COUGARS LOOK TO REBOUND IN PAYBACK OPPORTUNITY
Following a four-point loss to Stanford, the Cougars will look to rebound against Air Force (4-0) on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game is slated for a 1:05 p.m. (MDT) start and will be broadcast live by ESPN+Plus on KJZZ-TV (Salt Lake City). Air Force and BYU currently sit atop the conference standings with an unblemished 1-0 league record. The Cougars defeated New Mexico on Sept. 13, 10-7, while the Falcons handed Wyoming a 35-29 loss last weekend in Colorado Springs.
THE HISTORY: BYU vs. AIR FORCE
The Cougars own an 18-5 all time record over the Falcons, dating back to their first meeting in 1956. BYU has won 9 of the 10 meetings in Provo, including a 63-33 victory over the Falcons in 2001. In that game, the Cougars chalked up 611 total yards, including 408 yards passing. Last season, Air Force defeated BYU in Colorado Springs, 52-9. In the game, AFA quarterback Chance Harridge ran for 104 yards on 22 carries and scored four touchdowns. The Falcons' defense held the Cougars to minus 21 yards rushing. The two teams have split each of the past four meetings, each winning on their home field.
COMPLETE BROADCAST PLANS
Saturday's game will be broadcast live by ESPN+Plus on KJZZ-TV, Ch.14, in Salt Lake City, beginning at 1:05 p.m. (MDT). Gary Bender will call the action with former University of Washington standout J.C. Pearson lending game analysis. Anne Marie Anderson will be on the sidelines. The game is also available on ESPN's Game Plan. Fans can also tune to KSL 1160-AM with the broadcast team of Greg Wrubell, Marc Lyons and Bill Riley.
LAST WEEK (BYU 14, Stanford 18)
Despite leading for most of the game and holding Stanford to 200 total yards with only 56 passing yards, BYU fell 18-14 Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Cougars had an opportunity late in the game to take the lead, driving to the Stanford nine-yard line after a 29-yard pass from John Beck to Chris Hale. But the Cougars would get no closer as Beck was sacked two times in the Cougars' last four plays, forcing BYU to turn the ball over on downs with 23 seconds left in the game. Crowton said the Cardinal took care of the ball when they needed to and took advantages of the opportunities BYU gave them. The defense played well, recording four sacks, including two by Levi Madarieta, and two interceptions. They held Stanford 257 yards below Stanford's output in its first game. BYU got on the board first, scoring with 4:33 left in the first quarter, driving 78 yards in just under three minutes. On the drive, Beck was 6 for 8 and hit Toby Christensen for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Beck finished the game 22 for 45 for 279 yards and that one touchdown. Christensen led BYU in receiving, hauling in seven passes for 86 yards. Crowton said he thought Beck played well for his first game and he made some good decisions, but said he still has a lot to learn. Stanford got on the board just before the end of the first quarter on a four-yard run by Kenneth Tolon, but defensive tackle Manaia Brown blocked the Cardinal's extra point attempt. The Cardinal would add a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter to take a 9-7 lead. But BYU would answer, scoring on a 31-yard pass from Lance Pendleton to Daniel Coats. On the play, Todd Mortenson, who was subbing for Beck, threw a backward pass to Pendleton who hit Coats for the score. On the drive Beck completed a pass to Rod Wilkerson for 56 yards -- the longest pass play for the Cougars' this season. After the Cardinal forced BYU to punt midway through the fourth quarter, Stanford's Luke Powell returned the ball 68 yards to the Cougar twenty-five, but the Cougar defense would hold Stanford to a 38-yard field goal. BYU's offense struggled for much of the fourth quarter. Stanford's defense forced Beck to throw two interceptions and held the Cougars without a first down until their final drive. The last interception came deep in BYU territory with 4:10 left in the game, and Stanford scored the game-winning touchdown four plays later on a 14-yard run by quarterback Trent Edwards. Crowton said the team isn't going to make any excuses for the loss despite starting a true freshman in Beck at quarterback.
The Cougars' minus (-5) yards rushing against Stanford was its lowest total since rushing for a negative 21 yards against Air Force last season. On the season, BYU is averaging just under 66 yards per game, ranking 116th in the nation.
