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Associated Press
Hawaii running back Joey Iosefa fumbles after getting hit by Cougar linebacker Uona Kaveinga. Joe Sampson recovered the loose ball and returned it for a score.

HONOLULU — Despite all of the remarkable plays made by BYU quarterback Riley Nelson on Saturday, Nelson said it was the defense that spelled the difference in the Cougars' 41-20 victory over Hawaii.

BYU was nursing a slim 17-13 lead early in the third quarter when Cougar linebacker Uona Kaveinga forced a Joey Iosefa fumble. Defensive back Joe Sampson scooped up the ball and ran 27 yards for a touchdown. In the end zone, Sampson celebrated by flashing the "Hang Loose" sign to fans in the stands.

That was one of the highlights amid a 28-point scoring explosion for BYU in the third quarter.

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"I credit it to the defensive touchdown," Nelson said. "That gave us a lot of momentum. We came out and scored a touchdown on the first drive of the second half. Then for Joe Sampson to pick up that fumble and run it in for a touchdown really gave us the momentum to finish in the third quarter."

"Basically, I was just trying to make a play out there," Sampson said. "I saw a fumble on the ground and all I was thinking was, 'scoop and score.' It was a momentum boost. The defense was juice about that one."

BYU's defense allowed Hawaii only six yards of total offense in the second half.

"Definitely happy with how we played," Sampson said of the defensive performance.

"We were dominant, especially in the second half."

email: jeffc@desnews.com