(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Mountain West Conference play begins for what will prove to be an important matchup as BYU takes on reigning MWC Champion TCU. The game is the first MWC game for each school and features the preseason MWC poll's top two teams. The Cougars play their first Thursday night game of the week having a five-day turnaround after beating Utah State, 38-0, Saturday. TCU enjoyed a bye week to prepare for the Cougars after defeating Texas Tech, 12-3, Sept. 16.
LAST WEEK RECAP
BYU improved to 2-2 on the season with a shut-out victory over Utah State (0-4) on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The 38-0 victory over the Aggies marked the first time BYU has recorded a shutout since beating UNLV, 29-0, in 1999.
"I'm excited for the victory over Utah State," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It is good to see players on both sides representing the state. I have a lot of respect for Coach Guy and the job that he is doing at Utah State."
With starting quarterback John Beck sitting out to nurse injuries, backup Jason Beck (no relation) stepped in and held his own in his first career start. The senior completed 20 of 28 passes, throwing for 305 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Utah State had no answer for BYU running back Fui Vakapuna, who gave another strong performance rushing for 73 yards on 13 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
The Cougars and the Horned Frogs have played five previous games with BYU owning a 3-2 advantage in the series. TCU won last year's match up in a 51-50 overtime thriller in Provo. The game ended on a controversial call at the goal line. BYU and TCU are conference opponents once again after the Horned Frogs joined the MWC at the beginning of the 2005 football season. Previously, BYU and TCU played together in the expanded WAC. During their years together in the expanded WAC, The Cougars beat the Horned Frogs in 1996 and 1997. The last time the two teams played in Fort Worth was in 1996, when BYU won 45-21 and went on to a 14-1 season and Cotton Bowl victory.
COUGARS ON NATIONAL TELEVISION
Two of BYU's first three games will be broadcast nationally. The Cougars will have a total of five nationally televised games. The season opener at Arizona marked the second time BYU has played on TBS. The Cougars rematch against Boston College will be seen on a split national basis on ESPN 2. BYU will then play four MWC opponents on CSTV and Versus in front of a national audience: TCU (Sept. 28, Versus), Air Force (Oct. 28, Versus) Wyoming (Nov. 9, CSTV) and rival Utah (Nov. 25, CSTV).
THE RANKED TEAMS
Including this seasons' narrow defeat to No. 23 Boston College, BYU has not defeated a ranked opponent since beating No. 23 Colorado State, 34-13, on Sept. 16, 1999. Since that victory over the Rams, the Cougars are 0-12 against ranked opponents, including a record of 0-3 at Edwards Stadium. Interestingly, BYU has not defeated a ranked opponent on the road since beating Arizona State, 13-10, on Sept. 20, 1997.
BYU is coming off its 24th bowl appearance. In seasons following a trip to a bowl game, the Cougars have recorded a combined record of 202-82-2 (.709). Of the 23 seasons following a bowl game, the Cougars have averaged nearly nine (8.8) wins per season. BYU has had only one losing season following a trip to a bowl game. (In 2002, BYU went 5-7 after playing in the Liberty Bowl in 2001.)
IT'S BEEN A WHILE
BYU has gone 96 games without scoring a touchdown on a kick return, which ranks the Cougars 10th in the nation in time between touchdown returns. The Cougars have also gone 108 games without returning a punt for a touchdown.
TALE OF THE TAPE
BYU's offensive line checks in at an average 6-foot-4, 316.8 pounds. The Cougars' front line will be going up against a TCU defensive front that averages just over 6-foot-3, 273 pounds. (Advantage: BYU +43.8 pounds per man.) BYU's defensive line weighs in at 6-foot-2, 271.3 pounds TCU's offensive line averages 6-foot-4, 284 pounds. (Advantage: TCU +12.7 pounds per man.)
LET CONFERENCE PLAY BEGIN
BYU will be entering MWC play for good The Cougars, who enjoyed two blowout victories and suffered two narrow defeats in pre-MWC play, finished their non-conference schedule with the victory over Utah State. BYU's eight remaining games are against MWC opponents. BYU last had a similar set up--finishing its non-conference schedule before playing out its MWC schedule--in 2004.
BYU's new look (3-4) defense held Arizona to just 253 total yards including 186 passing and 67 rushing yards.
In week two, the Cougars held Tulsa to just 303 total yards. The 303 yards is 99 fewer than Tulsa averaged in 2005 and the fewest yards Tulsa picked up since Nov. 27, 2004 when Tulsa had 284 total yards. BYU only surrendered 182 passing yards to seasoned starter Paul Smith.
Against Boston College, the Cougars had a solid defensive effort. With the exception of a 79-yard pass play, the defense yielded only 16 yards in the first quarter. The BYU "D" also had several takeaways, including one in the final minute of the game to give the Cougars the last shot to win the game in regulation.
Against Utah State, BYU's defense recorded its first shutout since 1999 when the Cougars beat UNLV 29-0. BYU's defense surrendered only 122 passing yards which is the fewest the Cougars have given up since 2003.
John Beck did not play against Utah State. Last week, Beck moved into fifth place on BYU's all-time passing list with 8,101 career yards, passing the likes of Steve Young (7,733) and Kevin Feterik (8,065). Having racked up 8,113 total yards over his career, Beck moved into fourth place on the Cougars' all-time total offense list, passing Kevin Feterik (7,731), John Walsh (7,736), and Robbie Bosco (8,073). With 52 touchdown completions, Beck now ranks 10th on BYU's all-time touchdown completions list. Saturday's performance marked his first 300-yard passing performance of the season and the 12th of his career.
