With his bleached-blond buzz cut and wacky dance celebrations after big plays, Rob Morris isn't a typical BYU player -- and that's just fine with coach LaVell Edwards.
The junior linebacker made 10 unassisted tackles, including three for big losses, and assisted on seven as Brigham Young blanked San Diego State 13-0 on a wet, slippery Cougar Stadium field.
"Rob Morris is just an outstanding linebacker," said the soaked Edwards, who isn't known wet or dry for effusive praise. "There are very few linebackers out there better than him. His tackling ... tonight was very crisp."
Morris, the linchpin of a defense ranked 11th nationally and tops in the Western Athletic Conference, was seemingly everywhere as the Aztecs, already hampered by a driving rainstorm that began moments before the second half began, were shut out for the first time in 146 games -- a 28-0 blanking at BYU in 1985 -- and held to 122 yards, fewest in school history. The Aztecs (4-4, 4-1 WAC) had a four-game winning streak end.
"We really just couldn't get in the ballgame," San Diego State coach Ted Tollner said. "We couldn't make anything happen with the run or with the pass ... and Rob Morris is a very good player back there."
As if his stellar play and leadership weren't enough, Morris also favored the crowd with an eclectic celebration of the history of dance.
"I tried to do a dance move from every decade tonight," Morris said. "I did Travolta for the '70s and the moonwalk for the '80s. I did a little hip shake for the '90s. ... I was trying to hit every decade. What happens is you're out there, and you start having fun."
Moris was the key to a defensive revival for BYU, which posted its first shutout since 1996 after being shredded last week in a 46-43 victory over San Jose State.
"During the San Jose State game, we played like a bunch of sissies," Morris said. "We wanted to show the nation that we're a good defensive team."
BYU (6-3, 4-1 WAC) is 5-0 at home and gained the Pacific Division tiebreaker edge.
BYU cornerback Brian Gray scored the only touchdown on a 39-yard interception return on the game's fourth play, well before most of the fans had settled into their seats.
"I figured it was a slant, and when I looked up, the QB looked dead at me," Gray laughed. "He threw it to my hands, and I went with it. When I made the pick, I figured it was my game today."
That was all the Cougars needed, as they stifled San Diego State's balanced offense. Gray, who played at El Camino (Calif.) Junior College with San Diego State wideout Damon Gourdine, held the Aztecs' most dangerous receiver to one catch.
"I figured I could shut him down because in practice, I always used to," Gray said.
"They made one big play early in the game, and we couldn't do anything offensively to give us a chance to win," Tollner said. "We really thought we had our chances in the second half after disaster had hit us in the first half."
But the blinding storm took care of that. Balls bounced off receivers' hands, quarterbacks fumbled snaps and the Aztecs failed to finish their only two significant drives of the game.
San Diego State's best field position of the game came with 10 minutes to play after Gourdine returned a punt to the BYU 32. But Morris had a tackle and a hurry as the Aztecs were kept out of the end zone on four plays from the Cougars 8. On fourth down, Gray tipped away a pass in the corner of the end zone intended for Gourdine.
The Aztecs had a touchdown taken away with two minutes remaining when Jesus Reyes was ruled to have been out of bounds after catching Brian Russell's pass in the end zone. Replays showed Reyes' foot was down in the end zone before he went out of bounds.
Both teams foundered in the first half, as San Diego State gained just 44 yards and BYU was unable to reach the end zone. Owen Pochman made two field goals and hit an upright on a third try as the Cougars led 13-0 at halftime.
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