BYU football: Cougars fall flat as Florida State rolls
PROVO — There was a team Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium that looked like it belongs in the nation's top 10 and deserves a Bowl Championship Series berth.
It certainly wasn't BYU.
For the Cougars, it will be remembered as a squandered opportunity. For Florida State, it was just like old times as the Seminoles revived their storied tradition in a dominating fashion. Seventh-ranked BYU, and its 18-game home winning streak, were tomahawk-chopped by unranked FSU, 54-28.
"The way we came out and played today was tough. It's actually embarrassing," said defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen.
"This is a frustrating loss for our football program," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "(FSU) played longer and harder than we did. Our weaknesses were exposed and that gives us a lot to work on."
Florida State did to BYU what many thought Oklahoma would do to the Cougars two weeks ago in Arlington, Tex. BYU, which climbed in the polls after its stunning victory over the Sooners, will tumble in the rankings when they are released today. This drubbing ends the talk about the Cougars possibly playing for a national championship.
"Everybody talked about it, everybody was saying, 'Hey, if they go undefeated why not give them a chance,'" said quarterback Max Hall. "This is tough. We knew we had a special chance to do something. We knew this Florida State game would be a big game. But you lose football games sometimes. That's just how it goes ... In the end, they were just a better football team tonight than we were."
Florida State's 79-year-old coach, Bobby Bowden, has coached in plenty of big games in his distinguished 50-year coaching career and it showed Saturday.
"(The Cougars) were sitting on top of the world, they were in the top 10 and we were not even ranked," Bowden said. "And I thought we had a chance at slipping up on them. I felt like we had a tremendous chance to catch them today not ready."
FSU's offense, led by junior quarterback Christian Ponder, wore down BYU's defense while the Cougar offense made too many mistakes against an opportunistic Seminole 'D.'
FSU rolled up 512 yards of total offense, including 313 on the ground. Ponder passed for 195 yards and ran for 77 more. His performance was reminiscent of that of Utah's Brett Ratliff, who was, prior to Ponder, the last quarterback to engineer an opposing victory at Edwards Stadium, back in 2005.
"If I were to say there was one difference from our previous two games to today, it was the quarterback's ability to run the ball. That was a big difference in the game," Mendenhall said. "We may have underestimated maybe what (Ponder) was capable of."
The Seminoles converted 12 of 15 third-down opportunities and controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
"Our inability to get stops on third down cost us a lot. I credit that to Florida State," Mendenhall said. "They were able to run the ball from the beginning to the end. Their running game prevented us from getting the offense the ball, not allowing us the balance we wanted."
"Christian Ponder might be the best quarterback in the country at making third down plays," Bowden said.
Seminole running back Ty Jones enjoyed his first 100-yard rushing performance of his career, gaining 108 yards and scoring a touchdown.
"They ran the ball very well. When a team is able to do that, it takes the life out of you," Jorgensen said. "We take pride in being a physical defense and we couldn't make a tackle today."
While BYU's offense gained 473 yards of total offense, it also had a glaring five turnovers, including three interceptions by Hall.
"Unfortunately, we got down and it caused us to try to force things downfield," Hall said. "We got out of our game and did some things that are uncharacteristic of our offense."
The most crucial turnover occurred early in the third quarter, with BYU trailing 30-14. The Cougars' hopes for a comeback were all but crushed when FSU freshman defensive back Greg Reid intercepted Hall and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown, lifting FSU to an overwhelming 37-14 advantage.
"That was a tough break," said wide receiver McKay Jacobson, who had an 80-yard touchdown catch in the second half. "It changed the game."
"It was frustrating to come out in the second half and have a turnover and make it that much more difficult," Hall said. "Sometimes that happens."
Hall said he thought tight end Andrew George, his intended receiver, was held on the play. "I thought it was a bad call. I thought it was (pass interference)," Hall said. "I thought (Reid) just grabbed (George) and threw him and made a good play. But you can't control that stuff. It was just a tough play."
"We went out there and made some plays, which we hadn't done lately and we also forced some crucial turnovers," Bowden said. "They had to come out after the half and do something. But we got so far ahead of them they couldn't win."
The fleet-footed Seminoles started fast, scoring easily on their first drive, marching 80 yards on a drive capped by a four-yard run by Jones.
BYU responded on its ensuing possession, driving to the FSU 14, where wide receiver O'Neill Chambers fumbled and Seminole defensive end Kevin McNeil recovered.
What followed was a 17-play, 86-yard TD drive that ate 8:19 off the clock that lifted FSU to a 13-0 advantage after a missed PAT early in the second quarter.
In the first quarter, BYU ran just five offensive plays, compared to 26 for FSU.
Still, the Cougars answered with a touchdown, which culminated with a 12-yard touchdown run by Harvey Unga.
Another quick touchdown put the Seminoles up 20-7 and the Cougars cut it to 20-14. After FSU seized a 27-14 lead, the Seminoles' ensuing squib kick was fumbled by Jorgensen. FSU closed the half with a 33-yard field goal to make it 30-14 at intermission.
So a BYU defense that hadn't surrendered a touchdown in seven quarters allowed the Seminoles four touchdowns in the first half. FSU was 7-for-7 on third downs in the first half.
BYU opens Mountain West Conference play next Saturday when the Cougars host Colorado State.
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