Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 | 11:37 p.m.
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BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall found it hard to sum up the career and legacy of senior quarterback Max Hall in the week leading up to the 2009 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Sure, Hall held the school's all-time record for victories by a quarterback with 31 and directed the Cougars to three straight 10-win seasons. But Mendenhall wasn't able to select a single definitive performance from Hall.
Now he can. Hall led No. 15 BYU to a 44-20 blowout of No. 16 Oregon State on Tuesday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
"This was the next manifestation of a great player, a great quarterback and a great person," Mendenhall said.
Despite wind gusts of up to 55 mph and a couple hits that made him woozy, Hall threw for 192 yards and three touchdowns on 19-for-30 passing for the Cougars.
Hall won Most Valuable Player honors for his efforts.
"It's been a great ride," Hall said. "I'll always cherish my time at BYU."
BYU hardly looked like champions at the beginning of the game. The Cougars went three-and-out on each of their first two possessions.
Meanwhile, Oregon State drove down to the goal line quickly on its second possession. Hall remembers his emotions right before Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield scored a touchdown on a one-yard sneak play to make the score 7-0.
"I looked at the guys and said, ‘They're going to score, so let's just go out and do our thing and not worry about it,'" Hall said.
The Cougars were a long shot at best to do anything with their next possession. They had to start their drive at their own 17-yard line, heading into the wind that Oregon State coach Mike Riley said was the worst he could remember playing in.
The conditions didn't seem to bother the Cougars. They used a steady blend of run and pass for 13 plays before junior running back Harvey Unga — who rushed for 71 yards on 24 carries — pounded in a one-yard touchdown.
"That turned the momentum of the game," Mendenhall said. "I never thought Oregon State got it back from there. Under those circumstances, I think that was the defining moment of the game."
What happened a minute later, however, was even more devastating for the Beavers.
Canfield meant to throw a forward swing pass to sophomore running back Jacquizz Rodgers. But Canfield threw the ball behind him, which made it a lateral and a loose ball when Rodgers didn't catch it.
BYU senior linebacker Matt Bauman wasted no time in scooping up the fumble and running 34 yards for a touchdown, making the score 14-7.
"I thought I might get caught because I was running into the wind and felt slow," Bauman said. "But once I crossed that goal line, it felt so good."
From there, BYU scored 23 more consecutive points.
The Cougars continually dealt with the wind and adjusted to where it didn't alter their game plan. It wasn't as simple for the Beavers.
Oregon State gave BYU ideal field position twice when punter Johnny Hekker booted two six-yard punts because of the wind.
"I thought the wind did affect us a lot," Riley said. "I thought they handled it a lot better."
Hall said one of his most memorable moments of the game involved wind, but not quite in the same context. In the third quarter, Hall took one of the biggest shots of his career and had the wind knocked out of him when an Oregon State defensive lineman pressured him on a pass.
Hall said when he hit the ground he thought he was going to be sick. But he fought his way to his feet and didn't come out of the game.
"I just don't like showing weakness or showing I'm hurt or whatever, so I try to get up faster than the guy that hit me," Hall said. "That was one of the ones where I couldn't."
On the next play, Hall heaved a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Dennis Pitta over the middle of the field.
It could have been the most important score of the game. Canfield said afterward that Oregon State felt it could still get in the game if it scored first out of halftime.
Instead, Pitta's touchdown put BYU up 30-7 and dashed the Beavers' hopes. It also ensured a picture-perfect ending for Hall.
After the game, Hall and Mendenhall stood on a stage holding the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas trophy with confetti pouring down on them.
"If Max has to be judged by one game, I would use this one," Mendenhall said. "You saw some of the hits he took. You saw some of the ways he was trying to get up. You saw the way he led our team to a convincing victory on this stage."