GOOD GRIEF, CURTIS BROWN
With his 59-yard rushing performance against Utah State, Curtis Brown stayed in sixth place on BYU's all-time rushing list. Brown has 2,467 career yards and needs just 504 yards to pass Jamal Willis as BYU's all-time top rusher.
VARIETY OF RECEIVERS
All totaled, 11 different receivers have at least one reception for the Cougars this season. Curtis Brown leads all receivers in receptions (24) and yards (258).
CAN'T MOVE THESE GUYS...OFF THE FIELD
BYU's Jake Kuresa and Dallas Reynolds have started or played significantly in every game that they have dressed in their respective careers. Kuresa, a senior, is playing right guard this year. He has started in 38 of 39 games but has played in all 38 games. Reynolds, who plays right tackle, is in his sophomore season and has started 15 consecutive contests.
Left tackle Eddie Keele had played in every game the last three years. Keele, who played left tackle started 15 consecutive games and saw action in all but two games in his collegiate career (36 of 38 total games). Keele's streak came to a premature end when he tore his ACL against Boston College.
WHERE THEY RANK NATIONALLY
Several BYU players rank nationally in various statistical categories:
Passing Efficiency: 24th (150.1)
Total Offense: 3rd (310.3 yards per game)
Completions: 4th (27.33 per game)
Total Passing Yards: 15th (965)
Passing Yards per Game: 3rd (321.67)
Completion Percentage: 4th (70.09)
Rushing: 84th (64.00 yards per game)
Receptions: 19th (6.00 receptions per game) -- 1st amongst running backs nationally in this category.
Receiving Yards per Game: 60th (64.50)
All-purpose yards: 21st (133.25)
Punt Returns: 20th (13.00 yards per return)
Sacks: 36th (tied) (.75 per game)
Field Goals: 14th (1.50 per game)
Scoring: 37th (8.75 points per game)
Scoring: 17th (9 points per game)
In the first four games of the 2006 season, BYU has allowed just 70 points. With an average of 17.5 points per game, the Cougars currently ranked tied for 38th in the country in scoring defense. Interestingly, the defense is off to its best start through BYU's first three games since the 2003 season. BYU's current average is the lowest scoring defense mark over the first three games of a season since allowing just 12.75 points per game back in 2003.
TOUCHDOWNS: TAKE YOUR PICK
In the first three games of the 2006 season, BYU has scored 15 touchdowns (one against Arizona, seven against Tulsa, two against Boston College and five against Utah State). All totaled, 10 different Cougars have found their way to the end zone for the eight touchdowns with only Fui Vakapuna scoring multiple touchdowns (six). In addition to Vakapuna, each of the following players have scored one touchdown in the early season: Daniel Coats, Manase Tonga, Matt Allen, Curtis Brown, Zac Collie, John Beck, Harvey Unga, Justin Robinson and Jonny Harline.
John Beck - MWC Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 16 vs. Boston College) Beck completed 38-of-59 passes for a season-high 436 yards in BYU's double overtime 30-23 loss at Boston College. He also threw one touchdown pass and added a rushing touchdown in the game. Beck's passing yardage is his highest output since posting a Mountain West record 517 yards against TCU last season.
Curtis Brown has been all over the field for BYU in their four games. In addition to leading the team in rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards, he has returned kickoffs for the Cougars. Brown currently leads all running backs nationally in receptions with six per game.
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
Don't expect a repeat of last season's 51-50 shootout when BYU and TCU take the field this year. The Cougars and the Horned Frogs field scoring defenses that are in the top 40 nationally. TCU ranks sixth in the nation, giving up only 7.7 points per game while BYU ranks 38th, surrendering only 17.5 points per contest. The most intriguing match up of the game could be the TCU defense against the BYU offense. The Cougars, led by quarterback John Beck who torched TCU for a career-best 517 last season, are 31st in the nation in scoring offense averaging 30.75 points per game. BYU's offense also ranks 13th in total offense (442 yards per game) and fourth nationally in passing offense (317.5 yards per game).
TCU is currently enjoying the nations longest winning streak, having won 13 consecutive games. The Horned Frogs' streak was extended to two games last year when they escaped Provo with a 51-50 overtime victory. Since joining the Mountain West Conference, TCU has not lost a league game, going a perfect 8-0 last season. The Cougars will try to break TCU's winning streaks as well as break their own losing streak against top-25 teams. Interestingly, BYU's last victory over a ranked opponent was also against a MWC opponent in 1999, the MWC's inaugural season. The Cougars beat No. 24 Colorado State, 34-13, at home.
TEXANS GOING HOME
TCU is BYU's longest MWC road trip of the season. Provo is 1,359 from Fort Worth. It will be the Cougars second longest road trip of the year (Boston College). BYU's roster features six players from the state of Texas:
Corby Hodgkiss DB: Irving
Dustin Gabriel DB: Allen
Ray Hudson RB: Wharton
McKay Jacobson WR: Southlake
David Nixon LB: College Station
Michael Reed WR: Baytown
Of the six BYU players from Texas, four have started games this season for the
Cougars: Gabriel, Jacobson, Nixon, Reed.
TCU has no players on its current roster from Utah and just 16 players that hail from outside of Texas.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN BLOCKING
Russell Tialavea has blocked a field goal in each of BYU's previous two games. Tialavea extended the game in overtime against Boston College when he busted through the line and blocked the Eagles game-winning field goal attempt. Against Utah State, Tialavea was a critical factor in BYU's first shutout since 1999 as he again broke through the line to block an Aggies field goal.