By SCOTT BELL
BYU more than doubled its season high for scoring Friday night against Utah State.
As it turned out, the Cougars needed every last point in a wild 42-35 win at Cougar Stadium.
“This game had everything,” said coach LaVell Edwards. “There were high snaps, safeties, you name it, it had it.”
Will Snowden’s two-yard touchdown run with 3:39 left proved to be the winning margin, but far from told the story in this one.
This game had as many subplots as a Dostoevsky novel, as many twists and turns as a Hitchcock thriller.
Subplot 1: The shadow of Terrence Harvey’s death hung over the game from the beginning. Friday night’s game capped a difficult week for Cougar players. Although the Cougars wanted to win one for Terrence, it was hard to focus on football in the wake of such tragedy.
“We had a rough week,” Snowden said. “Everyone was sad. It was hard to get through such a tragedy. LaVell said before the game, we had to go out and play and fight through this. We wanted to win for Terrence and the other guys, but it was difficult.”
The Cougars came out understandably flat, and with 10:22 remaining in the second quarter found themselves trailing 24-10 after a 75-yard touchdown bomb from Matt Sauk to Nakia Jenkins.
Which leads to subplot 2: the depleted Cougar secondary. It was learned just before game time that cornerback Jack Williams’ pulled hamstring would prevent him from playing. Chris Ellison also learned before the game that he had a partially torn ACL, and will miss the rest of the year. Coupled with the loss of Harvey, Roderick Foreman and Tony Fields, the Cougars were thin in the secondary.
Sophomores Doug Henstrom and Tyler Nelson and freshman Kevon Morton were called on to fortify the depleted secondary corps. Omarr Morgan returned from his suspension, but was rusty at first. Jenkins burned him for 165 receiving yards in the first half.
“I played terribly in the first half,” Morgan said. “I was kind of moping around, feeling sorry for myself. I talked to my roommate, Chris Ellison, at halftime, and he told me to step up. In the second half, I knew to win the defensive backs had to make plays and we did.”
The beleagured Cougar seconday held the Aggies to eight completions in 21 second half attempts.
Subplot 3: Paul Shoemaker saw his first action since being benched against Washington, and led the Cougars on two fourth quarter touchdown drives. Shoemaker came into the game after starter Kevin Feterik injured his ankle.
“As I’ve said all along, we have two great quarterbacks,” Edwards said. “You can make what you want of it, call it a controversy or not. I’ve said all year that we’ll use both of them. Paul did a great job.”
Shoemaker came in with 12:21 remaining and the Cougars trailing 32-27. On his first drive, he found Dustin Johnson for a 65-yard pickup, then two plays later hit Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown. After an Aggie field goal, Shoemaker led the drive that resulted in Snowden’s winning touchdown.
“It was definitely better than standing on the sideline,” Shoemaker said. “You don’t want Kevin to get hurt, but I was glad I could help the team get the victory.”
Subplot 4: Due to injuries, many players were shuffled to fill holes. It was learned midweek that Kalani Fifita-Sitake will miss the rest of the year with a herniated disk in his back. So Johnson split time between fullback and tight end, and came up with a huge effort. He rushed five times for 34 yards, and caught eight passes for 111 yards.
John Moala started at tight end, and sophomore Donny Atuaia, converted from linebacker only this week, filled in at fullback when Johnson went to tight end.
Snowden took over at tailback on BYU’s winning drive after Brian McKenzie went down with a neck injury. Freshman Jaron Dabney even took one carry to give Snowden a breather.
Subplot 5: BYU won its third consecutive thriller, despite giving up four turnovers. Two fumbles led to Utah State touchdowns, while two Feterik interceptions killed drives deep in Aggie territory. A snap over punter J.D. Hartsfield’s head resulted in a safety.
Despite the miscues, BYU managed to win. It took 559 total yards, and 42 points after scoring a combined 52 in its first three games.
“It definitely shows we can pull it out,” Shoemaker said. “But I think we’d rather win by a lot.”