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Provo

In the fourth quarter of a tie game Friday night, BYU's Bryan Kariya took a handoff and rumbled for 7 yards.

Next play: Kariya up the middle for 10 yards.

Next play: Kariya for a 6-yard touchdown.

So maybe Kariya is simply a straight-ahead runner, whose style is described by coach Bronco Mendenhall as "not pretty."

So maybe the winning drive covered only 23 yards, and there was nothing glamorous about it.

So maybe the offense still needed all kinds of help to win this game.

The Cougars will take it.

They managed to score two offensive touchdowns against Central Florida on short drives, and that was sufficient in a 24-17 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium. After all, such production doubled their TD total of each of their first three games.

Thanks to special-teams play that produced a touchdown and set up short-field opportunities and a defense that forced two fourth-quarter turnovers, not much was required of BYU's offense. This is a good thing. Baby steps signify progress for these guys.

"We still know we're struggling to score points," Mendenhall said.

Quarterback Jake Heaps was erratic, BYU's running game was sporadic and this Cougar offense remains enigmatic.

Yet during that three-play sequence when Kariya's running gave BYU some personality, some toughness and some points, for a change, the Cougars came through.

An offensive line that had struggled to open holes all month "took over at certain points of the game," Heaps said. "We needed that. We haven't had that."

The Cougars gained only 260 total yards (to UCF's 399), hardly a breakout performance. BYU's longest play was a 21-yard run by David Foote on a fake-punt option play. In the Cougars' defense, they lost receiver Ross Apo to a first-quarter injury and left guard Houston Reynolds missed the game.

UCF also features a top-shelf defense, with athletic players and good tacklers. The Knights had allowed an average of only 166 total yards to Charleston Southern, Boston College and Florida International. Against such opposition, Mendenhall said he caught "glimpses of our running game starting to emerge."

I'll verify his vision in that regard, while questioning how he could have credited Heaps (16 of 34) with "accurate" passing.

The quarterback properly described his own performance as "hit and miss, to be blunt."

That's the state of the Cougar offense. BYU settled for a field goal on its first drive, after Heaps threw beyond a wide-open J.J. Di Luigi in the flat. Backup QB Riley Nelson later threw an incompletion on a fourth-and-2 play, when BYU either was outcoached or just outsmarted itself after UCF's timeout. After Foote's fourth-down conversion in the third quarter, Heaps missed McKay Jacobson, streaking alone toward the end zone.

The Cougars took advantage of their next chance, though, driving 38 yards. On a well-executed misdirection play, Di Luigi took Heaps' pitch and went 16 yards for a tying touchdown. After a UCF score and Cody Hoffman's kickoff-return TD, BYU caught a break when Michael Alisa recovered a muffed punt. Actually, the Cougars made it tougher on themselves with a unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, moving the ball back to the UCF 23.

No problem. Kariya took over from there. BYU's season was saved from disaster, even if the Cougars are not quite themselves yet offensively.

This can't be as good as it gets, right?

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