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BYU Holds Off Central Washington In Back-and-Forth Clash

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BYU Holds Off Central Washington In Back-and-Forth Clash

BYU is now 1-1 in the New Year. David Barpal photo.

BYU made the trip to Ellensburg, Wash. and handed Central Washington a tense 22-17 defeat Saturday.

The Cougars bounced back from a loss at Saint Mary's last week, and this time overcame a red card to prop Billy Tenney in the first half to hold off a Central Washington comeback.

The game ended on a bit of a weird note as BYU seemingly went in for the game-sealing try to make it 27-17. But a BYU player had knocked the ball on. The referee, unsighted, did not see the infraction and awarded the try, but then on consultation with the assistant referee who saw the knock-on, called everyone back for a scrum. Central worked their way up to halfway after that before an errant pass rolled into touch and full time was blown.

Both teams pressured early and some physical defensive stands and several penalties kept it at 0-0. A penalty helped start the scoring, too. BYU took a lineout, mauled it close and seemed to have their forwards right on the line. The Wildcats defense was solid, though, and continued to push BYU back. But the aggressive CWU defense was punished when flyhalf Wyatt Parry saw wing Tevita Ika all alone out wide. Parry sent a brilliant long pass that cut out three players and Ika outpaces the scrambling defense to score and make it 5-0. 

Soon thereafter BYU worked their way down the left side and a pass inside to Parry saw the flyhalf bat the ball up in the air, get under it, catch it, and dive over for the score. Tayson Hammer made the tough conversion and it was 12-0. BYU had another good scoring chance but CWU's aggression at the breakdown forced a penalty. And then as the first half wore on Tenney was red-carded for foul play and the momentum changed a bit.

Central broke free at midfield with prop Cam Nelson—who was a handful with the ball in hand all day—spinning out of a tackle and feeding center Jack Wendling who burst down the sideline and around under the posts for a try. Jac Tregoning kicked the conversion and it was 12-7 at halftime.

Wendling scored again right after halftime. Central got a beautifully-executed 50-22 kick from Tregoning, from inside his 22 to inside BYU's (wind-aided) giving CWU the lineout. The forwards then consolidated and Wendling sidestepped past three BYU defenders and going up the middle—Tregoning's conversion put CWU ahead 14-12. 

BYU pulled themselves together after that, solidified their defense, and then Ika snagged a pass and was gone for 60 meters. Just like that BYU was ahead again 17-14. Tregoning tied it up with a penalty goal, but right after that Ika burst down the sideline and lock Benjamin Austin got on his horse, was there in support, picked up and just charged over. There was still 13 minutes to go in the game, but BYU held on.

"The wind was problematic for u," CWU head coach Todd Thornley said.  "We handled the ball OK in the first half, but we also had opportunities where we were building pressure and we'd let ourselves down with a handling error or some little penalty or some other controllable thing. That was frustrating. BYU's physicality is different from what we've seen to this point, and our ability to deal with that physicality for 80 minutes was something we struggled with."

"It was a really tough, physical game," added BYU head Coach Steve St. Pierre. You have to be ready for Central's physicality and if you're not it's going to be a long day."

It is always a tough away trip to Ellensburg, flying in to Seattle and then the two-hour drive up into the mountains, but St. Pierre said his team was up for it, especially as they wanted to rebound from last week's loss at Saint Mary's.

Wendling and Nelson were excellent for Central Washington, while the Parry brothers Dylan and Wyatt at scrumhalf and flyhalf handled the tempo well for BYU. Ika clearly was crucial, and flanker Caleb Johnstone got a lot of unsung work done on the day.

Full game: