Gridders Set for Season-opener Against Notre Dame

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

COUGARS KICK OFF 2004 SEASON AGAINST NOTRE DAME

Looking to rebound from a 4-8 season, the Cougars will kickoff the 2004 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 4 against Notre Dame. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN, beginning at 7:15 p.m. The Fighting Irish own a 3-1 record in the series, dating back to the 1992 season. Notre Dame outlasted the Cougars last season in South bend, 33-13. This year's season-opener will mark only the second time the Irish have played in Provo. Notre Dame defeated BYU 45-20 in Provo during the 1993 season. The following season, the Cougars beat the Irish, 21-14, in South Bend. The Cougars will travel to South Bend next season to complete the two-for-one agreement.

SERIES INFORMATION: BYU VS. NOTRE DAME

Saturday's game will mark the fifth meeting between BYU and Notre Dame. The series began in 1992 when the Cougars traveled to South Bend to take on the Irish with Notre Dame pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 42-16 victory. The following year Notre Dame traveled to Provo. The Irish proved to be too strong on that day, racing out to a 31-0 lead before eventually winning 45-20. The Cougars ventured back to South Bend the following year and beat the Irish behind the running of Jamal Willis. Willis led the Cougars in rushing and receiving, scoring two touchdowns as BYU won 21-14. Last year the series was renewed, and the Irish, behind the running of Julius Jones, defeated the Cougars 33-14.

COMPLETE BROADCAST PLANS

TELEVISION: Saturday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on ESPN. The game will be broadcast beginning at 7:15 MDT. Dave Barnett will be calling the action with Bill Curry and David Norrie offering expert analysis and Alex Flanagan reporting from the sideline. The game will be rebroadcast on KBYU-TV at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 6 and at 5 p.m. and again at 10 p.m. on BYU-TV also on Sept. 6.

RADIO: Fans can tune into KSL Radio--the 50,000-watt home of the Cougars--and follow the action with the broadcast team of Greg Wrubell, Marc Lyons and Bill Riley. The game will also be available on Westwood One with Tony Roberts handling the play-by-play and Allen Pinkett offering color commentary.

INTERNET: A live webcast of the game, which includes play-by-play and up-to-the-minute statistics , can be viewed by logging on to: http://www.byucougars.com/football

In addition to the webcast, a live audio stream will be available on the following URLs:

http://ksl.com and http://www.byuradio.org

SEASON OPENERS

During the Gary Crowton era, the Cougars are 3-0 in season opening games. In fact, BYU has outscored its opponents by an average 24.3 points per game since the 2001 season-opener against Tulane. During his first year, Crowton led BYU to a 70-35 victory over the Green Wave, followed by a 42-21 victory over Syracuse in the 2002 season-opener. Last year, the Cougars outdistanced Georgia Tech, 24-13, to claim their third straight season-opening victory under Crowton.

HOLY WAR

Saturday's game between Notre Dame and BYU will be a battle between two of the most recognized religious universities in the United States. BYU is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the team includes 63 members who have served full-time, two-year church missions. Notre Dame is affiliated with the Catholic church. BYU and Notre Dame are the two of only three current Division I-A schools affiliated with religious organizations to win the National Championship in football. BYU won its only national championship in 1984. Notre Dame has won 11 National Championships, most recently in 1988 after the Irish finished 12-0 and defeated West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, 34-21. The other team is Texas Christian University, who won the national championship in 1938.

FOUR OF FIRST SIX GAMES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION

The Cougars will play in at least four nationally televised games during the 2004 season. BYU will open the season on Saturday, Sept. 4 against Notre Dame on ESPN, marking the 10th straight season the Cougars have opened the season playing on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. Two weeks later, the Cougars will host defending National Champion USC in a nationally broadcast game on ESPN, beginning at 8 p.m. (MT). The following week, BYU will travel to Boise State for a second straight nationally televised game on ESPN. On Oct. 8, the Cougars will host UNLV for a prime time, MWC match-up on ESPN2.

WATCH OUT FOR THESE GUYS

Four members of the 2004 BYU football team--Aaron Francisco, Brady Poppinga, Daniel Coats and Matt Payne--have been selected to various "watch lists" for post-season awards.

