In a meeting of two highly-ranked D1A teams, the independent Central Washington Wildcats were edged out by the Rocky Mountain Conference champion BYU Cougars 24-17 Thursday night in Provo.
CWU scored early with a try from scrumhalf Kawika Macy, converted by Reuben Ludick. But BYU clamped down its defense after that. Prop Steven Nonu charged over and flyhalf Ezias Bigelow converted to tie the game 7-7.
Just past the midpoint of the first half Central once again took the lead, with a charging try from fullback Max Risenham. Ludick converted to make it 14-7, but moments later BYU replied. Scrumhalf Kingston Matua scampered over and Bigelow's conversion made it 14-14.
Both teams battled hard but couldn't break through. Henry Foster nudged CWU ahead with a penalty goal with ten minutes to go. But BYU responded immediately. Bigelow's try two minutes later put the Cougars ahead 19-17. With time winding down, wing Coleman Meier sped down for one more try to put the game away.
"Tough one to swallow, we did enough to win but couldn't quite close out the game," said CWU head coach Todd Thornley. "We will take away a lot of learnings from this one. I'm proud of the effort, but we must learn to execute under pressure when the big moments come."
Despite the loss, the result will solidify Central Washington's playoff position. Ranked #11 by D1A, CWU likely won't drop after this result. BYU, ranked #8, should probably hold steady. The Cougars played this game without Scholz Award nominee Tosh Wilcox, as well as well-regarded lock James Mocke.