BYU avoids Washington's upset bid with blocked PAT
SEATTLE -- Jake Locker was crestfallen. The sophomore quarterback did everything he could to give Washington a chance for an upset of No. 15 BYU and still ended up apologizing for the Huskies' loss.
Locker was penalized for celebrating what could have been a game-tying touchdown run with 2 seconds left and BYU's Jan Jorgensen blocked the 35-yard extra-point attempt to help the Cougars hold to a 28-27 victory Saturday.
"I just was excited," Locker said somberly, looking at the ground while facing a throng of questions about the decisive play. "I like to play the game with emotion and it got the best of me."
Locker was 17-for-32 for 204 yards passing and ran for 62 yards on 18 carries.
He drove the Huskies 76 yards in 17 plays, capped by his 3-yard plunge left to pull Washington within one. Locker jumped up and threw the ball high into the air before celebrating with his teammates. The toss brought a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call, a point of emphasis for officials this season after touchdowns.
Jorgensen, BYU's stellar defensive end, busted through the line and got a hand on Ryan Perkins' long-distance PAT, setting off a wild celebration for the Cougars.
"I was surprised they threw it," Jorgensen said of Locker's penalty. "It just turned out well for us. It was one of those things when they threw the flag it was destiny. You felt like we were supposed to win this game."
Locker's celebration would be considered fairly tame. He said he'd never been called for an unsportsmanlike penalty before, and it appeared Locker was simply reacting to a stunning conclusion after BYU had taken a 28-21 lead with 3:31 left.
But as soon as the ball left Locker's hands and went into the air, officials hands were tied, according to a statement from referee Larry Farina.
"After scoring the touchdown, the player threw the ball into the air and we are required, by rule, to assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty," Farina said in a statement given to Washington officials. "It is a celebration rule that we are required to call. It was not a judgment call."
Following the rule certainly didn't make it easier for the Huskies to accept.
"It's one that they almost have to call," coach Tyrone Willingham said. "It really should be a no-call, but it's one they have to call when they see it."
BYU, dominant within the Mountain West Conference over the last two years, beat a non-conference opponent on the road for the first time since downing Utah State in the middle of the 2002 season. The Cougars hadn't knocked off a team from a BCS conference away from home since beating Mississippi State at the end of the 2001 season.
Washington (0-2) provided a stern test for the Cougars, looking nothing like the team that was routed 44-10 last week at Oregon, although another loss will only increase the heat on Willingham.
Still, a strong effort wasn't enough to keep BYU from breaking their streak. The Cougars (2-0) hopes of a perfect season and BCS bid passed a crucial first hurdle, barely. Next up, No. 23 UCLA next Saturday in Provo, maybe BYU's biggest test between now and the regular season finale against rival Utah.
"I'm tired of hearing you guys and everyone else saying we can't win on the road early in the season or that we have a problem with that," Jorgensen said.
Max Hall led the Cougars, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns, his last going to favorite target Dennis Pitta from 15 yards to take a 28-21 lead. Pitta finished with 10 catches for 148 yards.
After Hall's touchdown, Locker went to work, with a drive that was typical Locker -- erratic. He missed a number of open receivers, but kept Washington's hopes alive by running for 13 yards on fourth-and-10 at the Huskies 36.
Locker got Washington down to the BYU 29, but was called for intentional grounding with 36 seconds left, throwing backhanded to avoid a sack. On the next play, Locker hit D'Andre Goodwin near the sideline for a 20-yard gain to the BYU 18.
Locker bulled his way for 15 yards to the BYU 3. On third-and-goal, Washington spread the field and Locker kept the ball, stumbling into the end zone.
But joy turned to shock soon after for the Huskies, thanks to Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1 of the NCAA rule book, which says throwing the ball high in the air constitutes an unsportsmanlike penalty.
"I didn't see it," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I do know this, that throughout the entire game, there were all kinds of plays on both sides -- that was the most visible play -- but celebration is a penalty. Whether it was or not, I didn't see it, but if it was it should have been called. Even if it was our team, it should have been called. The rules are the rules."
Harvey Unga ran for 136 yards, and had a chance to give BYU the lead early in the fourth quarter, but fumbled at the goal line and Washington recovered. After the Cougars defense held, Hall led BYU 84 yards in less than five minutes for Pitta's touchdown.
Locker again was most of Washington's offense, running for a pair of scores and hitting freshman Jermaine Kearse on a 48-yard TD in the first half. Washington also had to deal with seeing safety Darin Harris taken off the field early in the fourth quarter after hitting his head on the turf. Willingham said afterward that Harris likely has a concussion.
"It's a tough way to lose," said linebacker Mason Foster, who had an interception. "It's terrible."
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