BYU football: Unheralded seniors lead Cougars past New Mexico State
Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU's final home game of the season was filled with memorable senior moments, as some unheralded seniors got their chance to shine on Senior Night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
In the third quarter, senior wide receiver/holder Matt Marshall scored his first career touchdown, on his first career rushing attempt. A few minutes later, senior tight end Matt Edwards, grandson of legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards, scored his first career touchdown on his first career reception.
In the end, the Cougars rolled past New Mexico State, 42-7, Saturday night before an announced crowd of 57,134.
"I was really proud of the way the seniors led the team in their final home game," said coach Bronco Mendenhall, who added that offensive coordinator Brandon Doman designed plays for Marshall and Edwards so they could score TDs. "I give credit to Matt Marshall and Matt Edwards for being ready to execute when they were called upon. I think it's something they'll remember forever. That's a great gift for coaches to give to players."
With the win, BYU improved to 8-3 on the season. New Mexico State fell to 4-7.
After the game, members of the 2011 senior class received their traditional senior blankets. All in all, it was a good night for the 19 seniors who played their final game at Edwards Stadium.
Senior running back JJ Di Luigi had 12 carries for 75 yards while senior wide receiver McKay Jacobson caught three passes for 41 yards.
Senior linebacker Jadon Wagner blindsided Aggie quarterback Matt Christian and forced a fumble recovered by senior linebacker Frazier on the game's opening series, setting up a touchdown by senior running back Bryan Kariya.
Early in the fourth quarter, Wagner recovered another fumble after a hit by Preston Hadley on backup quarterback Travaughn Colwell, which set up Edwards' touchdown.
"I thought our defense played very well against an explosive offense," Mendenhall said.
Several underclassmen also turned in strong performances on Saturday as redshirt freshman wide receiver Ross Apo recorded a team-high five receptions for 66 yards, including a pair of touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Heaps.
Heaps made his first start since Sept. 30. He replaced Riley Nelson, who suffered lung and rib injuries in last week's 42-7 victory over Idaho.
Heaps completed 21-of-36 passes for 238 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. It marked the first time Heaps has thrown a touchdown pass to three different receivers and it was the first time Heaps has had four TD passes in a game since he accomplished the feat last year against Colorado State and UTEP.
Heaps was taken out of the game with about four minutes remaining in the game.
At one point, Heaps completed nine consecutive passes. Midway through the fourth quarter, he eluded a pass rush, stepped up and threw a impressive 27-yard touchdown pass to J.D. Falslev.
"That was the best play he has made in his career here at BYU," Mendenhall said. "It was an amazing play."
The Cougars finished with 411 yards of total offense, including 173 yards rushing. BYU's defense held the Aggies to 173 yards of total offense.
On the first series of the game, New Mexico State drove to the BYU 26-yard line before Wagner drilled Aggie quarterback Matt Christian, causing a fumble that rolled 18 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Frazier recovered the ball, setting up BYU's first touchdown, a four-yard run by Kariya at the 5:38 mark of the first quarter.
After the Cougars' next two series ended with a punt and an interception, they got back on the board when Heaps hit Apo on a wide receiver screen for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 14-7.
BYU struck again with 20 seconds left in the first half when Heaps completed a pass to Apo, who caught the ball at the Aggie 2-yard line, was hit, but stretched the ball over the goal line to put the Cougars ahead 21-7 at intermission.
BYU missed a 37-yard field goal on its first series of the second half, but scored on its next two possessions as Marshall scored from two yards out on a direct snap and Edwards caught a nine-yard pass from Heaps. At that point, with 3:14 left in the third quarter, the Cougars had a 35-7 advantage.
Heaps connected with Falslev for final touchdown of the game.
BYU has a bye next week before traveling to Hawaii for the regular-season finale on Dec. 3.
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