Aaron Francisco, 6-2, 215, Safety: Aaron Francisco has been selected to the Thorpe Award "watch list," which honors the nation's top defensive back. Francisco is a three-year starter, who led BYU in tackles and interceptions as a junior and was second in tackles as a sophomore. Last year he earned first-team All-MWC honors and was an honorable mention selection as a sophomore.

Brady Poppinga, 6-3, 257, Defensive End/Linebacker: Brady Poppinga has been selected to the Bronko Nagurski Award "watch list." The award honors the nation's top defensive player. Poppinga earned first-team All-MWC honors last season after ranking among the league leaders in tackles with 55 for the season, including 34 solo take downs and a team-leading six sacks.

Daniel Coats, 6-3, 250, Tight End: Daniel Coats has been named to the John Mackey Award "watch list." The John Mackey Award is given annually to the nation's top tight end. Last season as a freshman, Coats recorded 30 receptions for 378 yards and four touchdowns, while earning freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News.

Matt Payne, 6-4, 234, Punter/Kicker: Matt Payne has been selected to the Lou Groza Award "watch list" and is expected to be named to the Ray Guy Award "watch list." The Groza Award is given annually to the nation's best place kicker, while the Ray Guy Award is gven to the nation's best punter. Payne is a three-year starter as both a punter and kicker. As a sophomore in 2002, Payne was second in the nation in punting with a 47.6 yard-per-punt average, earning an honorable mention All-America nod. Last year, Payne was selected to both the Lou Groza and Ray Guy "watch lists."

A+, A SYMBOL OF EXCELLENCE

Throughout the 2004 season, the Cougars will wear an "A+" symbol on their helmets as a constant reminder of the team's quest for excellence in all areas, including sportsmanship. In addition, in an effort to remind all student athletes and fans, the "A+" symbol will be displayed prominently at all athletic venues. Specifically, the logo is to remind student athletes and fans to always be friendly, always be heard, always be considerate, always be safe and always be true blue.

LATE START FOR THE COUGARS

BYU is starting the season in September for the first time since 1999. The last season opener the Cougars played in September was a 35-28 victory over the University of Washington. The game was decided in the final minutes when Chris Hale, playing in his first collegiate game, caught a 38-yard pass from Kevin Feterik. BYU would add a two-point conversion to put it up by seven points with 1:16 left in the game. The Huskies made it interesting, driving to the Cougar 11-yard line before the Cougar defense stiffened.

OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?

The Cougars have four sets of brothers on the roster this year, wide receivers Austin and Zac Collie, junior college transfers Gary and Greg Lovely, defensive linemen Michael and Daniel Marquardt, and Quinn and David Gooch. The Collie's father, Scott, also played football at BYU from 1979 to 1982 and later for the Hamilton Tigercats of the CFL. The Gooches' father, Gary, also has ties to BYU. Gary Gooch suited up for the Cougar basketball team from 1958 to 1959. Later in the season Todd Watkins will meet up with his brother Travis, an offensive lineman at USC, on Sept. 18 when the Trojans travel to Provo to take on the Cougars.

1984 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM TO BE HONORED

Marking the 20th anniversary of the Cougars' 1984 National Championship the team will be this year's sole induction into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place Friday evening, Sept. 3, at the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. The team will be honored the next day at Lavell Edwards Stadium during the BYU-Notre Dame game in pre-game and halftime ceremonies. Only two other Cougar teams have been inducted into the Hall of Fame: the 1951 NIT Championship Basketball team and the 1966 NIT Championship Basketball team. Cosmo, the Cougarettes and the BYU Marching Band will each play a part in the game-day festivities. There will also be an informal golf tournament Friday afternoon where some of the players will play as celebrity guests. In addition to the celebration in the stadium, a lithograph has been commissioned in honor of the '84 team. 1,984 numbered lithographs will be available for purchase. The artwork will feature individually autographed pictures of the 24 starters, including Vai Sikahema and Lee Johnson, along with a team picture and a picture of coach LaVell Edwards.

