COUGARS TRAVEL TO UTAH STATE
Rejuvenated after its only bye week of the season, BYU (2-2) will take to the road for its third of four straight road games, traveling to Utah State on Friday, Oct. 4. After opening the season with wins over Syracuse and Hawaii, the Cougars will enter the in-state battle having lost two straight, including a 28-19 loss at Georgia Tech on Sept. 21. The Aggies, who will be hosting their third home game of the season, will enter Friday's contest with a record of 1-4. Utah State lost on Saturday at Boise State, 63-38. The game will mark the 76th contest between the two teams with BYU owning a 39-33-3 record since the teams first met on Oct. 7, 1922.
Saturday's game will be broadcast live to a local television audience on KSL, Ch. 5, beginning at 7 p.m. (MDT). Dave McCann will call the action, with Blaine Fowler lending color analysis. Fans can also tune to KSL 1160-AM with Greg Wrubell calling the action and Marc Lyons lending expert analysis. Bill Riley will report from the sidelines. The game will be re-broadcast Monday, Oct. 7 on BYU-TV at 8 p.m. (MST) and on KBYU at 10:30 p.m. (MST).
The Cougars will depart Provo on Thursday, Oct. 3 at approximately 6 p.m. (MDT), arriving in the Logan area at 8:30 p.m. (MST). The team will stay in Wellsville Canyon at the Best Western Sherwood Hills. BYU will return to Provo via bus charter immediately following the game.
BYU vs. UTAH STATE
Friday's game will mark the 76th meeting between the two schools. The Cougars own a 39-33-3 record in the series, dating back to Oct. 7, 1922. In Logan, the Aggies own an 18-12-2 record over BYU, however the Cougars have won 8 of the last 10 games at Romney Stadium, including a 34-31 overtime victory in the two team's last meeting in Logan during the 1999 season. Friday's game will mark only the fifth game between the two teams in Logan since the 1989 season. Interestingly, Friday's game will mark the last time the two teams will play until the 2005 season, marking the longest gap in the rivalry since World War II interrupted the series between 1943 and 1945. Currently, BYU has won six straight games in the rivalry, including last season's 54-34 win in Provo. The Cougars have won 19 of the last 21 games between the two teams. Utah State last won in 1993, knocking off BYU, 58-56, in Logan.
A BAND OF BROTHERS
Three sets of brothers will be squaring off against one another this weekend, including Brady (BYU) and Casey (USU) Poppinga, Brandon (BYU) and Jason (USU) Stephens and Gabriel (BYU) and Jared (USU) Reid. BYU's Stephens is a reserve offensive lineman, while the Aggies' Stephens plays tight end. The Cougars' Poppinga leads the roster with nine tackles for loss, including five sacks. USU's Poppinga has nine receptions for 73 yards as the Aggies' starting tight end. BYU's Reid has eight receptions for 60 yards at tight end, while USU's Reid has seen action on special teams.
A LOOK BACK (BYU 54, USU 34)
BYU's Luke Staley racked up a career-high 207 yards rushing and five touchdowns in helping BYU to a 54-34 victory over Utah State last season. Not to be overshadowed, quarterback Brandon Doman threw for 293 yards on 24-of-34 attempts, including four touchdown completions. With the win, Doman improved to 7-0 as a starter, marking the first BYU quarterback to win seven straight games since Robbie Bosco in 1984. The 20-point victory was a lot closer than the final score indicated. The Aggies took a 27-21 lead at the half, and with 12:41 left in the third quarter, Utah State extended the lead to 34-21 on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Chris Stallworth. The 13-point margin marked BYU's largest deficit of the season. The drive began when Utah State kicker Dane Kidman recovered his own kickoff to open the second half. Kidman's extra point, following the Stallworth touchdown, would be the Aggies final point of the game. Staley led the Cougar comeback by scoring a 37-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-three play on the next drive. The Cougars had two fourth-down conversions on that drive alone. Jernaro Gilford intercepted an errant Jose Fuentes pass and returned it 62 yards on the Aggies next possession. Staley would score on the next two BYU possessions while the Cougar defense buckled down. Staley's five touchdowns tied the BYU record for most touchdowns and most points in a game.
NOT SO FAST
Entering Friday's game, the Cougars have lost two straight games, marking the first time since the 2000 season BYU has lost two straight games during the same regular season. The Cougars have not lost three straight regular-season games (during the same season) since 1993. Interestingly, BYU lost four straight during the 1993 campaign, including a 58-56 defeat at Utah State. BYU has not lost three consecutive games, either during the same season, or over a span of seasons, since losing to Wyoming, Utah and Marshall to end the 1999 season. The Cougars dropped the season-opener against Florida State in 2000, marking the team's fourth straight loss. BYU entered this season with two straight losses (at Hawaii, vs. Louisville), but ended the chances of a third straight defeat with a season-opening win over Syracuse, 42-21.
