(Sandy, UT) BYU defeated Arkansas State in a 49-42 shootout to win the 2012 D1-A National Championship, emerging from Rio Tinto Stadium with the program's second-ever title and an undefeated 17-0 record for the season.
Arkansas State leapt to an early 8-0 lead by capitalizing on BYU errors, with a penalty kick from fullback Joe Cowley *flyhalf Pat Sullivan* and a try from center Dean Gericke. The Cougars were quick to respond with an 11th minute try from Kumi Tua'one, as the flanker literally pulled the defense across the try line to break into the corner. BYU scored again just three minutes later with a coordinated effort from its skilled backline, as center Paul Lasike connected with fullback Tua Laei to finish the run and bring the score to 15-8.
The Red Wolves took advantage of a lineout deep in Cougars' territory, spinning the ball wide to Zac Mizell - the speeding center was met by a BYU tackler, but scraped the line to score. Sullivan booted the conversion through the uprights to tie the match in the 21st minute, 15-15.
Both squads were ferocious at the breakdown, offering no quarter as they rucked and jockeyed for territory. BYU's mammoth forwards bruised their way upfield, giving scrumhalf Shaun Davies the field position he needed for a self-converted try in the 37th minute. Moments later, the Cougars' pack won possession to feed Laei for what looked like a long-distance try, before the fullback set up wing Will Taylor for the score. Davies hit the conversion to effectively close the half, 29-15.
Arkansas State opened the second round with a 41st minute penalty goal - referee Arun Ranaweera pinged BYU after an infringement at the ruck, and steel-nerved Sullivan landed the kick. The dueling flyhalves accounted for two tries in three minutes: BYU's Dylan Lubbe had a breakaway run and offloaded to Lasike for a score, while ASU's Sullivan broke two tackles to land the Red Wolves' third try of the match. Davies would slot another penalty, pushing the score to 39-23 at the 56th minute.
BYU kept up the pressure. Davies popped the ball to prop Mikey Su'a, who trucked an ASU defender en route to a lunging try for the highlight reel. Davies went five for six on conversions, nailing the kick to bring the score to 46-23 with just under twenty minutes left. (Su'a would later be chosen as man of the match.)
The Red Wolves fueled their comeback with two tries in the next ten minutes: the talented Mizell showcased his touch and body control in his second crossing of the try line, while winger Dale Bates struck through to dot the posts. Sullivan converted just Bates' try (he would go three for six on the day) and at 46-35, Arkansas State went on the all-out offensive in chase of the title.
Davies slotted his third penalty with five minutes left, totaling 24 points on the day - just about half of BYU's total offense. The cushion would prove unnecessary, as A-State was kept from assembling the two tries they needed, even in injury time- there was just one heroic, last-gasp effort from flanker Steyn Benade, who landed under the posts at the 80th minute. Sullivan slotted his final conversion, but time was up: with that, BYU had their second national title, winning by the score of 49-42.
Tries: Kumi Tua'one, Tua Laei, Shaun Davies, Will Taylor, Paul Lasike, Mikey Su'a
Conversions: Shaun Davies (5/6)
Penalties: Shaun Davies (3/3)
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Tries: Dean Gericke, Zac Mizell (2), Pat Sullivan, Dale Bates, Steyn Benade
Conversions: Pat Sullivan (3/6)
Penalty goals: Joe Cowley *Pat Sullivan* (2/3)
Attendance: 8,733 (official)
Referee: Aruna Ranaweera (USA Rugby)