Familiar players like Glen Kozlowski, Vai Sikahema, Lee Johnson, Mark Bellini and Kelly Smith put Provo on the map in the world of college football. All-Americans like Robbie Bosco, Kyle Morrell, David Mills, Leon White and Marv Allen helped make the team a threat on both sides of the ball. In total, 15 players from the 1984 squad were drafted by 12 different NFL teams. Now, these players--hopefully all 120 of them--will be returning to LaVell Edwards Stadium to be recognized by their alma mater on the 20th anniversary of their epic season. After a perfect 12-0 season, the Cougars went on to defeat Michigan in the Holiday Bowl at Jack Murphy Stadium. Robbie Bosco's heroic return from an early, second-quarter knee injury, along with a circus catch from Kelly Smith, was only part of the 13-game saga. Many fans remember the famous goal-line stand against Hawaii where Kyle Morrell soared over the offensive line to sack the Warrior quarterback and in the process kept their season unblemished.

RECORD WATCH

Matt Payne currently ranks fifth on BYU's all-time scoring list with 237 points. As a freshman, Payne was second on the team in scoring with 109 points. During his sophomore and junior campaigns he led the team in scoring. Last season he kicked a career-high 53-yard field goal against USC. With his first field goal, Payne will tie former Cougar running back Jamal Willis, and he only trails Kurt Gunther by six points. After that, Payne's climb will be a little steeper as he will need to score 47 more points to catch Luke Staley who is currently second on BYU's all-time scoring list. Safety Aaron Francisco currently has 242 career tackles. He trails former Cougar and current Indianapolis Colts linebacker Rob Morris by 103 tackles for ninth place on BYU's all-time career tackle list. B

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Of the 105 players who participated in fall camp, 35 are married. The 35 married players have a total of eight children. Included among the eight children are new additions to Manaia Brown's and Brady Poppinga's families. Brown's wife Tupusina gave birth to Manaia Vaega Vaifoa on Aug. 9, while Poppinga's wife Brooke gave birth to their new daughter, Jasmine Rene, on Aug. 12. There will be two more additions to the Cougar family later this fall. Defensive back Brett Cooper and his wife, Diana, are expecting their first child in October, while receiver Jason Kukahiko and his wife, Kristin, are expecting their first child in early September.

COUGARS FACE TOUGH SCHEDULE

BYU is scheduled to play the ninth toughest non conference schedule based on opponents' winning percentage last season. The Cougars non conference schedule includes Notre Dame, Stanford, co-National Champion and preseason No. 1 USC and Boise State who combined for a 34-16 record. The overall record of BYU's opponents including Mountain West Conference teams is 82-54 (.603). Five of the Cougars' 11 opponents went to a bowl game last year. The teams finished with a 3-2 bowl record, including USC's victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl that earned the Trojans a share of the National Title. Below is a list of the toughest non-conference schedules in Division I-A based on opponents' winning percentage:

Team Percentage

1. Oregon State .829

2. Iowa State* .789

3.Cincinnati .769

4. SMU .757

5. Arkansas State .755

6.Georgia Tech .730

7. Houston .718

8. Colorado .692

9. BYU .680

10. Arizona .679

 

*Schedule includes games against I-AA opponents

 

TALE OF THE TAPE

BYU's projected starting offensive line averages an enormous 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds. They will face a Notre Dame defensive line that averages 6-foot-4 and 271 pounds. When Notre Dame has the ball, Cougar defensive linemen that average 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds will face an Irish front five that are listed at 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds.

SWEET REVENGE

Since 1999, BYU holds a 6-1 record in payback games against non conference opponents. Last year the Cougars defeated Georgia Tech in their home opener 24-13 after losing to the Yellow Jackets 28-19 the previous year. This year BYU will have four payback opportunities on its non conference schedule. The Cougars will look to defeat Notre Dame, a 33-14 winner in South Bend; Stanford, an 18-14 winner in Provo; USC, a 35-13 winner in Los Angeles; and Boise State, a 50-12 winner in Provo.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Running backs coach Lance Reynolds is one of the few coaches in the country who have the opportunity to coach along side their sons at the collegiate level. Lance's son, Lance Jr., is the starting center for the Cougars this year. The younger Lance is a converted linebacker, who had to pack on about 40 pounds to play offensive line. The elder Reynolds is a former all-conference offensive lineman for the Cougars and is entering his 22nd year coaching at BYU. Lance Jr. is just the first in a long line of Reynolds boys that could play at BYU for their father. Lance's son Dallas signed a letter of intent in 2003 to play for BYU, but is currently serving an LDS church misison in Seattle, Wash.

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