Dec. 22, 2007
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- After Brigham Young's defense allowed UCLA to drive 87 yards in the final 2 minutes, Eathyn Manumaleuna saved the Cougars with his fingertip.
Manumaleuna got his right hand on Kai Forbath's field goal attempt as time expired, giving the No. 19 Cougars a 17-16 win over the Bruins in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday night.
"I don't know how I jumped. I don't really have a high vertical," said Manumaleuna, a 280-pound lineman who led the surge that kept UCLA from completing an amazing comeback.
The Bruins held BYU to a season-low 265 yards of offense and rallied behind their fourth-string quarterback and 124 yards of field goals by Forbath. Forbath had made kicks of 22, 52 and 50 yards to keep the Bruins close, but his 28-yarder at the end wasn't quite high enough to clear the defensive line.
BYU (11-2) won its 10th straight, getting another magic play at the end. The Cougars converted a fourth-and-18 on their winning drive against rival Utah on Nov. 24. This time it was the defense that came up with the improbable save.
"It was a fitting play that shows the resolve of this team," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. UCLA was playing for interim coach DeWayne Walker, the defensive coordinator who took over after Karl Dorrell was fired at the end of the regular season. If it was Walker's only game as UCLA's coach, it was a memorable one.
The Bruins' top two quarterbacks were on the sideline with injuries, but Walker's defense swarmed the Cougars all game and kept the BYU offense in check more than anyone else had this season.
"All we wanted to do was just work and play a respectable game. We wanted to win the game. We fell a little short."
"No coach was worried about jobs. Players, they didn't worry about the new head coach," Walker said. "All we wanted to do was just work and play a respectable game. We wanted to win the game. We fell a little short."
UCLA forced BYU to punt with about 2 minutes left and started the final drive on its own 2-yard line. Walk-on quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and running back Chris Markey led the Bruins 87 yards, getting a 36-yard completion from Bethel-Thompson to Logan Paulsen on a third-and-8 play with 30 seconds left.
Paulsen caught the ball around the 45-yard line, then rumbled to the 13.
The Bruins ran one play, then called timeout with the ball at the 11 and only 3 seconds left. Forbath, who was 3-for-3, kicked it low enough for Manumaleuna to get a piece of it and keep the ball from getting through the uprights, although there was some confusion on who actually got the block.
In the end, Manumaleuna got the credit, which didn't matter a bit to the Cougars.
"What I saw was an incredible surge," Mendenhall said. "We sent all 11, which is a desperation block."
BYU improved to 2-7 against UCLA, beating the Bruins for the first time since 1983. The Cougars also avenged a 27-17 loss to UCLA in the second week of the season, one of just two losses this year for BYU.
The Bruins were just inches away from salvaging the season with a winning record.
"I don't think we could have gone out on a better play," said Hall, who completed 21 of 35 for 231 yards.
Hall was also sacked three times and fumbled on one of them, setting up Forbath's 22-yard field goal that put the Bruins up 3-0 in the first quarter.
Osaar Rasshan started and failed to complete his lone pass. Bethel-Thompson replaced him in the second quarter and was solid enough to keep the Bruins close, especially with the way the defense was playing.
UCLA got a huge break at the end of the first half when the Cougars decided to run a play instead of running out the clock inside their own 10. Hall handed off to Harvey Unga and Brian Price stripped the ball, which the Bruins recovered at the 4.
UCLA scored on a pass from Bethel-Thompson to Brandon Breazell as the second quarter ended and the Bruins were only down 17-13 at halftime instead of 17-6.
It was karma for a UCLA blunder that led to an easy score for BYU. Terrence Austin dropped a punt and BYU recovered at the UCLA 14, where Hall lofted a pass on first down to the back corner of the end zone and Austin Collie caught it running at full speed.
Collie went tumbling into the padding outside the sideline, but came up with the ball and gave BYU a 10-3 lead with 10:32 left in the second quarter. BYU scored again with 1:03 left on a 13-yard pass from Hall to Michael Reed.
The Cougars won the Las Vegas Bowl for the second straight year. The last time BYU ended consecutive seasons with bowl wins was 1983 and 1984, when BYU won its only national title.