Cougars prepare for the Aztecs

BYU Football Head Coach Gary Crowton

Crowton - It's good to be back here again. I appreciate you guys coming. Very excited to be back here at LaVell Edwards Stadium to play in front of our home fans. I'm excited about this week. We've had a good week of practice and I think we're a little healthier this week. I think we're ready to go. I just can't wait to get back playing again.

Q -- Can you talk a little about San Diego State's receivers?

Crowton -- San Diego State's head coach, Coach Craft, I knew him a little bit while he was at Palomar Junior College. He does a very good job with the outside receivers. They run some screens. They are very athletic and both of them will have the chance to move on to the next level. They're catching the ball with some confidence. The quarterback is doing a great job of throwing the ball in rhythm. Coach Craft does a very good job of lining them up in formation to see what the defense is and then calling the play after their all lined up, like a no-huddle offense. As you can see, as the season has gone on, they've gotten better and better rhythm and the QB has become more and more confident. In fact they're playing their best football that they've played in a long time.

Q -- Being 0-3 in the conference and knowing you're not going to repeat as champions, what tactics do you use to get your team up and ready for the game?

Crowton -- Right now, I don't know what will happen in the conference. Last week, Wyoming beat Air Force and San Diego is 3-0 and they have a chance to lose to us this week. Colorado State is playing really well in conference right now. But what we want to do as a young team is just take care of ourselves and get us going in a rhythm just like SDSU has been able to do. We feel like we can do that because we have so many young players. If we can start playing well, we feel like we can be good for a while and that's what we're trying to do. One of our goals is to have a winning season and be bowl-eligible so we're trying to put ourselves in that position. To do that, we just need to get our fourth win. We've lost three in a row now, so we need to get back in there and get on the winning track and get some confidence. We need to relearn how to win, so to speak, and get that winning feeling again. If we do that, I think we will finish very, very strong.

Q -- Does the team's youthfulness keep them up and excited?

Crowton -- BYU is different than any other place I've ever been. We have such good men with great character. They still work hard even though they know this isn't the type of season we were hoping for. They've just been working hard, the seniors too. I was just listening to Gabe Reid talking the other day about how this is his last year and how fast it has come and how he wants to finish strong. I feel like the seniors have just hung together very well and I'm very proud of those guys for that.

Q -- With you opening your playbook more with Matt Berry, does that mean you're more confident in him?

Crowton -- I want to do more of what we did last year. I fell like Matt is in a position where he is able to absorb it and execute it because a lot of things happen on the line of scrimmage. He's had a good week of practice. He's been seeing things, he's got some experience and I feel like he'll do better. I just feel like we're going to give him a little more responsibility and open things up a little. Hopefully that will help us to score some more points because we haven't scored a lot of points in the last three games.

Q - What is the injury situation?

Crowton -- Pendleton hurt his right shoulder lifting weights over the weekend. I'm anxious to see if he can throw today. He might not be able to play this week. If he doesn't throw today, he probably won't play this week or next week. Mortensen has been getting a lot of the reps at the No. 2 because Engemann is still pretty sore. I've still been giving Engemann some reps hoping he'll get better as he goes through the week. Defensively, I feel like we're in pretty good shape. Poppinga's ankle is still a little bit sore, but it was doing much better, so I think he'll be alright. Sumko had surgery and he will be out for the rest of the year. I don't think Gilford will play the rest of the year. He's just not getting better and he's not confident in it. At this point, I think he's frustrated with the whole thing and I just don't think he's mentally ready to do it. It is an injury that has been very hard on him.

Q -- is James Allen someone that could step in and help the team out?

Crowton -- James Allen is very talented. I'm hoping he can get healthy. He had a sprained ankle when he got here which caused some problems, but that seems to be getting better. Then he was sick with the flu right before the CSU game so he didn't travel. He still has a little tendonitis because he had knee surgery in the off-season and he came off an ACL. He's been a little beat up, but he is a very talented young man and he will get better and better as the season goes on.

