PROVO — The most talked-about play in college football over the weekend happened in BYU's win over Washington. A controversial unsportsmanlike conduct call on Husky quarterback Jake Locker following a touchdown sparked debate and opinions from the media and fans around the country.
After Locker ran for a TD with two seconds remaining in the game — to cut the Cougars' lead to 28-27 — he threw the ball high into the air in celebration, which is prohibited in the rule book and subject to a 15-yard penalty. The penalty was called, then BYU's Jan Jorgensen blocked Washington's ensuing point-after attempt from 35 yards out to preserve the BYU win.
Since then, talking heads, writers and fans have weighed in — many of whom believe Washington was robbed by the officials. Mendenhall said he doesn't watch TV or listen to the radio or read the newspapers, but he disagrees with that assessment.
When informed about the uproar surrounding the call, he replied: "It's unfortunate that a game that was so hard-fought and decided on the last play — not the second-to-last-play — by a phenomenal effort by a defensive group of kids, one player in particular, Jan Jorgensen, it sounds like the focus has gone to a correct call made by an official within the rules and that then was viewed to determine the outcome of the game. It was actually the next play and every play prior to that that determined the outcome.
"Our team, from beginning to end, out-executed our opponent and deserved to win and demonstrated that in the clearest fashion on the last play of the football game — which was the deciding factor. If that's been lost along the way, that's unfortunate," he said.
His team should be credited for finding a way to win the game, Mendenhall continued.
"When you look at the pattern of consistency of making plays when the game is on the line, to give the impression that a referee's call determined the game when you have a team that has proven time and time again (it can win close games) ... to say that a referee's call decided it when he called it correctly is unfortunate. We do have the rules for a reason. They are to teach principles of class and integrity. Sometimes young men in the heat of the moment get over- exuberant. The rules are in place to try to keep the game intact."
BYU offensive lineman Travis Bright said until that call, he wasn't aware that throwing the ball into the air after a touchdown would result in a penalty.
"I didn't know the rule. I'd be disappointed if that happened to me, but it is now a new rule," he said. "Jake Locker probably didn't know that rule. I know that's not what he intended. It didn't look like he was excessive with the celebration. He was just as excited as our team would be. But it is a new rule, and we need to be aware of the rule changes. It was unfortunate for their team on a great play that they were penalized for something like that."
BYU FALLS IN POLL: Despite Saturday's victory, the Cougars dropped three places in the Associated Press poll to No. 18. BYU linebacker David Nixon said his team isn't concerned.
"A win's a win — 2-0 is a lot better than 1-1," Nixon said. "Despite how we dropped or what the national audience thought about us, we'll take it. A win on the road at a Pac-10 school is hard to come by. The polls are something we'll worry about at the end of the season."
The Cougars are ranked No. 15 in the coaches' poll.
LINEBACKER SWITCH: Vic So'oto suffered a broken foot early in Saturday's game and will be sidelined anywhere from 4-8 weeks, according to Mendenhall. So'oto underwent surgery Monday morning.
"We're sorry to see him go down," Mendenhall said. "It wasn't caused by contact. He planted (on the turf) and heard (the foot) pop."
Junior Coleby Clawson is now the starter at outside linebacker in So'oto's spot. In two games, Clawson has 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for- loss, one sack and one forced fumble.
"Vic has worked hard this whole offseason. It was really unfortunate for him to go down," Nixon said. "Fortunately, Coleby has also been here the whole offseason, working his tail off. To have him as the backup is pretty assuring. From one outside linebacker to another, I think we'll be all right. But it's never good when you lose one of your starters. I think Coleby will step right in and make plays for us."
HALL EARNS RECOGNITION: BYU quarterback Max Hall was named the Mountain West Conference player of the week after guiding the Cougars to the win over Washington.
Hall completed 30 of 41 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He was 6-for-6 for 80 yards on the opening drive of the game, which culminated with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie. Hall also threw a game-winning 15-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta in the fourth quarter.
Hall is No. 2 in the nation with 824 yards passing. He has thrown for an average of 412 yards per game and is on pace to throw for more than 4,900 yards this season.
GAME-CHANGER: Jorgensen was nominated for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the week after he blocked the kick against Washington.
Fans can go to pontiac.com/ncaa to see video clips of the four finalists and cast their vote for the Game Changing Performance. Voting began Sunday and ends midnight Wednesday. ESPN will announce this week's winner at halftime of the game it broadcasts Thursday night.
The winning school will receive a $5,000 contribution from Pontiac to its general scholarship fund. The winning play will be nominated for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the Year award and a $100,000 general scholarship contribution from Pontiac.