SOMETHINGS GOT TO GIVE: The Cougars rank second in the conference in rushing defense, giving up just 112 yards per game. BYU will face an Air Force offense that leads the league in rushing offense, posting 256 yards per game. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- Following a victory over conference rival Wyoming in Provo on Saturday, the Cougars (3-4, 2-1) will travel to Air Force looking for another conference victory. The Falcons enter the game with a .500 average, including a 2-1 league record. In its last game, Air Force defeated New Mexico 28-23. Last year the Falcons edged BYU, 24-10, in a game that was a lot closer than it appeared. The Cougars were driving deep into Falcon territory trailing by seven, but a fumble by running back Marcus Whalen dashed BYU's hopes of a comeback. Air Force added a touchdown as time expired to account for the final score.
The series between BYU and Air Force has become a lot more competitive over the last few seasons. The Falcons have won three out of the last five meetings, and the two teams have each own five wins in the last 10 games, but the series wasn't always this close. The series began in 1956 with BYU earning a 34-21 victory over the Falcons. The Cougars won sixteen of the first seventeen games, including 12 in a row from 1983 to 1994. Air Force broke through with a 38-12 victory in 1995 and has won five out of the last seven games. The last time the two teams met in Falcon Stadium, Air Force won soundly 52-9 behind the running of Chance Harridge. BYU head coach Gary Crowton has posted a 1-2 record against the Falcons with his only win coming in 2001.
SETTING THE GAME
KICKOFF: 1 p.m. (MST)
SITE: Falcon Stadium
TELEVISION (Local): ESPN-Regional; Trey Bender, Kelly Stouffer and Marie Anderson
LAST TEN: Even, 5-5
LAST FIVE: Air Force leads 3-2
RADIO (Local): KSL-Radio; 1160 AM (Greg Wrubell, Marc Lyons, Andy Boyce)
INTERNET WEBCAST: http://www.byucougars.com/football
THE SERIES: BYU leads 18-6
IN COLORADO SPRINGS: BYU leads 8-3
LAST MEETING: Sept. 27, 2003 (AFA, 24-10)
LAST MEETING IN COLORADO SPRINGS: Oct. 12, 2002 (AFA, 52-9)
BYU has two players from Colorado on its roster, John Denney (Thornton) and Nick Alletto (Parker). The Cougars also boast cornerback Brandon Heaney, who played quarterback on Air Force's J.V. team before transferring to BYU in 2000. Heaney will miss Saturday's game after suffering a broken arm against Wyoming.
TALE OF THE TAPE
BYU's projected starting offensive line averages an enormous 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds. They will face an Air Force defensive line that averages 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds. When the Falcons have the ball, Cougar defensive linemen that average 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds will face an Air Force front five that are listed at 6-foot-4 and 283 pounds.
KING OF PAYNE
After seven games, Matt Payne is seventh in the nation in punting with an average of 45.3 yards per kick. He has pinned opponents inside the 20-yardline 18 times. In the third game of the season, Payne booted a career-long and a then MWC record 79-yard punt. Unlike most punters, Payne likes to get into the thick of it during kick coverage. He had two highlight-reel quality hits against Boise State kick returner Chris Carr. On the season, Payne has racked up seven tackles on special teams, including six solo takedowns. Payne is no slouch as a kicker either. The senior from North Ogden, Utah has booted 10 of 12 field goals, including a perfect 9 of 9 from 40-yards or greater. His 46-yarder against Wyoming was his 12th straight make between 40 and 49 yards, tying him with John Carney who kicked 12 straight from that distance between 1984-85. On the season, there have been 30 field goals of 50-yards or more in the nation. Matt Payne has kicked three of those, including a 53-yarder against Notre Dame. He has also made all of his extra points this season.
OH AUSTIN BEHAVE
Austin Collie has hauled in 37 passes for 437 yards on the season and leads the team in touchdown receptions with four. All four of his touchdown receptions have been 40-yards or more, including his latest which came on a half-back pass from Curtis Brown to help lead BYU past conference rival Wyoming. Collie is the nation's top-ranked freshman receiver, averaging 5.29 receptions per game.
Junior College transfer Todd Watkins has made an immediate impact for the Cougars. He leads the team with 707 receiving yards on 38 receptions, which is more than last year's receiving leader, Toby Christensen, had all season. He is second on the team in touchdown catches with three. He has caught touchdown passes of 69 and 79 yards on the season, leading Sports Illustrated to dub him the nation's top "deep threat." Watkins is second in the conference and 12th nationally in receiving yards per game with a 101 yard average. He torched the Boise State secondary, hauling in nine receptions for 211 yards including a 79-yard touchdown strike from John Beck. He has recorded a team-high three 100-yard receiving games on the year.
GOOD GRIEF CURTIS BROWN
Despite a slow start, sophomore running back Curtis Brown has picked up the pace in his last three games. Over that stretch Brown has racked up 354 yards, including two straight games over 100 yards. His best performance came against Wyoming where he accumulated 230 yards (159 rushing, 40 passing and 31 receiving) and accounted for two of BYU's three touchdowns. On the season Brown has rushed for 457 yards and four touchdowns. Brown accounted for 230 of the Cougars' 416 total yards in the Cougars' 24-13 win over Wyoming. He carried 24 times for 159 yards, threw one time for 40 yards and had three receptions for 31 yards. He also scored one rushing touchdown on a nine-yard run in the fourth quarter to give the Cougars a 17-13 lead with 13:37 remaining in the game. Brown's touchdown run capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive. In the first quarter Brown accounted for 95 of the Cougars' 96 total yards, including 55 yards rushing and 40 yards passing. Brown connected with freshman receiver Austin Collie on a 40-yard touchdown strike to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 10:46 remaining in the first quarter. The game marked Brown's second straight 100-yard rushing performance -- the third of his career. Brown leads the team with 528 yards rushing, posting 354 yards rushing in the last three games. On the season, Brown is averaging 75.6 yards per game, while over the past three games, he has recorded an average of 118 yards per contest.
BYU enters its game against Air Force ranked fifth in the MWC and 65th in the nation in total offense. The Cougars are averaging 363.71 yards per game. Last week against Wyoming BYU's running game exploded for 237 yards rushing and is now ranked seventh in the conference in rushing. Quarterback John Beck is fifth in the conference in pass efficiency, recording a 107.44 rating. As a team, the Cougars rank third in the conference and 17th in the nation in passing, averaging 272.86 yards per game. BYU will face off against an Air Force defense that ranks sixth in the conference in total defense giving up 388.17 yards per game. The Falcons rank 93rd in the country and seventh in the MWC in rush defense giving up 193.50 yards on the ground, while they rank third in the conference in pass defense (194.67 YPG).
Defensively, BYU ranks fourth in the conference and 64th in the nation in total defense, giving up 371.43 yards per game. The Cougars rank second in the conference and 29th in the nation in rushing defense giving up just 112 yards per game on the ground. BYU will face a tough test against Air Force, who leads the conference and is ranked eighth in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 256 yards per game. The Falcons boast four players among the conference's top 16 rushers. BYU is ranked last in the conference in pass defense, giving up 259.43 yards a game through the air. Air Force is seventh in the conference in passing, accumulating only 145 yards per game.