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Coming off a high after beating Saint Mary’s last weekend, #4 Brigham Young University stayed hot punishing #5 Central Washington University, 46-24. In Ellensburg, Wash., the Cougars used a wind in the first half to open up a 24-0 halftime lead as CWU struggled with its execution. The Wildcats battled in the second half to win the period, but BYU kept pace not allowing its opponent to gain ground or momentum to make a significant comeback.
“It was a tough game played under fairly difficult conditions,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “We stuck to the gameplan. We played a lot of our younger boys today because some kids are back in Provo that were injured or had unavailability issues. It was an opportunity for those younger kids to step in and I was very pleased with the job they did.”
“We were more accurate at the right times,” Smyth added. “We were fairly clinical at different points of the game and when we did that, we were able to score tries. Overall, both teams were fairly physical. The set piece was a toss up, so when we got into the alleys we were able to create some space, score some points, and make some moves with the forwards.”
With the wind at their backs, the Cougars retained possession for the majority of the first half scoring three tries and a penalty. The Whippy brothers, Josh and Jared, scored in the 12th and 30th minutes to give BYU the 14-0 lead. Calvin Whiting’s penalty in the 35th minute and Kevin Schofield’s try at the end of the half extended the tally to 24-0 going into the break.
BYU continued its assault with a Jared Whippy try to begin the second half, but CWU refocused and scored back-to-back tries through Sinclair Clinton and Jeremy Lenaerts. The teams traded tries in the next twenty minutes with Zac Webber and James Mocke crossing the line with the Cougars and Beau Davis and Larry Peneueta for the Wildcats. Up 43-24, Whiting’s penalty at the buzzer sealed the victory for BYU.
When asked to evaluate his team’s play, CWU head coach Todd Thornley replied, “We didn’t execute. BYU executed better than us under pressure. They had some great players that allowed them to do that. We had opportunities in the first half playing into that strong breeze, we had a couple opportunities and we missed a couple kicks to touch or penalties. For me, it all came down to execution. When we executed our stuff, we looked pretty threatening, but we just couldn’t do that consistently.”
On his team’s improved performance in the second half, Thornley said, “We got a wake-up call at halftime. I tried to spark them up and playing with the wind at our backs, we felt a lot more comfortable... With the wind, we could play more expansive and work harder. Credit to BYU in that second half, they played better into the wind than we did in the first half. They could hang on and keep things even and we couldn’t catch up.”
Smyth was very pleased with BYU’s win stating that Matt Jensen, Tyler Simpson, and Calvin Whiting were key in the victory. “Jensen was pretty solid and fairly dynamic with the ball in hand, was able to get good forward momentum and the boys fed off that a bit. Young Tyler Simpson, who stepped in for Alex Vorster who was injured. Freshman kid and played extremely well given the situation he was in. Calvin Whiting is starting to get back into his old way of doing things. His boot was on today so that really helped as well.”
With both teams setting up for deep playoff runs, the match allowed each club to improve for the postseason. “It was great,” Thornley stated. “I believe BYU is the best team in the country. We get to play them again in two weeks and it’s giving us great feedback. We can find our areas we need to improve on and go from there. We play the University of Victoria on Wednesday and they are a great team. It’s another opportunity for us to learn from the game, grow, and hopefully, make some improvements on our execution.”
BYU is off next Saturday before its rematch against CWU on March 31st. The Cougars have Colorado State on April 8th and the D1A Playoffs start on April 15th. CWU heads to Canada on Wednesday to play the University of Victoria and then to Provo in two weeks. The Wildcats have bye for the first round of the Varsity Cup and will face Navy in the quarterfinals on April 15th.