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FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- BYU opened conference play with a 31-21 win over Colorado State Saturday on a night when the running game came alive for the first time this season, recording 207 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
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"It's fun to win, I'll tell you that," BYU head coach Gary Crowton said. "Our team has been developing and it's been very encouraging to see the growth of our players. It always helps our confidence to get a win."
Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi led the Cougar rushing attack, with Brown going for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and Tahi totaling 98 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. John Beck finished 24-for-42 for 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Austin Collie was on the receiving end of Beck's only touchdown pass, the game winning score, and finished with four catches for 60 yards.
The 207 rushing yards is a huge improvement on the 115 yards total the Cougars had gained in the first four games.
"Our running backs did run very hard," Crowton commented. "We've really been working hard on the running game. Because of the ability of Todd Watkins and Austin Collie on the outside, they couldn't put as many guys on the line."
Justin Holland led the Colorado State attack, finishing 22-for-36 for 359 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His main target was David Anderson, who finished with 12 catches for 232 yards and one touchdown. Uldis Jaunarajs scored rushing two touchdowns for the Rams.
The lead change hands several times before BYU went up for good in the fourth. The Cougars took a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter only to see the defense yield another Colorado State touchdown with 12:51 to go in the fourth when Jaunarajs scampered in from five yards out.
The Rams lead was short lived as the Cougars scored just over a minute later when Beck hooked up with Austin Collie on a 40-yard touchdown. The score was the first long passing play of the night for BYU, giving the Cougars the 24-21 advantage.
BYU almost extended the lead on its next drive, driving the ball to the Colorado State one-yard line. Facing fourth down and one foot, the Rams stopped a sneak by Beck short of the first down.
The Cougar defense stepped up when Colorado State took possession and forced the Rams to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory. Manaia Brown made sure the drive would end there, sacking Holland and turning the ball back to BYU.
The Cougars scored on the next play, a three-yard run by Fahu Tahi to give BYU a tem point cushion at 31-21, with 2:25 left. The two touchdowns scored by BYU were the first fourth quarter points of the season for the Cougars.
BYU's Micah Alba shut the door on any hopes of a Colorado State comeback when he made a diving interception with 2:03 left in the game, the first of his career. The running game of BYU was then able to run out the clock.
The scoring started in the second quarter on a 52-yard field goal by Lou Groza and Ray Guy awards candidate Matt Payne of the Cougars. It was his second longest of the season and of his career. Payne finished the game one of one on field goals and was perfect on all four extra point attempts. He was also impressive punting the ball, finishing with a 47.6 yards per punt average on five punts.
BYU extended the lead to 10-0 when Curtis Brown scored on a 14-yard run with just 1:46 left in the first half, taking advantage of good field position thanks to fumble recovery in Ram territory.
While the Cougars left Colorado State with little time to make anything happen, the Rams moved down the field quickly to get on the board for the first time of the night on a six-yard touchdown pass from Holland to Anderson. The four play 80-yard drive took only 46 seconds and made the score 10-7.
BYU looked to score again on a quick drive of its own, moving the ball to the Colorado State 39. A sack on third down moved the Cougars out of field goal range and an attempt at the end zone failed as time expired.
Colorado State started quick in the second half, picking apart the Cougar defense for the second consecutive drive. Uldis Jaunarajs finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run, putting the Rams up 14-10.
The BYU offense struggled throughout the quarter until the final drive. A strong running attack combined with key passes by Beck put Brown and the Cougars in the end zone again, this time on a bruising five-yard run.
Up 17-14, the BYU defense yielded another Colorado State touchdown with 12:51 to go in the fourth when Jaunarajs scampered in from five yards out.
Crowton was pleased with the win and is confident his team will continue to improve and play well throughout conference play.
"We have to take each game one at a time and continue to prepare well and work on the little things," Crowton said. "If we keep doing what we've been doing we'll have some momentum and confidence going into the game."
The Cougars, now 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain West Conference, play UNLV at home next Friday. ESPN2 will broadcast the game.
Written by BYU Athletic Communications