With more victories in a single season than any team in NCAA Division I-A history, Brigham Young figures it has nothing left to prove.
The Cougars insist they’re not even mad at the Bowl Alliance that snubbed them - despite their record and their ranking - and forced them into the less-lucrative Cotton Bowl.
“It’s their party. They can invite who they want,” coach LaVell Edwards said Wednesday after the No. 5 Cougars (14-1) scored twice in the fourth quarter to beat No. 14 Kansas State 19-15.
“As far as making a statement, that was never in my plans,” said Edwards.
Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson had threatened to bring legal action against the Alliance.
“All I know is we’re 14-1 and we’re going to finish in the top five in the country,” said Steve Sarkisian, whose two fourth-quarter touchdown passes fueled the comeback. “That’s something any team should be proud of.”
“What I’d hope for is the Alliance would provide an avenue for the WAC to earn its way into it … make it fair so a team can get in there,” Edwards said.
For the first three quarters, it looked as though Kansas State (9-3) would prove the Alliance right, and at the same time reach the highest point in K-State’s 101 years of college football.
With about 40,000 Kansas State fans - the most one school has brought to the game - hoping to see their first victory over anybody ranked in the top five, in their first New Year’s Day game, the Wildcats took a 15-8 lead.
Sarkisian was harried all day and the Wildcats scored on a 72-yard play and the wildest ending to a first half in the 61-year history of the Cotton Bowl.
But Sarkisian, taking advantage of the absence of All-America cornerback Chris Canty, hit K.O. Kealaluhi with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 3:39 remaining to take the lead.
Kansas State then drove to the BYU 12, twice converting on fourth down. But Omarr Morgan intercepted Brian Kavanagh’s pass to Jimmy Dean on the 3 with 55 seconds to go, giving the Cougars a victory in their first Jan. 1 outing.
Kealaluhi beat freshman Lamar Chapman, Canty’s backup, as Canty was on the sideline being treated for cramps.
Joe Gordon, the Wildcats’ other star cornerback, also was on the sideline for much of the fourth quarter, when a BYU offense that averaged more than 470 yards and 40 points finally got rolling.
“I thought our defense was on the field way too much in the second half and, yes, we did wear down,” said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.
With 5 seconds remaining in the first half and K-State on the BYU 41, Kavanagh scrambled and heaved the ball. A pack of would-be receivers and defenders waited in the end zone for the ball, which bounced off a BYU defender and settled into Andre Anderson’s arms as the K-State junior fell to the ground.
With no time left on the clock, Jamie Rheem kicked the extra point. BYU was flagged for offsides on the play, but everybody except Kansas State coach Bill Snyder ignored the flag and disappeared into the tunnel.
A moment later, the teams were ordered to return, because the penalty moved the ball to the 2, and Snyder decided to try for a 2-point conversion. Mike Lawrence took a pitch from Kavanagh on the 8 and vaulted into the end zone.
BYU 19, Kansas State 15
Kansas St. 0 8 7 0 - 15 Brigham Young 5 0 0 14 - 19
BYU-Safety, Kavanagh sacked in end zone by Muirbrook, 11:26
BYU-FG Pochman 39, 13:10 Second quarter
KSU-Anderson 41 pass from Kavanagh (Lawrence run), 15:00 Third quarter
KSU-Lockett 72 pass from Kavanagh (Rheem kick), 5:50 Fourth quarter
BYU-Dye 32 pass from Sarkisian (Pochman kick), 4:05
BYU-Kealaluhi 28 pass from Sarkisian (Pochman kick), 11:21
KSU BYU First downs 14 24 Rushes-yards 32-41 36-59 Passing 233 291 Comp-Att-Int 14-28-2 21-36-1 Return Yards 7 58 Punts-Avg. 7-46.0 5-38.8 Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0 Penalties-Yards 7-55 8-59 Time of Possession 26:39 33:21
RUSHING-Kansas St., Lawrence 23-54, Anderson 1-5, Kavanagh 8-(minus 18). BYU, Johnson 6-38, McKenzie 9-17, Kealalu 1-15, Jenkins 4-7, Atuaia 1-2, Sarkisian 15-(minus 20).
PASSING-Kansas St., Kavanagh 14-28-2-233. BYU, Sarkisian 21-36-1-291.
RECEIVING-Kansas St., Lockett 7-135, Grosdidier 3-26, Anderson 2-50, Dean 2-22. BYU, Lewis 5-79, McGuire 5-51, Dye 4-70, Johnson 3-23, Kealaluhi 2-37, Atuaia 1-16, Jenkins 1-15.