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Cal Storms Past BYU in Big Second Half

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Cal Storms Past BYU in Big Second Half

BYU in blue and Cal in white, blue, and gold in Saturday's D1A semifinal. David Barpal photo.

Cal rode a massive scoring burst in the second half to defeat longtime rivals BYU 55-31 Saturday at Witter Rugby Field in Berkeley.

This was the second of two D1A semifinals on Saturday, with Navy having won 12-10 earlier in the day. 

“Congratulations to BYU on a really fine season,” said Cal Head Coach Jack Clark. “Proud of our boys for advancing.”

This was a game that went in waves, with the first storm surge coming from Cal early on. No. 8 Alex Aguero powered his way over just two minutes into the match and that try was converted by co-captain Max Schumacher for a 7-0 lead. The Bears had momentum and a nifty run from center Rand Santos three minutes later made it a 12-0 game before the crowd had settled into their seats.

The BYU Cougars weren't going to wilt because of a couple of tries. The forwards did their work and prop Billy Tenney slammed over. Speedy flanker Vaitohi snaked through and with Tayson Hammer (back from injury and just in time, too) converting Tenney's effort it was 12-12. Cal's response was the work up front the way they can and for their backline to exploit those gaps—center Kealan O’Connell did exactly that and was through. Schumacher converted and it was 19-12. 

But just a few minutes later BYU was in again and with Hammer's conversion it was tied up 19-19.

That's how the first half ended, and you wondered if it would remain deadlocked through the next 80 minutes.

It didn't. Cal played fast and started to test the BYU defense. That forced the Cougars to try to slow the onslaught and, of course, that often leads to penalties. Cal's forwards marched into the BYU 22 and the ball was sent wide for Max Clark on the edge for the go-ahead try. On the back foot BYU gave up a penalty after a kick to the wing by the Bears. Scrumhalf Solomon Williams tapped quickly and was over. Now it was 31-19.

Senior co-captain Nathan Zylstra, who had been out with injury since February, came off the bench at minute 50 and made an immediate impact. He carried a ball in from the back of a maul just three minutes later and was over, much to the delight of his teammates. Now with their tails up the Bears continued to play quickly. Another BYU penalty led to points as Schumacher put a kick over, thus making it a four-score game at 41-19. 

It almost seemed like it had been just a few seconds, and yes BYU was now looking down the barrel of a 22-point deficit with only 16 minutes to go. Of course they tries to get there and tries Vaitohi got over for a key score that perhaps signaled a comeback at 41-26. Cal put any thoughts of a Cougar miracle aside, working their way into BYU territory, and as they were going wide and getting close to the tryline, Wyatt Parry was penalized for a no-wrap tackle. This close to the goal it turned out to be a costly penalty as Cal was awarded a penalty try and Parry was off for 10 minutes—most likely the rest of the game.

It was a tough call and a bang-bang play as Parry had gone for the ankles. Certainly it marked the end of any BYU comeback hopes. Cal was back to see Santos burst through from long range when BYU had been on the march. BYU added one more at the end, but the game was Cal's.

For BYU, this was the end of a pretty remarkable run and a step closer to the prominence they enjoyed in the 2000s and 2010s. All-in-all BYU ended the season 12-3, losing only to Life, Saint Mary's, and Cal. They scored an astonishing 851 points in those 15 games, good for 57 points per game. And more importantly, they seemed to have found their identity as a team that can score from almost anywhere.

For Cal, this has been an up-and-down year, but one in which they were able to garner revenge for a loss to Saint Mary's, then revenge for a loss to BYU. Now they face the only other team to beat them this season, Navy, May 6 in Houston in the D1A Championship Match.

Cal 55
Tries: Aguero, Santos 2, O'Connell, Clark, Williams, Zylstra, Pentaly Try
Convs: Schumacher 5, Penalty Try
Pens: Schumacher

BYU 31
Tries: Tenney 2, Vaitohi 2, Toso
Convs: Hammer 3

Scoring Timeline:

Cal vs. BYU

2:00 – Aguero 5, Schumacher 2

5:00 – Santos 5

14:00 – BYU 5, BYU 2

24:00 – BYU 5

30:00 – O’Connell 5, Schumacher 2

33:00 – BYU 5, BYU 2

Half: Cal 19, BYU 19

46:00 – Clark 5

49:00 – Williams 5, Schumacher 2

53:00 – Zylstra 5, Schumacher 2

64:00 – Schumacher 3

69:00 – BYU 5, BYU 2

73:00 – Cal 7 (Penalty Try)

78:00 – Santos 5, Schumacher 2

79:00 – BYU 5

Final: Cal 55, BYU 31