One of the most exciting games in college football this season, and possibly the most entertaining game at Hughes Stadium since CSU and Utah faced off in 2005, was a result of an offensive explosion as the No. 17 Brigham Young Cougars (8-1, 4-1 MWC) topped the Rams (4-5, 2-3) 45-42 Saturday evening.
The two teams combined for 952 yards of total offense, with each play averaging just under seven yards. Most of the damage from both teams came via the air attack, courtesy of BYU’s Max Hall and CSU’s Billy Farris.
Farris, who completed 18 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns, tipped his hat to his opponent despite the tough loss.
“You’ve got to give it to them, they’re a great team, a great offense. They played really well,” said the senior quarterback. “That’s the way it happens sometimes. It just hurts when you’re that close to beating a ranked team or an elite team in our conference and it just doesn’t happen for you. So it’s just heartbreaking.”
On the other end of the quality quarterback play were the outstanding performances by the receivers, specifically juniors Austin Collie of BYU and the Rams’ Dion Morton.
Collie, who leads the nation in receiving yards with 1,058, had his seventh consecutive 100 yard game, pulling down 156 yards on nine catches as well as scoring three first-half touchdowns. Collie made his way up the BYU receiving record books Saturday, passing Matt Belini for third most all-time.
Morton led the CSU receiving corps with 6 catches for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 55 yard reception with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter to give CSU a 42-38 lead immediately following a Gerard Thomas interception.
But the 104 seconds left on the clock was too much time for BYU, and that was something Morton was worried about following his fifth touchdown of the season.
“I definitely kind of thought about that, but at the same time, anytime you can score it is a positive thing,” said Morton, whose twin brother and former Rams receiver Damon was in attendance Saturday. “So it just kind of puts the defense in a good situation to get a stop and unfortunately we didn’t.”
After the ensuing kickoff, BYU had 1:36 to drive 76 yards with a touchdown as their only hope to overcome a four-point deficit. And just as they did last week when facing a potential loss at home against UNLV, the Cougars made a statement drive to score the game winning touchdown, as Hall connected with his tight end Dennis Pitta from 17 yards out. Hall finished the game with 389 yards and five touchdowns passes.
According to CSU defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, his defense was just one play short.
“We played our tails off, but we just couldn’t finish off at the end,” Kerr said. “Their quarterback is a tremendous player. We tried every coverage and every blitz. We battled and got three turnovers but we needed a fourth. We were one play short.”
The Rams will regroup this week at practice as they prepare for a short road trip to this United State Air Force Academy this coming Saturday.
Football beat writer Matt Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.