Since 1922, the Cougars have posted a 33-25-2 (.562) record following an off week, including a mark of 16-6 since the 1984 season. BYU is 2-0 following a bye week during the Crowton era.
PENALTY SITUATION IMPROVING
In the first three games of the season, the Cougars were flagged a league-leading 37 times for 325 yards, including 13 times for 140 yards at Nevada. The Cougars averaged 12.3 penalties for 108.3 yards per game. Against Georgia Tech, the penalty situation improved for the Cougars. BYU was flagged just seven times for only 31 yards. On the season, BYU still averages 11 penalties for 89 yards. The school record for most yards penalized during a single season came during the 1980 campaign when the Cougars were flagged for 1,319 yards over 12 games.
COUGARS STUNG AT GEORGIA TECH, 28-19
The Cougars felt the sting at Georgia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 21 as the Yellow Jackets defeated BYU before a sold-out crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium, 28-19. Both teams were coming off painful losses, including the Cougars' 31-28 loss at Nevada. After starting the game 5-for-5, BYU quarterback Bret Engemann had a tough time sustaining things in the first half. He was 11-of-18 for 92 yards, but he was sacked twice, threw two interceptions and fumbled, all in just the first quarter. Head coach Gary Crowton turned the Cougar offense over to Lance Pendleton after the first drive of the second quarter. Pendleton finished the game 17-of-39 for 274 yards passing, 44 yards rushing on 12 carries and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Reno Mahe led all receivers with five receptions for 67 yards. The Yellow Jackets and Cougars both suffered injuries to their star running backs during the game. BYU's Marcus Whalen carried the ball four times for 13 yards and caught five passes for a total of 39 yards before leaving the game with a groin injury the second quarter. Georgia Tech running back Tony Hollings dominated the ground game, carrying the ball 36 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Hollings, who leads the nation in points per game at 16, went down in the fourth quarter with a season-ending knee injury. Yellow Jacket quarterback A.J. Suggs recorded 117 yards on 11-of-26 passing while leading the Yellow Jackets to the win. BYU cornerback Brandon Heaney recorded two interceptions off of Suggs, who was picked off three times during the game. Suggs had only thrown one interception in the first two games of the season. The Rambling Wreck took a second-quarter 7-0 lead on a Hollings one-yard run, however the Cougars struck back posting 10 unanswered points to take a 10-7 halftime lead. In the third quarter, Tech's backup running back, Ajenavi Eziemefe, posted a one-yard run to give Georgia Tech the back at 14-10. After a Matt Payne field goal and Mahe touchdown in the third quarter, the Cougars again took the lead 19-14. However, in the end, it was too much Tony Hollings, as the bruising running back posted two more touchdowns to give the Yellow Jackets the 28-19 victory.
HIT THE ROAD
Friday's game will mark the third straight road game for the Cougars. Since hitting the road on Saturday, Sept. 14 (at Nevada), the Cougars will not return to the friendly confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium until Saturday, Oct. 19. During that stretch the Cougars play at Nevada, Georgia Tech, Utah State and Air Force. After an Oct. 19 home game against UNLV, the Cougars will take to the road yet again for a league game at Colorado State. Over a span of seven weeks, BYU will play just one home game.
HOME SWEET HOME
With a perfect 6-0 record in Provo last season, the Cougars have recorded 12 undefeated home seasons 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.
A WHALE OF A TALE
After redshirting the 2001 season, sophomore running back Marcus Whalen is doing his best to answer the question, "How will BYU deal with the loss of Doak Walker Award winner Luke Staley?" In the season-opener (vs. Syracuse), Whalen turned in 140 yards on 19 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Whalen was credited with a career-high 58-yard run to the goal line, then bullied his way in to the endzone on the very next play for his first TD of the season. Against Hawaii, Whalen was credited with a career-high 30 carries, racking up 141 yards and two more touchdowns. In the third game of the season, Whalen turned in 135 yards on only 14 carries, averaging 9.6 yards per carry. During the first quarter, Whalen broke loose for what appeared to be a 92-yard touchdown run, but was returned to the 21 yardline after a illegal block was called on the Cougars. Whalen was officially credited with a career-long 71 yard run on the play. In his last outing, Whalen played through the first quarter at Georgia Tech before being forced to sit the remainder of the game with a pulled abductor muscle. Prior to leaving the game, Whalen produced 14 yards on four carries. On the season, Whalen ranks second in the MWC (23rd nationally) with a 107.2 yards-per-game average, and ranks fourth in overall scoring, averaging 6.0 points per game. Whalen is on pace to produce 1,300 yards this season. With his 100-yard performance at Nevada, Whalen became the first running back in BYU history to start a season with three straight 100-yard outings.
