Charlottesville, Va. • Lightning in the area caused the season opener to be delayed for more than two hours. Second-half rain showers turned the middle of the field into a swamp and made throwing, carrying and catching the football an adventure.
But Mother Nature didn't beat the BYU Cougars on Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium. The Virginia Cavaliers did, by handling the delay and the crazy conditions a bit better than the mistake-prone Cougars.
The clincher that ended the six-hour marathon came with 2 minutes, 36 seconds remaining when Virginia's Kevin Parks broke a couple tackles and scooted into the end zone, handing the slight underdogs a 19-16 win on their home field in front of 53,310 fans, about three-fourths of whom returned after the delay at the end of the first quarter.
"Really difficult loss for our team, under really unique circumstances," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Many different momentum shifts, ... so many different challenges."
The Cougars seemingly were in control of the game, leading 16-12 and facing a third-and-6 situation from their own 34 with under three minutes remaining. Quarterback Taysom Hill rolled to his right, saw a wide open Jamaal Williams, and rifled the ball in his direction.
However, the high throw squirted out of Williams' hands and into the waiting arms of Anthony Harris. The Virginia defensive back, who had blocked a punt earlier in the game to set up the Hoos' first touchdown, then pitched the ball to Henry Coley, who took it to the BYU 13. Parks scored on the next play.
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae took the blame.
"Right at the end, that pick, that's my fault," Anae said. "I should not have stressed [the players], knowing we have development [to do] with our skill players. I should not have stressed them. I made a real-time decision to go for the first down, and the worst-case scenario happened."
Hill also shouldered the mistake, saying "I liked it and I threw it a little high and Virginia made a great play. ... This feeling is no fun right now."
Mendenhall said "two missed tackles" and a player lining up in the wrong gap allowed Parks to score.
Suddenly trailing 19-16 after controlling most of the game BYU outgained Virginia 362-223 the Cougars seemingly recovered from the huge momentum swing when Adam Hine returned the kickoff to midfield. But another mistake, a holding penalty, brought the ball back to the 8-yard-line, and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
"We had a great chance to win the football game, from the beginning all the way to the end," Mendenhall said. "I think we were gaining momentum as the game went on and not losing momentum. That's the message I shared with them."
For three quarters, the Cougars sputtered on offense, aside from a brief stretch in the second quarter which didn't start until 4:20 p.m. MDT, nearly three hours after kickoff when they drove 32 yards on five plays for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
Right before the 10-minute halftime, Virginia's Ian Frye booted a 53-yard field goal, three points that proved to be the difference.
Trailing 12-7 after Hill had to recover his own fumble in the BYU end zone for a Virginia safety, the Cougars patched together a 92-yard drive to regain the lead, capped by Hill's 1-yard TD run. After Virginia fumbled the kickoff away, a bad snap set the Cougars back, and they had to settle for Justin Sorensen's 36-yard field goal.
Blown scoring opportunities like that one proved costly.
"At the end of the day, Virginia made one more play than we did," Hill said. "It's a tough way to lose a football game."
R In Short • In a wild and wacky game that was delayed more than two hours by severe weather, Virginia capitalizes on a costly BYU turnover late and takes a 19-16 home win over the Cougars.
Key Moment • Virginia's Anthony Harris intercepts a pass that skips through Jamaal Williams' hands, and the Cavaliers punch it in from the 13-yard line on the next play.
Key Stat • BYU's Williams carries the ball 33 times for 144 yards.