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Y. flamboyant in Vegas bowl win

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LAS VEGAS — For a team that began its season with two losses in three games, it was a rather flamboyant finish for the BYU Cougars.

A Vegas finish, in fact.

Cue the dancing fountains at the Bellagio. Fire up the Fremont Street canopy screen. Is it possible they're working on a John Beck-to-Jonny Harline display at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum?

This much seems true: The Cougars really do own Vegas.

Can nearly 40,000 blue-clad fans be wrong?

Last year was a letdown for the Cougars, with BYU losing in its first Las Vegas Bowl appearance. But that changed this year. Thursday's 38-8 rout of Oregon gave the 11-2 Cougars their 10th straight win. It also gave BYU its eighth 11-win-or-more season and its first bowl victory since January 1997.

This year's team came through the back door, losing early to Arizona and Boston College but rallying afterward. It didn't even make the national rankings until mid-November.

"I couldn't think of a more fitting ending," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.

In spite of BYU's dubious bowl history (8-16-1), it seemed the Cougars were determined to finally get one after a 10-year drought. Perhaps that's because the game was in Las Vegas, which has become one of the most BYU-friendly places on earth — not counting Utah County. You'll see nearly as many LDS churches in town as liquor stores and wedding chapels.

Consequently, BYU seemed downright comfortable in Vegas this week.

Beyond that, Mormons have long claimed a stake in Las Vegas. In 1855, a group of settlers dispatched by Brigham Young went south to establish a stop-off to California and teach farming to the Southern Paiutes. The "Mormon Fort" was established on Las Vegas Creek.

LDS faithful — and BYU fans — have been there ever since, as ubiquitous as all-you-can-eat buffets.

Oregon arrived in yet another uniform combination, this time with yellow-green helmets that can be best described by Falfa's line in "American Graffiti": "Say, I like the color of your car there. What's that s'posed to be? Sort of a cross between (urine) yellow and puke green, ain't it?"

But bad helmets were the least of Oregon's problems. Game MVP Harline ended up with 181 yards on nine catches. Beck threw for a bowl-record 375 yards.

The contest was embarrassing for former coach Gary Crowton, who is now Oregon's offensive coordinator. He spoke fondly this week of his days in Provo. What did he get for his niceties? One more kick in the pants by the school that fired him in 2004.

Thus, BYU's decade-long bowl drought was over. Not only was it a much-needed win, it was flat-out flamboyant.

After 151 years in Las Vegas, the Mormons must have learned something.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com