BYU football shuts out Savannah State, officially accepts bowl invitation

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It was a special day at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo as BYU (7-4) celebrated both Senior Day and a shutout against Savannah State (0-12). The Cougars’ offense and defense both executed soundly, giving them a 64-0 victory over the Tigers.

Samantha Williams
The BYU football team lines up to greet its graduating seniors at the last home game of the 2014 season. (Universe Photo)

Christian Stewart led the Cougar attack, putting up a career-high quarterback rating and efficiency of 245 in the game. To put that into perspective, the current average QB rating for NCAA leader Marcus Mariota is 184, meaning Stewart had a great night.

Stewart was 12-for-17 on the game in completions and threw for 196 yards and four touchdowns. Not only was he a threat in the air, he was also a threat on the ground. He carried the ball, two of which went for touchdowns and rushed for 44 yards. Stewart posted 42 points before he was asked to sit midway through the second quarter.

Defensively, BYU had a school record for fewest yards allowed in a game as it held Savannah State to only 63 total yards offensively. It was a great display of defense.

Samantha Williams
Kavika Fonua executes defense for the Cougars. (Universe Photo)

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall was pleased with the offensive performance as well as the defense.

“I think our team handled a unique challenge well,” Mendenhall said. “I think our offense played really well to start the game. Our defense did just right to begin. We gained momentum.”

The Cougars gained momentum early in the game, which carried all the way through.

BYU’s offense scored on its first drive of the night, taking it into the end zone on its fourth play of the series. Traveling 85 yards in just a minute and twenty seconds, Stewart connected with Mitch Mathews for a 71-yard touchdown reception, putting the Cougars on the board at 7-0.

The Cougars scored quickly on their next possession to push the lead to 14-0, driving 80 yards after Savannah State punted. Stewart ran 16 yards to the house, giving the Cougars a two-touchdown lead.

The first quarter was not over yet, as runs from Adam Hine and long completions to Devin Mahina resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to Mitch Mathews. The first quarter ended with the score 21-0, in favor of BYU.

Momentum continued well into the second quarter for the Cougars as they played well on both sides of the ball. The Cougars’ defense held Savannah State on a fourth down fake punt attempt, leading to a nine-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to Terenn Houk, increasing the lead to 28-0.

Alani Fua shortly after intercepted the ball and gave BYU’s offense good field position and another quick score, with Stewart running a quarterback keeper for a six-yard touchdown run.

BYU’s offense scored two more times before the half, with a one-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leslie and a two-yard run from Nate Carter. BYU’s special teams blocked a punt, which forced Savannah State’s punter to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety. At halftime, BYU led 51-0.

The second half was refreshing, with new players stepping in to play for the starters. The third quarter remained scoreless, but players like McCoy Hill and Hunter Moore stepped in for Stewart and were able to get some playing time.

Samantha Williams
Nate Carter runs for a Cougar first down. (Universe Photo)

BYU used the fourth quarter to get a lot of practice in its running offense. The leading rushers of the night were Nate Carter, who had 20 carries for a net gain of 116 yards and one touchdown, and AJ Moore, who had 10 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Kicker Trevor Samson was 8-8 on extra points and also nailed a 31- and 32-yard field goal, which helped the Cougars.

At the end of the night, Mendenhall took to the field to celebrate another win with his seniors and accepted an official invitation to the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 22. The night was emotional for both players and coaches. This game was the last at LaVell Edwards Stadium for many of the players.

“I started crying even before they announced the first guy,” Mendenhall said. “I don’t know what’s happened to me. I’m getting soft, I think.”

Although the win was a sweet one, the team has not forgotten what is in store next week as it takes on Cal in Berkley, California.

“We have a big challenge in front of us,” Stewart said. “We can put up numbers; we can play with Cal, for sure. We have a lot of confidence.”

BYU travels to play Cal on Saturday, Nov. 29, at 2:30 p.m. (MST). The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 network.

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