Provo • The stars finally aligned for the BYU Cougars on a perfect fall night for football Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Despite being outgained by 139 yards and seeing Central Florida put together three decent drives in the second half that resulted in a missed field goal, a lost fumble and an interception near the BYU goal line, the Cougars eked out a 24-17 win.
Add those UCF mistakes to a muffed punt at the BYU 7 and the fact that BYU got its three touchdowns on its first kickoff return for a TD in 13 years and drives of 38 and 23 yards, and one has to believe the Knights were kicking themselves all the way back to Orlando and the Magic Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Cougars let out a huge sigh of relief. With a loss, their season possibly could have spiraled downward, seeing as how much-improved Utah State visits Provo this Friday intent on showing that last year's 31-16 win in Logan last year was no fluke.
"Momentum is good, obviously," said BYU linebacker Jadon Wagner. "It was a big win for us, a team win. Offense, defense, special teams, [the win] gave us a lot of momentum. We are just happy with a win, and the direction the team is going."
Now if BYU's on-the-field stars or those perceived to be the stars can find their stride.
Lost somewhat in the glow of the victory was that sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps and the passing game struggled mightily. Heaps was just 16 of 34 for 133 yards, and the longest passing play went for just 19 yards.
He missed a couple of throws that would likely have gone for touchdowns to McKay Jacobson and J.J. Di Luigi. Receiver Ross Apo suffered a concussion in the first quarter, substantially weakening the Cougars' attack.
The win "was huge," said Heaps. "Not for anybody outside, but for our football team within our locker room. It is huge to be able to have experiences like that where you are going to grow closer as a team, and guys are going to respect each other that much more. It is going to be fun to see where our team decides to take it from here. We are going to have to work hard for every game that we got left."
Utah State at BYU
P Friday, 6 p.m., TV • ESPN