During the first half of Saturday's game, the BYU defense held Stanford to a season-low 79 total yards, including only six yards passing. Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards was just 6-of-14 for six yards with two interceptions. He finished the night with only 25 yards passing on 10-of-23 attempts.
After the Cardinal scored a four-yard touchdown with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter, the BYU defense held Stanford scoreless in the second quarter, marking the eighth scoreless quarter (out of 14) of the season. However, after giving up a field goal in the third quarter, and a touchdown and another field goal in the second fourth quarter, Stanford became the first team this season to score in three of the four quarters of a game.
Stanford recorded just 56 yards passing on the night, marking the lowest passing total in Cardinal football history.
The Cougars recorded -5 yards rushing on the night, marking the fourth fewest rushing yards allowed in Stanford football history.
BYU receiver Rod Wilkerson was credited with a 56-yard reception from John Beck, marking the longest reception for the Cougars this season.
While BYU freshman John Beck won the statistical battle, Stanford freshman Trent Edwards won the battle of the scoreboard. Beck fired 22-of-45 completions for 279 yards with one touchdown, while Edwards was just 10-of-23 for 25 yards. Edwards was also credited with the game-winning touchdown run--a 14-yard run to give the Cardinal an 18-14 lead with 3:51 remaining in the game.
THE STREAK IS STILL ALIVE ... 354 GAMES AND COUNTING
Following Toby Christensen's 27-yard touchdown reception from John Beck in the first quarter against Stanford, BYU extended its NCAA-record streak to 354 games without being shutout. BYU was last shutout during the 1975 season (Sept. 27, 1975 vs. Arizona State.) Interestingly, the Cougars do not have a single player on their rosters who was alive the last time BYU was shutout.
RUSHING TOUCHDOWN DROUGHT
The Cougars have not scored a rushing touchdown in 26 straight quarters, dating back to a second-quarter touchdown run from Lance Pendleton against Wyoming on Nov. 9, 2002 in Provo. Over that span, including the second half of the Wyoming game, the Cougars have posted a record of 3-4, scoring a total of 10 touchdowns.
AIR FORCE GROUND ATTACK
The BYU defense will face the nation's top rushing offense. After four games, the Falcons have averaged 338 yards rushing per game. Leading the way for Air Force will be senior quarterback Change Harridge who is one of three Air Force ball carriers averaging at least 49 yards per contest. The Falcons will have to contend against the nation's 46th ranked rush defense. The Cougars have allowed just 120.5 yards per game.
After winning the time of possession battle for three of the first four weeks of the season, BYU is enjoying an average 5 minute and 40 second advantage in terms of time of possession. Against Georgia Tech, the Cougars dominated the clock, racking up an 18:12 advantage over the Yellow Jackets. At USC, the Cougars had the ball 2:30 longer than the Trojans. While the Cougars won the battle of field position, the Lobos had the ball 32:18, compared to BYU's 27:42. In last weekend's game vs. Stanford, the Cougars had the ball a total of 2:30 longer than the Cardinal.
GET IN GEAR
The Cougars' 66 points through the first four games is the lowest overall scoring total to start a season since 1975 when BYU scored just 54 points in the first four games. That stretch also included a 20-0 loss at Arizona State--the last time BYU was shut out. While the Cougars started 1-3 in 1975, they finished the season with an overall record of 6-5.
BYU has scored just 66 points in its first four games, an average of 16.5 points per contest. That total marks the lowest scoring total over four games since a four-game stretch last season. Against Air Force, UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State, the Cougars scored only 56 points, averaging 14 points per contest. Over the last two games, BYU has scored just 24 points, marking the lowest two-game total since the final two games of the 2002 seasons -- a loss at both New Mexico and Utah. During those two games, the Cougars scored only 22 points.
SCORING DRIVE INFORMATION
On the season, the Cougars have allowed 11 scoring drives, including seven drives of only 38 yards or less. The longest drive allowed was an 80-yarder (at #4 USC), while the shortest was an 11-yard drive against the Trojans. BYU opponents averaging scoring drive covers just 39 yards. Offensively, BYU has had 12 scoring drives, averaging 69.0 yards per drive. The Cougars' longest drive was a 94-yarder against Stanford, while the shortest was a 9-yard drive at USC. 9 of the Cougars' 12 scoring drive have been 78 yards or longer.
