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Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer 301d

BYU outlasts Wyoming in rainy Poinsettia Bowl



On a night that began with a downpour in San Diego, how could anyone have expected this game to end conventionally?

Rain was in the forecast, but most didn't expect it until the second half. Any fan who didn't have a raincoat quickly found himself or herself doused in San Diego's version of an outdoor shower. The field became saturated and slippery, assistants stored footballs in plastic bags when possible, and cheerleaders took cover under their rally signs when not leading cheers.

Ultimately, it was BYU senior defensive back Kai Nacua who provided the fireworks for the Cougars by picking off Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and sealing the Cougars' 24-21 victory in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

The BYU players got to douse first-year coach Kalani Sitake in blue Gatorade after the game, ensuring that their mud-covered uniforms wouldn't be the only gear that needed washing after the game.

"I'll take it any day," Sitake said of the Gatorade treatment. "As long as we win, I'm happy."

It was Sitake's first bowl win as a head coach, and it came almost one year to the day after he was named BYU's head coach.

During the season, BYU faced challenges, including a three-game losing streak in September and losing quarterback Taysom Hill to the fourth season-ending injury of his career in the final game of the season, but the rain presented a unique challenge for the Cougars.

Thanks to the sloppy field conditions and wet footballs, BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer relied heavily on the Cougars' run game. Running back Jamaal Williams ended the night with 210 yards, the second-most of his season. It was a pleasant way for the senior to end his career, after he rushed for just 31 yards in BYU's 2012 appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl.

BYU's defense adjusted to the weather earlier than Wyoming's, but the Cowboys showed some mettle in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points on the Cougars. When the rain finally slowed and it seemed safe to pass, Allen was picked off for the second time, and Nacua delivered BYU its first bowl win in four years.

The bowl win gives BYU momentum heading into an offseason that's going to feature a lot of turnover on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Cougars lose long-time quarterback Hill, Williams, wide receivers Nick Kurtz and Colby Pearson and left tackle Andrew Eide. It both opens up opportunities for young players and also leaves question marks as to what this offense will look like next season under Detmer, who will be in his second season as BYU's offensive coordinator.

Defensively, BYU will lose a lot up front. The FBS' No. 5 run defense will need to replace Harvey Langi, Logan Taele and Sae Tautu -- three players who were crucial to the foundation of Sitake's run defense this season. They'll also need to find a replacement for their spark in the secondary, Nacua.

But before Sitake moves on to planning for 2017, he'll likely give himself and his first-year staff a chance to enjoy this win. Maybe they'll do a bit of laundry too. Gatorade and mud stains are tough to get out of clothes.

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