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Provo, Utah – The BYU Cougars hosted the Utah State University Aggies on Thursday night in front of a spirited home crowd. It was the home opener for the Cougars and they showed well as a team cruising to an 80 to 3 victory at Helaman Field.
Utah State was very physical from the start and caused issues for BYU in loose play. The Cougars, perhaps a bit too eager playing in front of their home crowd for the first time this season, were sloppy in the first half and gave Utah State multiple opportunities to score. The Cougars uncharacteristically made multiple handling errors as they attempted to go for the highlight reel pass instead of patiently working through the phases and the offensive pattern that the coaching staff has installed. “For a lot of our players it was their first time playing at home in front of our great fans. They got outside of themselves a bit at the beginning of the game because of that but it was great to see them settle down and improve over the course of the match.”
Despite the early offensive mistakes, BYU turned up the defensive pressure with leadership from vice-captain Tosh Wilcox. The junior flanker and Collegiate All-American displayed his immense work rate throughout the game as he put in tackle after tackle and frustrated the Utah State offense all evening. Wilcox also showcased his offensive skills early in the game as he set up a try for wing Coleman Meier in the 11th minute. After a solid BYU scrum at mid-field, Wilcox ran a great inside support line and received a pass from fullback Connor Parry. Wilcox turned on the speed and was stopped just short of the goal line. He calmly off-loaded the ball from the ground to the supporting Meier who dotted down the try. Wilcox would be rewarded for his hard work in the second half, scoring tries in the 50th and 57th minutes of the match.
A massive bright spot on the evening was the performance of the BYU forwards in the set pieces, especially the scrum. The Cougar forward pack put the USU forwards under pressure in the scrum all evening. The high point of the game for the BYU scrum came in the 22nd minute of the match. USU had a scrum ten meters from their goal line which the Cougars promptly stole. Eightman Kevin Sorensen proceeded to pick the ball from the back of the scrum and run in untouched for the fourth BYU try of the evening.
Senior prop Mike Payne has been impressed with the scrummaging progress of the BYU forwards. “The coaches have set the bar very high and we have improved drastically from the start of the season. We still have a long way to go to be where we want to be.”
It isn’t just veterans like Payne or Sorensen who have the scrum running on all cylinders. The Cougars started two freshmen on the night and the pack as a whole has shown significant progress from the beginning of the season to now. Asked about the new members of the pack such as freshman hooker David Nonu and freshman lock Ben Austin, Payne was effusive in his praise, “I’m so proud of all the new players stepping it up and making such an impact for the team.”
The Cougars put up 30 points in the first half, but in the 40th minute USU had a penalty twenty meters from the BYU goal line and opted for a penalty kick. The kick went over for the Aggies and that put the halftime score at 30 to 3 in favor of the Cougars.
Led by sophomore wing Ben Webber, the Cougars scored eight tries in the second half. Webber had a hat trick on the evening as he scored the first try of the match in the 9th minute, then scored again in the 55th and 62nd minutes of the match before being subbed off with 13 minutes left in the game. Regarding his great night, Webber was quick to deflect praise back to the team. “There isn’t one player that’s selfish or thinks he deserves to be the top try scorer in the back line. We all play for each other and we play unselfish rugby which translates into beautiful plays and big tries. I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time because a few of the tries I scored were pretty simple and most of the credit goes to the guys inside that suck in the defense and allow the back three to work how we like.”
In the 79th minute of the match, reserve scrumhalf Dylan Parry quick tapped from five meters out and made a pass to lock James Mocke who ran over multiple USU defenders for the final try of the match. Reserve flyhalf Ezias Bigelow converted the try
After the ensuing kick-off, USU gained possession of the ball and attempted a last gasp offensive effort to score a try. Their momentum was stopped by the play of the tireless Wilcox whose quick work at the breakdown won a penalty for the Cougars as the USU ball carrier held onto the ball. Bigelow proceeded to kick the ball into touch to end the match.
Overall, it was a sound performance from the Cougars with many positives on the evening. Most notably was the Cougars minimizing the mistakes in the second half and scoring 50 unanswered points to end the match.
With the victory, BYU sits atop the Rocky Mountain Men’s D1A Northwest Division. The Cougars have secured the top seed in the Northwest Division by virtue of the forfeit of the home match versus Wyoming that was to take place this Saturday at Helaman Field.
The Cougars will await the final results of the Southeast Division games this coming weekend. The outcome of the Southeast Division games this weekend will decide who the Cougars will be hosting in the semi-finals of the Rocky Mountain Conference play-offs which start on November 10th.
BYU’s B-side will next take on Weber State at Helaman Field on Saturday, November 3rd at 3pm. The A-side’s next game will be on November 10th at home versus the Southeast Division’s second seed.
Scoring Summary –
Tries: Webber, B (9’, 55’, 62’), Meier (11’, 26’), Anderson (16’), Sorensen, K (22’), Parry, D (36’), Payne (44’), Austin (48’), Wilcox (50’, 57’), Tarawhiti (77’), Mocke (79’)
Conversions: Parry, C (48’, 57’, 62’), Bigelow (77’, 79’)
Halftime Score: BYU 30, Utah State 3
Final Score: BYU 80, Utah State 3
BYU team vs Utah State:
1. Devon Anderson (Jacob Tai at 54’), 2. David Nonu (Josh Stott at 67’), 3. Mike Payne, 4. James Mocke, 5. Ben Austin (Josh Harden at 48’), 6. Seen Tarawhiti, 7. Tosh Wilcox-VC, 8. Kevin Sorensen (Joe Palazzo at 65’), 9. Kingston Matua (Dylan Parry at 20’), 10. Zach Webber-C, 11. Coleman Meier (Everet Miller at 67’), 12. Cole Semu (Ezias Bigelow at 64’), 13. Isaiah Taliulu, 14. Ben Webber (Porter Thomas at 67’), 15. Connor Parry