BYU 30, SDSU 7SAN DIEGO -- In a series dominated by offense, Rob Morris made a case for the defense in BYU's 30-7 win over San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium.
Unhappy with a six-point lead at halftime, the senior linebacker and his teammates vowed to make amends in the second half.
"We just knew we weren't playing our game," said Morris. "If we played our game, we'd get turnovers, sacks and make some big plays. And we did that."
Morris, who finished with 15 tackles and three sacks, recovered two fumbles and forced another that led to a 24-yard return by teammate Hans Olsen for a touchdown as the 13th-ranked Cougars improved to 8-1 overall and a perfect 5-0 in Mountain West Conference play. BYU visits Wyoming next Saturday before closing out the regular season at home against Utah on Nov. 20.
"We want to be undefeated in the conference and be ranked in the top 10," said quarterback Kevin Feterik, who completed 21 of 32 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
The victory, coupled with losses by New Mexico and Utah, assures BYU of no less than a tie for the inaugural MWC championship.
"This is one huge giant step for us," added Morris. "I don't think people realize how good that football team is we beat."
A late interception by Jernaro
Gilford capped a stellar night for the defense, which forced a season-high five turnovers. SDSU's formidable rushing attack, featuring Larry Ned and Jonas Lewis, was limited to just 49 yards.
"It was a game that was every bit as tough as I thought it would be," said BYU coach LaVell Edwards. "The difference was the turnovers."
One of which led to Olsen's first career touchdown. It put BYU ahead 20-7 with 13:11 remaining in the third quarter. He scooped the ball after Morris jarred it loose from SDSU quarterback Jack Hawley. Owen Pochman later added the last of his three field goals - a 41-yarder - to increase the Cougars' lead to 16 points entering the final 15 minutes.
Re-enter Morris. He recovered another SDSU fumble early in the fourth quarter as BYU's defense continued to shine.
The offense took its final turn with 7:06 to go when Feterik connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Margin Hook to cap all scoring.
The Cougars led 13-7 at halftime, but had to overcome a shaky start to do so.
BYU's early woes began when Jaron Dabney nearly fumbled away the opening kickoff. Two plays later, the Cougars had to burn a timeout when confusion prevailed in the huddle. An incompletion followed and shortly thereafter a punt.
Three more Jesse Sowards kicks and an interception capped the next four BYU offensive sets. San Diego State, meanwhile, took the lead when Hawley scrambled nine yards for a touchdown with 3:22 to play in the first quarter. The score snapped a string of nearly 18 consecutive quarters in which the Cougars had not trailed.
Several other BYU streaks, however, did not fall by the wayside.
Midway through the second quarter, the Cougars extended their on-going NCAA record by scoring in their 308th consecutive game. The 20-yard strike from Feterik to Luke Staley marked BYU's 14th straight outing with a touchdown pass.
Less than one minute later, safety Jared Lee picked off a Hawley pass to preserve yet another streak. BYU has now intercepted a pass in eight consecutive games.
The latter, though, ushered in a wild 14-second sequence reminiscent of past wild encounters between the Aztecs and the Cougars.
On first down, BYU gave the ball back to SDSU when Brandon Doman's 29-yard pass intended for Ben Horton in the end zone fell short of its target. Aazaar Abdul-Rahim intercepted the throw and gave the Aztecs possession on their own 7.
One play later, BYU reclaimed the ball when Morris recovered a Larry Ned fumble on the 8. The Cougars on, however, failed to capitalize on the field position with a touchdown - despite the added benefit of a third-down pass interference penalty on the Aztecs.
Pochman, who added to the streak theme by extending his run of consecutive field goals made to 13 and successful PATs to 25 straight by game's end, connected on a 22-yarder to give BYU a lead it wouldn't surrender. He added a 28-yard field goal just before halftime to give the Cougars a six-point cushion at the intermission.
INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Jeff Holtry is likely out for the season with a torn ACL. His status will be re-evaluated on Sunday. . . . Staley left the game with a pulled calf muscle will also be re-examined on Sunday.