Illegal block penalty costs BYU dearly in first half against Boise State
BYU football • Illegal chop block near Boise's goal line ruins Cougars' shot at a touchdown.
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Boise, Idaho • The largest crowd in Bronco Stadium history will remember how the home team came up with a huge defensive stop on a two-point conversion attempt in the final four minutes to give Boise State a 7-6 win over hoped-for rival BYU on Thursday night.

For the Cougars, memories of a failed opportunity to score early in the second quarter will haunt them for a long time, too.

On third-and-1, BYU's Mike Alisa rushed a yard to the BSU 2 to apparently pick up a first down. However, BYU redshirt freshman left tackle Ryker Mathews was flagged for making an illegal block (a chop block, the referee said) on the play, and the Cougars were moved all the way back to the BSU 17.

On third-and-16, Riley Nelson's pass was intercepted by Jamar Taylor and returned six yards, and the Cougars' best scoring threat until late in the game was done.

"A lot of things about that game were tough to swallow," said BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley.

It was the first time since playing against Colorado State in 1973 that BYU was involved in a game with a 0-0 halftime score. The Cougars picked up just 68 yards of offense in the first half on 25 plays.

Boise State moved the ball much better the first two quarters, getting 155 yards, but missed a field goal and twice was stopped on fourth down deep in BYU territory.

The biggest play of the first half was a 35-yard run by sixth-year senior D.J. Harper of Boise State, who had 77 net rushing yards in the first half alone to eclipse BYU's total yardage. Harper finished with 112 of BSU's 116 rushing yards.

In the first half, penalties and turnovers killed the Cougars — the seventh-most penalized team in the country heading into this week's games.

Both coaches gambled in the first quarter, but only BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall did it successfully. After Boise State's unsuccessful fake punt, BYU took over at the BSU 22 and Mendenhall chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 13.

Backup QB Taysom Hill picked it up, and the Cougars seemed on their way to getting points before the penalty.

It was that kind of first half for both teams.

drew@sltrib.com