PROVO -- BYU defenses have played against some great running backs over the years, and Virginia's Thomas Jones added his name to the list Saturday night during the Cavaliers' 45-40 victory over BYU.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior carried 35 times (one carry short of a Cougar Stadium record) for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Jones scored both of his TDs in the first half and rolled up 148 yards on the ground as UVa built a 28-6 lead from which the Cougars could not overcome.Jones, the best runner BYU has faced since Alabama's Shawn Alexander last season, ripped off scoring runs of 23 yards and 45 yards.
Entering the contest, Jones was sixth on UVa's all-time rushing list with 2,610 yards and ended the night in fifth place. He has now rushed for 620 yards in four games in 1999.
The man who might have been able to slow down Jones, BYU star middle linebacker Rob Morris, did not play due to a lower abdominal strain. Wearing street clothes, Morris participated in the pre-game coin flip with his fellow team-captains and then sat helplessly on the sidelines watching Jones chew up yardage like a pack of Juicy Fruit.
To compound matters, on the first series of the game, the Cougars lost Morris' replacement, Jeff Holtry, for the game when he suffered a concussion. That left middle linebacker chores to Dan DeCoite, a sophomore transfer from Truckee, Calif.
Meanwhile, cornerback Brian Gray, who has been slowed by a groin strain, played most of the game and scored on a 28-yard interception return late in the second quarter.
FRESHMAN STAR: In a losing cause, running back Luke Staley once again stood out for the Cougars. The freshman rushed for 79 yards on eight carries and scored a pair of touchdowns, including a 41-yarder. That gives Staley seven TDs on the season.
CAVS OUT WEST: Saturday marked just the 11th time, in 1,072 games, that Virginia has played west of the Mississippi River.
It was the second-longest trip in Virginia football history and the longest road trip since the Cavs traveled to Washington in 1976, which resulted in a 38-17 loss.
Next September, BYU will visit Charlottesville, where the the Cougars and Cavs will meet in a game that will mark the dedication of expanded, 60,000-seat Scott Stadium.
The series is BYU's first with an Atlantic Coast Conference school. The only other ACC team the Cougars had ever faced before Saturday was Florida State in the 1991 Pigskin Classic.
Originally, UVa was supposed to play at Hawaii this week, but Virginia coach George Welsh decided he didn't want to go that far for a game. Former BYU athletic director Rondo Fehlberg and Virginia AD Terry Holland set up this series last fall.
Apparently, Welsh wasn't turning handsprings about playing in Provo, either.
"I guess they're (the Cougars) are still coming here for the opener, but whatever I want, I don't get," Welsh told the Roanoke Times. "I found that out as far as scheduling is concerned."
In the end, though, Welsh had to be happy about the results.
BEATING LAVELL, BY GEORGE: Going into Saturday's game, BYU coach LaVell Edwards had faced a Welsh-coached team twice, both times in bowl games. After Saturday's win over BYU, Welsh remains one of only two coaches Edwards has faced in his 28 years at BYU that he hasn't defeated in more than one meeting.
The unusual thing about the two previous games is they occurred on the same day, nine years apart, and the scores were almost identical.
In 1978, Welsh's Navy squad defeated BYU 23-16 in the inaugural Holiday Bowl. In 1987, Welsh's Virginia team downed BYU 22-16 in the defunct All-American Bowl, played in Birmingham, Ala. The date of both games was Dec. 22, which happens to be Welsh's wedding anniversary.
The Welshes are no longer a couple, but earlier this week, Sandra Welsh left a message on LaVell and Patti Edwards' answering machine, joking, "George and I are getting married on Saturday."
Together or not, the Welshes are celebrating another win over BYU this weekend.
WHAT ABOUT 'COSMO'?: At halftime of Saturday's game, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee unveiled the names of the mascots -- Powder, Copper and Coal. Following the announcement on Cougar Stadium's video scoreboard, BYU's marching band performed the Olympic theme song.