SEATTLE After years of finding maddeningly creative ways to lose non-conference road games, BYU altered the script Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium.
To do it, the No. 15 Cougars borrowed from their dramatic ending in last December's Las Vegas Bowl against another Pac-10 opponent. Once again, the difference was a blocked kick.
Eerily similar to BYU's last-second blocked field goal against UCLA by Eathyn Manumaleuna, Jan Jorgensen managed to knock down a 35-yard extra point attempt by Washington's Ryan Perkins to seal a thrilling 28-27 victory over the Huskies.
In the end, BYU didn't care how it earned the win, only that it did.
"It's big," Jorgensen said of the victory. "From my point of view, I'm just tired of hearing that we can't win on the road early in the season. We knew we could do it. Now we don't have to listen to that any more.
"It just battle-tests you. It's always nice to get into a close game like that and know you can pull it off. Later in the season, when we get into another one maybe against TCU or UCLA or Utah or anybody else on our schedule we know we can pull those close games out."
"We've had that monkey on our back for quite some time," said linebacker David Nixon. "(Defensive) coach (Barry) Lamb came into the locker room and told me, 'This is one of those turning-point games for us.' To show that we can win on the road and that we are a great team. We're going to take this momentum and carry it throughout the season."
The blocked PAT was preceded by a three-yard touchdown run with two seconds remaining in the game by Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who chucked the ball high in the air in celebration after his score and incurred a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
On the ensuing PAT, Jorgensen penetrated Washington's line and got his hand on Perkins' potential game-tying PAT kick.
"It was a very similar situation (to the UCLA game)," Jorgensen said. "I thought about that right when they scored. I was like, 'We're going to block it. We've been here before, we're going to do it.'"
With the win over Washington, the Cougars not only snapped their dubious nine-game non-conference road losing streak, but they also extended their overall winning streak to 12 games and gave Bronco Mendenhall his first 2-0 start as a head coach.
"It just demonstrates how hard it is to win on the road against a good team," Mendenhall said of the narrow win. "This was just the next game to improve our program. It just shows that we're not there yet. But we're getting closer. Our players will compete hard and try hard. We have not arrived but we're making progress. We're learning a lot more about this year's team.
"For them to come on the road, in this stadium, against that football team, I'll be glad to take a one-point win or any win we can get."
Washington played inspired football and was not going to go down quietly. Tied 21-21 well into the fourth quarter, the Cougars marched from their own four-yard line to the Husky six. That's when Harvey Unga, who rushed 23 times for 136 yards, fumbled before barreling over the goal line. Nate Williams jarred the ball from Unga's grip and Washington safety Tripper Johnson recovered it in the end zone.
"I thought I had (the ball) and I tried to dive in," Unga said. "The ball was a little bit loose as I was trying to get momentum. He made a good play on the ball. I coughed it up. That was that."
For BYU, it was a squandered chance to take the lead.
"It's tough when you're so close and you fumble on the goal line like that, when you lost an opportunity to put them away," said tight end Dennis Pitta, who hauled in 10 passes for 148 yards. "You have to regain your focus and move the ball."
On the sideline after the turnover, the Cougars' offense regrouped.
"It was a little demoralizing because we know we should have scored," said Hall, who completed 30-of-41 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. "But at the same time, we just drove the ball all the way down the field. We were saying, 'Hey, these guys can't stop us. If we just keep doing what we're doing, we'll be fine.' That's what we did."
BYU's defense forced a Washington punt and the offense promptly picked up where it left off, driving 84 yards in nine plays, culminating with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Pitta.
"We had another long drive and made some huge third-down conversions," Hall said. "Guys stepped up and made plays."
Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, whose team fell to 0-2 and whose job is jeopardy, praised his team for its effort.
"I'm extremely proud of our young men and the way they battled this afternoon," he said. "We had talked to them about coming out and playing like Huskies play the kind of fight, the kind of effort, the kind of energy and I thought very much they did that.
"Obviously there were a few things in terms of execution that we could have done better, but I thought our young men gave themselves the opportunity to win, and that should be the kind of pride that the Huskies should play with."456 comments on this story
Next week, the Cougars entertain fittingly enough UCLA. The No. 23 Bruins upset Tennessee in their opener last week and had a bye this weekend.
For now, though, BYU is enjoying its road win over a BCS foe.
"I think people are going to make a big deal that it was our first non-conference road win in a while," Hall said. "For us, it's starting the season fast, it's executing and beating big teams early in the season."Washington was better than I think we thought they were. They played us tough and we've got another tough team in UCLA next week. We've got to prepare like crazy and keep it rolling."