PROVO, Utah (AP)—After going nearly five years as an unranked team, Brigham Young made an emphatic return to the Top 25.
The Cougars gained 454 yards against the top-rated defense in the Mountain West Conference and clinched a share of the league title by routing Wyoming 55-7 Thursday night. BYU can win the championship outright with one more win.
Two more victories and the Cougars (8-2, 6-0) will sweep through the league.
“None of us want to share this title with anybody,” said John Beck, who became the second-leading passer in BYU history. “We’ve worked too hard to let somebody else get a piece of it.”
Beck passed for 313 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more on goal-line dives to lead the Cougars to their seventh straight win.
BYU was playing as a ranked team for the first time since the end of the 2001 season, and Cougar fans were savoring every moment on a chilly night in Provo. About the only time they stopped cheering was to boo briefly when coach Bronco Mendenhall had Jared McLaughlin kick an 18-yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 late in the third quarter with BYU already up 38-0.
No lead was going to be big enough for BYU fans, who haven’t had a winning season to celebrate since the Cougars went 12-2 in 2001.
The only disappointment for the Cougars afterward was not getting a shutout.
“I don’t think they intend to let anything get in their way,” Mendenhall said. “In all phases in the game tonight, they performed almost flawlessly with passion right to the end.”
Beck was 20-for-26 and overtook Jim McMahon for No. 2 on BYU’s career passing list. Beck now has 9,806 yards passing, second only to Ty Detmer’s total of 15,031.
With three games to go, Beck won’t catch Detmer. But if Beck has a conference title, he won’t care a bit.
“When I came to BYU, my sites weren’t set on beating these guys that were legends. My sites were set on just winning,” Beck said. “Right now I feel like I’m playing for the BYU I chose to play for.”
Curtis Brown also ran for two touchdowns and McKay Jacobson returned a punt 77 yards for a score.
Wyoming allowed 50 points for the first time since a 51-34 loss to Air Force in October 2000 and finished with just 246 yards of offense, 71 of which came on Devin Moore’s run that broke the shutout with 6:25 left.
“There was a lot of talk about their ranked defense. We believe that we’re the best defense in the conference and we wanted to make that statement,” said BYU linebacker Cameron Jensen, who had nine tackles, including three for a loss.
BYU was up 31-0 by halftime and dominated the game from the opening kickoff, which Nathan Meikle returned 84 yards to the 2-yard line to set up a quick touchdown. Quinn Gooch returned an interception 38 yards to the 3 in the third quarter for the Cougars.
“I don’t know what to say,” Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said. “We just got our ashes hauled. Give BYU a lot of credit.”
BYU can clinch the conference title outright with a win at home next week against New Mexico or at Utah on Nov. 25.
Beck needed 43 yards to pass McMahon for second on BYU’s passing list and did it on his second completion of the night. Michael Reed made a leaping grab on a sideline route for a 36-yard play.
Before the stadium announcer had a chance to tell the fans, Beck threw a 6-yard pass to Jonny Harline for a touchdown that put the Cougars ahead 14-0.
BYU needed just two plays to go 68 yards on its next drive. Beck started it with a 35-yard pass to Harline, then the Cougars scored on Beck’s 33-yard throw to Reed that put BYU up 21-0 with 6:58 left in the first quarter.
“We’re a lot better than that,” Glenn said. “But it overwhelmed us for a while and I think we lost it.”