PROVO How many folks thought Wyoming quarterback Dax Crum's first-quarter pass in the flats was a live lateral?
BYU defender Scott Johnson, who returned it for a 64-yard fumble-recovery touchdown, wasn't sure. Neither were some other Cougar defenders and Wyoming offensive players in that first touchdown of BYU's eventual 44-0 shutout of the Cowboys on Saturday.
But one guy who was absolutely sure was BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, a defensive guy, who started yelling, jumping up and down and running down the sideline for somebody to pick up the ball and continue the play.
He looked like a traffic cop on steroids.
Johnson wasn't sure if the ball had come to rest or just bounced up in the receiver's hands, but after Cougar safety David Tafuna pressured the him, running at Greg Bolling, and the ball hit Bolling's hands and flew up in the air, corner Brandon Howard closed off the field and Johnson, playing as a nickel back in the Cougar secondary, could see Mendenhall waving his hands.
So he ran to the ball, scooped it up and raced 64 yards untouched for BYU's first touchdown of the day.
"I was actually the third guy on the scene," said Johnson.
"It was an ill-advised pass," said Wyoming coach Joe Glenn.
That Johnson score turned the game around and opened the floodgates against the Cowboys.
"Definitely, it did," said BYU receiver Austin Collie. "Wyoming was moving the ball and were doing exactly what they needed to do. But when Scottie returned that, it turned the momentum our way. It was wonderful."
"They came out, and we struggled a little bit," said defensive captain David Nixon. "They were driving on us until we got that turnover, and then the momentum turned our way, and we just rode that momentum the rest of the game and got other turnovers."
Nixon said it was huge because this was a conference game and Wyoming is a tough, physical team and came out playing hard.
"I think so it was the play of the game," said senior center Dallas Reynolds. "They were coming down the field; they were driving it and trying to put some points on, and something like that completely changed the momentum. It fired us up, and we fed off of it and set the tone for the rest of the game."
Johnson said he wasn't sure if it was a lateral.
"But out of the corner of my eye, I saw coach Mendenhall waving his arms, so I picked it up," he said.
Johnson said he was winded after running the 64 yards, but he'll take it. BYU's defense had set a goal of getting more turnovers. He wanted an interception, but he'll take the fumble, one of six Wyoming turnovers in the game.
"Pathetic," said Glenn.
When asked if that score was the play of the game, the one that turned the game around, Johnson said he believes it was so.
"I think so, because they were moving the ball and making plays, and it's tough for an offense to give up a turnover when they are working so hard," Johnson said. "Turnovers hurt.
"He (Mendenhall) was waving at me, like running to third base," said Johnson."Everything happened really quick. I think I got it off the bounce. Tafuna ran from inside out and the corner outside in, and I was coming in the middle. I was fortunate to be there with teammates doing their job and was there at the right time."