Even before the 2002 season began, the Cougars lost three players to season-ending injuries. Redshirt freshman C.J. AhYou was lost on the first day of Fall Camp, suffering a torn ACL. AhYou, who was slated to start at defensive end missed the majority of last season also with a torn ACL. Just under two weeks prior to the Cougars' season-opener, senior offensive tackle Ben Archibald was lost for the season after suffering a mid-shaft compound fracture. Archibald, an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award candidate, is expected to apply for a sixth-year following the 2002 season. Reserve senior cornerback Todd Barker injured his surgically-repaired shoulder and will be unable to return for his final season at BYU. Cornerback Mike Sumko suffered a torn abductor muscle (against Hawaii) and has been listed as probable for Friday's game. Sophomore running Marcus Whalen suffered a pulled abductor muscle at Georgia Tech. Whalen will be re-evaluated this week and has been listed as a game-time decision. Cornerback James Allen has been hampered by a high ankle sprain all season. Allen has received significant rest over the past two weeks and will be evaluated by team trainers this week. His status has yet to be determined.
WHAT A PAYNE
BYU kicker Matt Payne has been pulling double duty this season, serving as the Cougars' punter and kicker. Admitting he likes to punt more than kick, Payne unloaded for a total of 402 yards on seven punts in the Cougars' 31-28 loss at Nevada. Against the Wolfpack, Payne averaged a season-high 57.4 yards per punt. During the game, Payne was credited with a career-long 72 yard punt, surpassing his previous long by eight yards. Currently, Payne leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks second in the nation with a 47.43 per-game average. Payne leads the nation in net punting, averaging 44.14 yards per punt. In the kicking department, Payne is 3-for-5 on field goal attempts, including a two-for-two outing at Georgia Tech. On PATs, Payne is 13-of-16 on the season.
DRIVIN' THE DISTANCE
On Aug. 29, the Cougars drove 99 yards (vs. Syracuse) to set a BYU record for the longest scoring drive in school history. The drive, which lasted nine plays and took 2:59 off the clock, was highlighted by a 58-yard run by sophomore running back Marcus Whalen. Against the Orangemen, the Cougars racked up drives of 99, 92, 80, 73 and 71 yards. Against Hawaii, the Cougars posted long-distance drives of 65, 80 and a game-high 95-yard drive in the third quarter that produced the go-ahead touchdown. At Nevada, BYU posted its fourth 90-yard drive of the season, recording a 92-yard scoring march in just five plays. During the 2001 season, BYU produced 20 different 80-yard drives. In the first game of the 2002 season, the Cougars produced two 90-yard scoring drives, equaling last year's entire season total. On the season, BYU has recorded four 90-yard scoring drives.
Of all the members of the BYU roster, 70 players have served a full-time, two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (63.3 percent). Over 60 percent of those returned-missionaries, 60 percent speak a foreign language, including 23 players who speak Spanish as a second language. 96 players on this year's roster are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (87.3 percent). Interestingly, 43 different players are married (40.9 percent). Of the 43 married players, there are eight couples with children and five couples expecting children in the near future.Reserve offensive lineman Nake Mali leads the group with two children, while receiver Reno Mahe has a son and is expecting a daughter in November. The average of the Cougars' 22 starters is 22 years old.
POPPINGA PREFERS PAPER AND PLASTIC
In the first game of the 2002 season (vs. Syracuse), the Cougars allowed just one sack, while producing three sacks against the Syracuse offense for a combined loss of 13 yards. Sophomore defensive end Brady Poppinga had one of the team's sacks, forcing a SU fumble in the process. In the Cougars' 31-28 loss at Reno, BYU produced a season-high five sacks. Poppinga lead the team with two sacks for a combined loss of 11 yards. Against Georgia Tech, Poppinga was again credited with a sack, marking his MWC-leading fifth QB stuff of the season. Through four games, Poppinga is averaging 1.25 sacks per game. He also leads the Mountain West with nine tackles for a combined loss of 39 yards. Last season, the BYU offense gave up 24 sacks, averaging 1.8 sacks per game. Defensively, BYU recorded 25 sacks, averaging 1.9 sacks per game. This season, the Cougars have tallied nine sacks, averaging 2.25 sacks per game. Offensively, BYU has allowed seven sacks through the first four games.
