ALBUQUERQUE (ABC4 Sports) – It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the 1980 Holiday Bowl, but BYU and SMU went down to the final seconds once again.
Jakob Robinson stopped SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai on a 2-point conversion try with eight seconds left in the game, and BYU beat the Mustangs 24-23 Saturday night in the New Mexico Bowl.
Mordecai, who finished with 218 passing yards and two touchdowns, tried to cut up the middle on a designed run and was dropped by Robinson, shutting down SMU’s comeback attempt from a 24-10 third-quarter deficit.
The 2-point try came after Jordan Kerley caught a 12-yard TD pass from Mordecai.
Taking his first snaps in a college game, BYU redshirt freshman Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters ran for a game-leading 96 yards with a touchdown, and Christopher Brooks added 88 yards and a score for the Cougars (8-5). Maiava-Peters was 7 of 12 passing for 47 yards and an interception.
After an apparent fumble recovery in the third quarter was overturned, the Cougars got a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown from linebacker Ben Bywater, breaking a 10-all tie.
Bywater added a game-high 11 tackles as part of a surprisingly stout performance by a BYU defense that had been allowing 30 points per game.
The Cougars defense also turned in a big play on fourth-and-2 at the BYU 24 with five minutes left in the game as Alden Tofa sacked Mordecai for a 17-yard loss.
SMU (7-5) raced to an early lead, getting a 35-yard field goal from Collin Rogers and 9-yard scoring pass from Mordecai to Roderick Daniels Jr., around a 1-yard scoring run by Maiava-Peters in the first quarter.
Jake Oldroyd booted a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter for BYU, and the team were tied at 10-all at halftime.
After Bywater scored on the interception, BYU added a 22-yard scoring run by Brooks in the third quarter.
SMU closed within seven points at 24-17 in the fourth quarter when Tyler Lavine scored on a 3-yard run. Lavine finished with 91 yards on 23 carries.
With three inexperienced quarterbacks on the BYU roster, surprise starter Maiava-Peters put in a strong bid for starter for the upcoming season.
SMU’s Mordecai has already declared his intention to enter the NFL draft, so the Mustangs’ big question during spring ball will be figuring out the quarterback situation, as well.
Bywater’s pick-6 in the third quarter for BYU was the first in the bowl’s history.
The Cougars will head into the Big 12 Conference next season on a four-game winning streak.