Since 1980, BYU has had 65 different opportunities to repay an opponent for a previous loss. When the Cougars face an opponent, having lost in the previous meeting, they have recorded a 43-22 (.662) record. Since Nov. 7, 1998, BYU has lost only one game to an opponent in a payback situation, posting a 17-1 record. BYU knocked off Syracuse on Aug. 29, 2002 and held off Hawaii on Sept. 6, 2002 for two straight payback opportunities last season. In 2003, the Cougars have already posted a 2-0 record in payback opportunities, defeating Georgia Tech, 24-13, and New Mexico, 10-7, in the first two of six total payback games this season. Of the six payback opportunities, the Cougars will face four opponents in Provo.
Through four games this season, the Cougar defense is currently ranked 12th in the nation, yielding only 265 yards-per-game. This is an improvement of almost 120 yards-per-game from last season when the defense gave up 384.7 yards per contest. The Cougar defense also ranks 12th nationally with six interceptions.
IN THE TRENCHES
The BYU offensive line, which includes three seniors and two freshmen, weighs in at a beefy 1,528 pounds, averaging 306 pounds per man. The O-line will be squaring off against an Air Force defensive line (three seniors) that tips the scales at an average 261.7 pounds per man. On defense, the Cougars' line (two seniors and a junior) weighs in at 280.3 pounds per man, while the Falcons' offensive line (five seniors) average 284 pounds per man.
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
A loss against Utah in the 2002 season-finale marked the first losing season at BYU since the Cougars posted a 5-6 record in 1973. Like Crowton in 2002, it was also LaVell Edwards' second season at the helm. Following a 63-33 win over Air Force on Oct. 20, 2001, the Cougars claimed their 28th straight non-losing season. The Cougars' streak of 28 straight non-losing seasons ranked 10th all-time at the NCAA Division I-A level and was the third longest streak in the nation. Nebraska currently ranks first with 41 straight seasons without a losing campaign. After the Cougars posted a losing season in 1973, they went on to win a National Championship in 1984, 21 league titles and made 23 bowl appearances, including 17 straight bowl trips from 1978-1994.
A LITTLE EXPERIENCE
Since the 1990 season, when BYU starts the year with a junior or senior at quarterback, the Cougars have posted a 72.8 winning percentage. In that same time frame, when BYU starts the season with an underclassman, the Cougars win just over 50 percent of their games. Since the 1990 campaign, BYU has only started an under classmen in four different seasons, including 1992, 1993, 2000 and 2002. This season, the Cougars started sophomore Matt Berry through the first three games. He started the season having started six games, marking the most starts by a BYU quarterback entering a season since Kevin Feterik in 1999.
With Matt Berry sidelined this week with a broken hand, head coach Gary Crowton has turned to John Beck, a true freshman. Against Stanford, Beck became the first true freshman to start at quarterback since Drew Miller earned the starting job for a single game during the 1997 season. As a backup against TCU, on Oct. 25, 1997, Miller completed 16-fo-26 attempts for 180 yards and three touchdowns, earning the starting job the following week at UTEP. In his first career start, Miller was 17-of-32 for 226 yards. He failed to complete a single touchdown pass, and was picked off three times in the Cougars' 14-3 loss against the Miners. The following week, the Cougars' went to their third starting quarterback of the season -- Kevin Feterik -- who held on to the starting job for two more seasons. Beck will become only the second true freshman to start for the Cougars at quarterback. In his freshman debut, Beck showed he was capable of starting for the Cougars. He racked up 279 yards on 22-of-45 pass attempts, including a 27-yard touchdown strike to Toby Christensen to start the game. His freshman inexperience did cost him however, throwing two interceptions against the Cardinal.
HOME SWEET HOME
With a perfect 6-0 record in Provo during the 2001 season, the Cougars have recorded 12 undefeated home season since the 1967 campaign. In fact, since the stadium was expanded to 65,000, the Cougars have posted eight different seasons without losing a game in Provo. The 2001 perfect home season marked the first since 1998. BYU finished the 2002 season with a 4-2 home record, marking the team's 31st consecutive non-losing home season. In 2003, with a victory over Georgia Tech, BYU got off to a 1-0 start, but dropped an 18-14 decision to Stanford to fall to 1-1 on the season. The Cougars are 169-53 (.761) in Provo, dating back 40 years (1963), including a 10-4 (.714) home record against MWC opponents since 1999.