed a couple of guys," explained Beck.

It was then that Beck threw the ball across the grain landing it into the arms of Harline for the win.

"I was hit right after I let it go and was moving the other way when I threw it, so I was just hoping that it would get there," said Beck. "Fortunately it did and we won the game."

Beck was able to live a dream by going out against his rival in such a manner.

"Growing up, that's kind of what I dreamed of over and over again," said Beck about his last play against Utah. "It was a situation that I dreamt my way through probably 100 times, and in every one of those time, I succeeded. I never expected it to really happen, but having it happen, what I dreamed of growing up was just amazing."

Amazing is an apt word for what transpired in the final minute of last week's game. In time, amazing is also likely to be used in describing the final season of the quarterback who engineered that final game-winning drive.

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