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Commentary: BYU searching for redemption against Nevada

Published: Friday, Nov. 29 2013 11:21 a.m. MST

BYU's Head Coach Gary Crowton gives encouragement to his player during the second half their game against San Diego State at Qualcom Stadium in San Diego, Calf. Saturday Oct. 4 2003.  Photo by Chuck Wing/Deseret Morning News
 (Chuck Wing, ) BYU's Head Coach Gary Crowton gives encouragement to his player during the second half their game against San Diego State at Qualcom Stadium in San Diego, Calf. Saturday Oct. 4 2003. Photo by Chuck Wing/Deseret Morning News (Chuck Wing, )

Going into the third game of the 2002 football season, Gary Crowton's troops were on a roll after home wins over Syracuse and Hawaii.

Crowton's coaching record at BYU stood at 14-2 after a stellar 12-2 season in 2001. The team headed to Reno to play the University of Nevada Wolf Pack with a lot of momentum.

The game result, however, became an ominous portent for the rest of the season as the Cougars eventually finished the year 5-7.

For some reason, the team flew into Reno the day of the game, giving the impression that the Cougars were taking the game lightly. Even though Nevada's top running back was knocked out of the game early, the BYU defense yielded 529 yards of total offense, including 410 passing.

Future NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson had 12 receptions for 213 yards for the Wolf Pack, including a 95-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zac Threadgill.

On the other side of the field, BYU starting Bret Engemann had an excruciatingly bad first half. His last-minute desperation pass at the end of the half was intercepted and resulted in a touchdown for the Wolf Pack.

Lance Pendelton, Engemann's backup, tried to mount a comeback in the second half, but the Cougars fell short, 31-28.

Fast forward to 2010. It was a rebuilding year for BYU after the glory days of quarterback Max Hall, tight end Dennis Pitta, wide receiver Austin Collie and running back Harvey Unga.

BYU used rotating quarterbacks to start the season, but an injury to Riley Nelson left the signal-calling duties to Jake Heaps, a highly touted freshman. In the fourth game of the season, Heaps made his first start and faced a formidable Nevada squad that was headed by current San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The Cougars put up a good battle against the Wolf Pack at LaVell Edwards Stadium, but suffered their only home loss of the season to the potent Nevada team, losing 27-13. The Wolf Pack went 12-1 that season, dealt highly touted Boise State its only loss, and won the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

There was obviously no shame in losing to Nevada in 2010, but with linebacker Kyle Van Noy returning to his hometown Saturday to complete his regular season as a highly decorated BYU linebacker, it is time for all hands on deck to make it a memorable day for Van Noy and BYU.

A Cougar win will not completely erase the sting of the 2002 loss, but it would be redemptive and would send the 2013 team and season in the right direction for the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco in late December.

Ken Driggs of Mesa, Ariz., is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the '60s. Contact him at kkdriggs@gmail.com.

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