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Provo • If college football games were decided by the stat sheet, and not the scoreboard, the No. 21 BYU Cougars would not be 4-0 right now.
The Cougars are still undefeated, but no person in their right mind can label this team perfect right now, after BYU scraped and clawed its way to a 41-33 win over upset-minded Virginia in front of 59,023 sun-drenched fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"Coming into this game, I knew this would be our toughest game so far," said receiver Mitch Mathews.
He was right.
Two-touchdown underdogs, Virginia out-gained BYU 519-332, had 35 first downs to BYU's 16, and ran 102 plays to BYU's 60. The Cavaliers (2-2) had the ball for nearly 41 minutes.
"Virginia was clearly intent on trying to hold the ball as much as possible and keep our offense off the field," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
It almost worked.
Special teams rescued the Cougars. Punter Scott Arellano flipped the field again and again, recording three punts of more than 60 yards, and Adam Hine returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown with 7 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the game to give BYU a 41-26 lead and put it away.
Virginia drove 98 yards and scored on an 11-yard pass from backup quarterback Matt Johns to Kyle Dockins to make it a one-score game with 1:48 left, but BYU's Alani Fua corralled an onside kick and the Cougars escaped after losing 19-16 to the Hoos last year in Charlottesville.
But BYU wasn't talking about revenge after this one. It was talking about survival. Virginia took an early 7-0 lead, the first time this season that BYU has trailed, and led 16-13 at halftime. Upset alerts flashed across the internet.
The Cougars, who committed 12 penalties for 133 yards, finally got out of their own way in the third quarter, putting together a pair of touchdown drives to get some breathing room. Jamaal Williams' 3-yard TD run with 2:23 left in the third gave the home team a 27-16 lead.
"I credit Virginia for continuing to be resilient and fighting back and making plays," Mendenhall said.
He also acknowledged that penalties have become a problem for the Cougars. Six times BYU defensive backs were flagged for pass interference or holding, partly enabling the Hoos to go 10 of 22 on third down.
Taysom Hill was efficient, if not spectacular, completing 13 of 23 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 72 yards a score, while being sacked twice.
"It feels good again to have success, see the players happy," Mendenhall said. "We are looking forward to a little rest, a little recovery, and will focus on things that can be improved, and then get back to it."
BYU has a bye this week, and will return to action on Oct. 3 at home against Utah State.
O In Short • BYU falls behind for the first time this season, but does just enough to improve to 4-0 despite losing in basically every other statistical category.
Key Moment • Adam Hine's 99-yard kickoff return with 7:50 remaining finally puts the pesky Cavaliers away.
Key Stat • Virginia runs 102 plays, while BYU runs 60.
No. 21 BYU 41, Virginia 33
Virginia 7 9 0 17 33
BYU 3 10 14 14 41
UVa • Lambert 1 run (Frye kick), 13:54.
BYU • FG Samson 28, 5:10.
UVa • FG Frye 23, 14:55.
BYU • Leslie 8 pass from T.Hill (Samson kick), 13:48.
UVa • FG Frye 41, 9:43.
BYU • FG Samson 37, 4:39.
UVa • FG Frye 22, :00.
BYU • T.Hill 15 run (Samson kick), 9:02.
BYU • Williams 2 run (Samson kick), 2:23.
UVa • FG Frye 46, 12:14.
BYU • M.Juergens 50 pass from T.Hill (Samson kick), 10:17.
UVa • Shepherd 9 run (Frye kick), 8:06.
BYU • Hine 99 kickoff return (Samson kick), 7:50.
UVa • Dockins 11 pass from Johns (Frye kick), 1:48.
Attendance • 59,023.
First downs 35 16
Rushes-yards 44-192 37-145
Passing 327 187
Comp-Att-Int 35-58-1 13-23-0
Return Yards 8 57
Punts-Avg. 3-50.7 5-55.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 8-86 12-133
Time of Possession 40:55 19:05
Rushing • Virginia, Shepherd 14-73, Lambert 5-49, Parks 11-24, Johns 3-22, Mizzell 8-16, Jennings 3-8. BYU, T.Hill 17-72, Williams 13-68, Lasike 2-5, M.Juergens 1-3, Hine 1-0, Team 3-(minus 3).
Passing • Virginia, Lambert 21-35-1-188, Johns 14-23-0-139. BYU, T.Hill 13-23-0-187.
Receiving • Virginia, Gooch 6-65, Parks 6-33, Severin 4-58, Dowling 4-36, Levrone 3-46, Jennings 3-35, Johnson 3-21, Mizzell 2-10, Shepherd 2-4, Dockins 1-11, Burns 1-8. BYU, Leslie 4-41, M.Mathews 3-26, Blackmon 2-55, M.Juergens 2-53, Houk 1-8, Mahina 1-4.