The weather may have been bitter cold following the first snowstorm of the season, but the Cougars came out blazing on senior night against the Idaho Vandals and won 52-13.
The Cougars scored 42 first-half points, the most they have scored in the first half since 2008 when Max Hall put on a passing clinic against the UCLA Bruins, scoring 49 points.
BYU cruised the rest of the game as many of the reserves played yet continued dominating Idaho in all facets of the game.
Idaho decided to end the game with a bit of additional excitement, however, by opting to kick a field goal as time expired, immediately following a muffed BYU punt with seconds remaining.
BYU was favored by 40 points and led 52-10 until the Idaho field goal made the final margin of victory 39 points.
Idaho interim Head Coach Jason Gesser said he did not intentionally add a field goal at the end of the game in order to cover the spread, but that didn’t stop the media from asking about it after the Vandals appeared to have somewhat celebrated a field goal that was meaningless to the game’s outcome.
Freshman running back Jamaal Williams led the charge from the first possession of the game for the offense as he dashed 49 yards to set up the first BYU touchdown.
Williams became the first BYU running back since Harvey Unga in 2009 to run for over 100 yards in back-to-back games as he rushed for 104 yards tonight on 10 carries and two touchdowns in only one half of play.
“When it’s clearly going to be a one-sided game and the execution demonstrates that we’re playing at a high enough level, that’s when we begin substituting our starters,” Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I almost took Riley (Nelson) out before the end of the second quarter. The same with Jamaal (Williams). I try to gauge it on how I think we’re performing.”
Senior quarterback Riley Nelson was pulled after two and a half quarters of play and finished the night 19-31, 236 yards for 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.
On the receiving end of all three of those passing touchdowns was junior Cody Hoffman, who has continued to shine and impress throughout 2012. He finished with 9 catches for 108 yards.
Nelson has fought every play of his career to be the quarterback on the field, but in the third quarter he gave way to fellow senior quarterback James Lark.
“Tonight was different,” Nelson said about his usual desire to be on the field. “I knew James (Lark) would have a chance to get in, and he has done as much for this program if not more than I have; I wanted him to get that chance.”
Lark’s first attempt of the game was nearly intercepted, but after brushing that off, he finished 6-11 for 49 yards and a touchdown and looked confident.
The defense played well against the Vandals, who have struggled to put points up on the board this season and rank 120th in scoring offense coming into tonight’s game.
The Vandals managed only 61 yards rushing, and their quarterback, senior Logan Bushnell, finished 19-35, 206 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
The BYU defense also added a touchdown when junior linebacker Spencer Hadley scooped up an errant snap and ran in ten yards for the score at the end of the first quarter.
One of the best stories of the night was senior corner back Robbie Buckner, who battled testicular cancer this past summer and beat it.
He started his first game this weekend since 2009 and, after dropping an interception early in the game, made an athletic play to record the first interception of his career when he picked off Bushnell in the second quarter.
Twenty-three seniors played their final game at LaVell Edwards Stadium this weekend, and many after the game expressed how much fun it had been to play in front of great fans over their careers and thanked the fans who toughed out the night’s 25-degree weather and the snow-covered bleachers to attend.
“It is nice to know that we’ve got true fans behind us who will brave all sorts of weather,” Nelson said. “It means the world to us as players to see people invest so much into the program.”
After the win, the Cougars became the first FBS team this season to accept a bowl bid.
The San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl extended a bowl invitation to BYU while also issuing a statement that a rematch between BYU and Boise State (currently tied atop the Mountain West ranks) will not happen.
After a cold game tonight, BYU will be extra happy to know it should be about 70 degrees for the bowl game in San Diego.