Q -- Is there any official word on other freshmen leaving on missions?

Crowton -- Right now, Ben (Olsen) is going to go. Others are talking about it but they haven't made any official decisions on it. Kellen Fowler has already received his mission call, so he's going. He's doing a lot of special teams. I can't remember where he said he was going, but I know he has his call. A lot of the guys that are thinking about it will go home and talk to their families about it. We don't pressure them to go. We just encourage them to do what's best for themselves and their life. We support their decisions and we are always excited for them when they go. We're also excited to get them back.

Q -- How many missionaries do you have coming back this year?

Crowton -- We have 14 on scholarship coming back and then another six to eight non-scholarship that will all be back in time for next season.

Q -- How do you defend SDSU's receivers?

Crowton -- We have a variety of different coverages that we will use. We'll mix it up and try to keep them off balance. What we want to do is throw them out of rhythm so they can't just see it, line up and go. So we're going to keep mixing things up to keep them from getting into a rhythm.

Q -- The changes on defense that you made, are they just for SDSU or for the rest of the year?

Crowton -- I feel like Mike Tanner is earning his spot. Every time he gets in there he's done some good things. I think Paul (Walkenhorst) has done some good things as well, but what this has done is it moves Paul back to where he was last year and gives us a chance to play guys who have been making plays. It also brings with it a sense of competition. Everyone is competing hard and it keeps them working and gives us a little depth. I'm really excited about the move.

Q -- Can you talk a little about the special teams?

Crowton -- We've been doing a good job on special teams. A lot of the young players are on the special teams. They're making some good plays, they're hustling, trying to move up the ladder. Matt Payne has done just a great job of punting and kicking the ball. Hopefully that will continue to be a good spot. When we lost Aaron Edmonds last year, I didn't know if Matt could punt or not. I knew he had a strong leg but I didn't know he could do it with the consistency that he has done it this year. The accuracy that Matt Payne has been able to have on his punts has been very impressive. He worked on it in the off-season and his consistency has been a real pleasant surprise.

Q -- With 14 coming home from missions and not many seniors leaving, will you be strapped for space and scholarships?

Crowton -- Yeah, we don't have very many scholarships. There are going to be a lot of good players that we can't give scholarships to. We are recruiting a lot of players. I had probably better slow down. Some guys will go on missions first and then come to BYU. We've got some room for that to happen. We've got 12 seniors leaving on scholarship and 14 players coming back off missions, so there are not many scholarships. It is a unique situation dealing with missionaries.

Q--Is getting the feel of handling these returned missionaries something you are getting better at with time?

Crowton -- Yes. At one point when Matt Berry came back I wasn't sure he could play. He had put on twenty pounds, he was slow, and his arm would hurt when he would throw. It was hard to tell what he could do. He didn't get very many reps in camp either. As time went on, he got a little stronger, he got into shape, and he got some of his quickness back. It is a different situation. It is unusual at BYU to have all of the quarterbacks returned missionaries. Last year, Brandon Doman showed that you could be a returned missionary and still play the quarterback position and be competitive. He got drafted and is still playing football. When Ben Olson came in and talked about his mission it was a difficult situation for him. The opportunities that are given to you from a football perspective with education paid for and so forth is a contrast to what you get growing up in a good family and the idea of a mission being something you plan to do as you grow up. Everyone is telling you that you are crazy if you go on a mission or you are crazy if you don't go on a mission. It is a tough thing on a young man. He always left that window open. I remember in the Utah St. game when I didn't play him I just didn't feel like it was the time, and as we kept going and he came and told me what he wanted to do I was so happy for him. I think he is going to do great when he comes back. The quarterback position is in great shape for a long time.

Q -- So are you committed to players you have never seen?

Crowton -- Yes. BYU has made commitments to these young men and as a coach I choose to honor those commitments. I think we need to do that. I trust the recruits that Lavell Edwards brought in. I think that makes this school very unique. We are trying to build young men and we are trying to give them opportunities to grow in all areas. This is going to be a good game for us this week and I think we are going to play well.