ENGEMANN BY THE NUMBERS
Nearly two years after being sidelined with a shoulder injury, junior quarterback Bret Engemann made his return to the field in the Cougars' season-opener against Syracuse. In his first start since Sept. 30, 2000, Engemann led BYU to a season-opening victory, recording three touchdown completions and running for another in the Cougars' 42-21 victory over Syracuse. Engemann completed a career-high 35-of-54 (.648) attempts for 386 yards, marking the second 300-yard game of his career. In his come-back performance against the Orangemen, Engemann was responsible for four touchdowns on the evening, including a career-high three TD completions and a three-yard run. The 6-foot-5 Provo, Utah, native started things off with an 11-for-15 (.733) performance in the first quarter, racking up 111 yards and a six-yard touchdown strike to Andrew Ord. In the second quarter, Engemann racked up another 105 yards, 10 more completions, and a two-yard pass to Toby Christensen to put the Cougars up 14-7. During the second quarter, he also engineered a school-record 99-yard scoring drive to give BYU a 21-7 lead with 4:53 remaining in the first half. After the half, Engemann kept up his blistering assault on the Syracuse defense, posting 12 more completions on 15 attempts (.800) for 80 more yards. After the Orangemen had tied the score at 21-21, Engemann led the Cougars on a 10-play, 92-yard drive and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a three-yard run. On the night, Engemann produced scoring drives of 99, 92, 80, 73 and 71 yards. Against Hawaii, Engemann racked up 26 yards on 21-of-46 attempts, including a touchdown pass to Toby Christensen. Trailing by 10 in the final minutes of the second quarter, Engemann got the Cougars on the board with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard strike to Toby Christensen in the endzone. In the third game of the season, Engemann ran into a tough Nevada defense. Engemann completed just 6-of-16 attempts before turning things over to reserve QB Lance Pendleton in the second half. During the first half, Engemann found Andrew Ord for a 31-yard touchdown pass, marking his fifth TD pass of the season. At Georgia Tech, Engemann got off to a blistering pace, going 5-for-5 to start the game. However, the Yellow Jacket defense settled down to force two interceptions and a fumble, all in the first quarter. Engemann battled to complete 11-of-18 attempts for 92 yards before being sidelined. On the season, Engemann has produced 784 yards on 73-of-134 attempts. He has completed five touchdown passes, and has given up four interceptions.
THE TETON TERROR
Known over the past 20+ years for its All-American quarterbacks, BYU is quickly becoming known for its outstanding tight ends. Senior tight end Spencer Nead is making a solid case to join the ranks of BYU's long line of outstanding tight ends, including Gordon Hudson, Chad Lewis, Itula Mili and Doug Jolley. Nead started the 2002 campaign with a career-high 80-yard performance in the Cougars' 42-21 win over Syracuse. Nead was one of three different receivers with five receptions on the night. All totaled three different BYU tight ends, including Gabe Reid and Aisaac Aiono accounted for 133 yards on 11 receptions. Against Hawaii, Nead recorded three receptions for 41 yards, including a team-high 22-yard reception. After just one reception at Nevada for 12 yards, Nead returned to form at Georgia Tech, recording three receptions for 21 yards. He was the only tight end with a reception against the Yellow Jackets. On the season, Nead ranks fourth on the BYU roster with 12 receptions for 154 yards, averaging 38.5 yards per game. He is just one of four receivers with over 100 receiving yards on the season.
MACKEY WATCH LIST
In addition to being named among those being considered for the Lombardi Award, senior tight end Spencer Nead has been listed as a candidate for the John Mackey Award, which honors the top tight end in the country. Nead is the Cougars' top returning tight end after recording 22 receptions for 266 yards as a junior last season. Nead averaged 12.1 yards per reception and scored five touchdowns as a junior.
LOMBARDI WATCH LIST
Three BYU players were originally named to the preseason Rotary Lombardi Award watchlist, which annually honors college football's top lineman. Senior offensive lineman Ben Archibald was on the list, but due to a season-ending injury has been removed. His capable bookend, left tackle Dustin Rykert (6-foot-7, 315) is also a candidate for the Lombardi Award. Senior tight end Spencer Nead has also been listed as a candidate for the prestigious award.
Against Syracuse, BYU converted 11-of-18 (.611) third-down attempts, including five-straight conversions on the Cougars' first drive of the game. All totaled BYU reeled off seven straight third-down conversions before the Orangmen were able to stop BYU on a third-and-22 attempt early in the second quarter. Against Hawaii, the Cougars were a mere 7-of-20 on third down attempts, including an 0-for-4 start in the first quarter. In Week No. 3, the Cougars continued to struggle on third down, converting just 4 of 14 attempts. Week 4 proved no different. Battling humid conditions at Georgia Tech, the Cougars were a sluggish 4 of 17 on third-down attempts. On the season, the Cougars are 26-of-69 (.377) on third-down conversions. Over the past two games, BYU has converted just 8 of 31 (.258) third-down attempts.