BIRMINGHAM, DEC. 22 -- In a split second tonight, Sean Scott saw a whole year, maybe a whole career, running away from him.

On a fourth down and one from his 46-yard line with 3:50 to play in the game, Brigham Young University quarterback Sean Covey made a play-action fake going left, then dashed toward the right sideline and a first down.

Suddenly, the play was over -- inches short of the first-down marker, officials ruled. Scott, a defensive end who was initially fooled on the play, had hauled down Covey from behind and preserved Virginia's 22-16 victory over the Cougars in the 11th annual All American Bowl, played before an estimated Legion Field crowd of 37,000.

"I've never been so scared," said Scott, a two-time All-Met from Mount Vernon High School who had gone on to be named a captain in each of his final two years at Virginia. "I had made a mistake and, if I hadn't made that tackle, it would have been a lot tougher and I might be hating it right now."

It appeared he would go home unhappy the way Brigham Young (9-4) was moving the ball tonight. Led by Covey, a sophomore who attempted an All American Bowl-record 61 passes and completed 37 for 394 yards, the Cougars totaled 489 yards on 87 plays, keeping the ball for 34:13 -- 19:04 in the second half.

BYU had one dropped touchdown pass, two missed field goals and turned the ball over on downs after having a first and goal from the 7. Still, the Cougars recovered from deficits of 14-3 and 22-9 to make it 22-16 with 7:07 to play on Covey's one-yard touchdown pass to fullback Fred Whittingham.

Brigham Young then forced Virginia (8-4) to punt after three plays. But it was unable to get a first down.

"The defense had a little meeting before we went out there for that series," said redshirt freshman cornerback Keith McMeans, "and {sophomore safety Kevin} Cook stood up and said, 'We've been in this position before and we've held them. Let's go out and do it again.' "

Taking over at its 36, BYU immediately lost five yards on a penalty. On third and six, a pass from Covey to Darren Handley -- whose drop in the end zone on BYU's first possession forced the Cougars to kick a 20-yard field goal -- gained five. On fourth down, Scott made what he called "the biggest play of my career."

Covey and Brigham Young Coach LaVell Edwards had a different view.

"I thought I had {the first down}," Covey said. "When I landed, the ball was over the line. I guess they thought my knee was down."

Edwards: "I thought it was a lousy spot. The ball was clearly there."

Virginia made one first down and ran 2:32 off the clock before Mark Inderlied missed a 42-yard field goal with 1:18 left that would have clinched the win. But Covey then threw four straight incompletions, and Virginia ran out the clock.

"This feels great," said Virginia Coach George Welsh. "I don't know if this better than winning the Peach Bowl {in 1984, Virginia's only other bowl appearance}, but I think this game was much more important to this team because it was not dominated by seniors."

The Cougars' 3-0 lead lasted less than five minutes. After Tim Finkelston's 32-yard kickoff return. Virginia drove 63 yards in 12 plays to a two-yard touchdown run by Secules, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 162 yards and was voted the game's most valuable player.

The Cavaliers' running game (187 yards on 43 attempts) showed the way to the first score. It got some help -- a 30-yard pass on third and eight from Secules to a former Chantilly High teammate, flanker Keith Mattioli, put Virginia on the Cougars' 31. Five rushes by halfback Marcus Wilson (15 carries, 77 yards) for 22 yards, two by fullback Durwin Greggs for three yards and a face-masking penalty set up Secules, who scored on an option keeper.

Four plays after BYU's Leonard Chitty missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, Virginia had the 14-3 lead it kept through halftime. Kevin Morgan, sent in to give Wilson a rest, ran for 11 yards. Secules passed to tight end Bruce McGonnigal for 16. Morgan gained 14 on a pitchout. Morgan then went off right tackle and broke to the sideline for a 25-yard scoring run.

Brigham Young took the second-half kickoff and put together a 15-play, 78-yard drive that lasted 7:48 and netted nothing.

On 11 plays, the Cougars moved to the Cavaliers' 7. Covey's pass to Whittingham got three yards. Mike Salido then ran wide, but linebacker Phil Thomas tackled Salido after a gain of one. On third down, Covey went back to pass but had to run. He was met by linebacker Jeff Lageman at the 2.

After a timeout, BYU's second of the drive, Matt Bellini went in motion out the backfield and Covey tried to hit him on a quick swing pass on fourth down. But cornerback Tony Covington knocked away the ball in the end zone.

But the Cavaliers were unable to get a first down, and 1:54 later their defense was back out on the field. And the Cougars went right back to work, this time scoring the touchdown on Whittingham's eight-yard run that completed a 12-play, 69-yard drive and made the score 14-9 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. BYU faked an extra point kick, but holder Pat Thompson's pass for conversion was broken up.

Virginia's offense then gave its defense what it needed most -- a sustained drive. The drive ended with Secules throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to John Ford with 11:17 left in the game. A two-point conversion off a fake kick made it 22-9, and Virginia held on.