Undefeated Falcons Up Next for Cougars

PROVO -- Following the Cougars' largest come-from-behind victory in school history, a 35-34 win at Utah State on Friday, BYU (3-2) will travel to 19th ranked Air Force (5-0) on Saturday, Oct. 12. While the Falcons are already 2-0 in league play, Saturday's game will mark the first MWC game for the Cougars this season. BYU will be playing its fourth straight road game, while Air Force will be hosting its fourth game of the season. Game time is slated for 8 p.m. (MDT) and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

PRACTICE SCHEDULE/TRAVEL INFORMATION

The Cougars will travel to Colorado Springs via SportsJet, departing Provo on Friday, Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. (MDT), and arriving in Colorado Springs at 3:10 p.m. (MST). While in Colorado Springs, the team will stay at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. BYU will return to Provo via SportsJet immediately following the game.

BROADCAST PLANS

Saturday's game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on ESPN2, beginning at 8 p.m. (MDT). Jeff Hullinger will call the action, with former Cougars standout, Todd Christensen, lending color analysis. Stacy Paetz will report from the sidelines. 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.

MWC OPENERS

The Cougars have posted a 2-1 record in league-openers since joining the Mountain West Conference in 1999. Entering the 2002 season, the Cougars were tied with Air Force, New Mexico, Utah and San Diego State with a 2-1 record in league-openers. The Falcons won their 2002 league-opener, defeating New Mexico, 38-31, in Colorado Springs. Ironically, the Cougars' only league-opening loss came at the hands of the Falcons during the 2000 season in Colorado Springs. In its third straight road game, including back-to-back trips to the East Coast, Air Force took advantage of a worn down BYU squad, edging the Cougars, 31-23.

BYU vs. AIR FORCE

Saturday's game at Air Force will mark the 23rd meeting between the two schools, dating back to the first meeting during the 1956 season. The Cougars own an 18-4 record against the Falcons, including a mark of 9-1 in Provo and a record of 8-2 in Colorado Springs. (BYU is 1-1 against Air Force when playing at a neutral site.) While BYU has won 14 of the last 17 meetings, including two of the last three, Air Force has won three of the last five games between the two schools. Including a 31-23 win in Colorado Springs during the 2000 season, the Falcons have won three straight games away from Provo, including two straight in Colorado Springs, and one game in Las Vegas (at the 1998 WAC Championship game). Last season, the Cougars upended the Falcons in Provo, posting a 63-33 victory over the Academy. Entering the 1995 contest in Colorado Springs, the Cougars had never lost to the Falcons at Falcon Stadium. However, with a 38-12 Air Force victory that season, that all changed. Including the 1995 loss at Falcon Stadium, the Cougars are 0-2 in Colorado Springs. Over the years, BYU has averaged 32.2 points per game at Falcon Stadium, while limiting Air Force to just 20.1 points per contest. However, entering Saturday's game, the Falcons are averaging a league-leading 38.2 points per contest, while BYU is averaging 31.8 points per game. Since 1994, following a BYU victory, Air Force has come back to win the next game, averaging a 34.5-17.5 margin of victory.

A LOOK BACK (BYU 63, AFA 33)

In the 2001 meeting between BYU and Air Force, senior tight end Doug Jolley led the Cougars to a 63-33 victory over the Falcons. Entering the game with only eight receptions for 117 yards, Jolley, a fifth-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, registered 10 receptions for a MWC-record 177 yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars didn't take long to seize control of the game. BYU scored on its first possession, an 18-yard strike to Jolley. On the ensuing kickoff, Aaron Edmonds recovered his own on-side kick and the Cougars drove the ball down the field, scoring on a two-yard Luke Staley run. BYU continued to dominate the Falcons in the first half, taking a 42-13 lead into the locker room. BYU pushed the lead to 63-13 after three quarters, scoring 21 points in each of the first three quarters. Senior quarterback Brandon Doman earned an early third-quarter rest after posting 338 yards passing on 20-of-32 attempts, including four touchdown completions. Staley rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and was also given a rest after just two offensive series in the second half.

NEXT WEEK

Marking the first game in Provo since Sept. 6, BYU will return to the friendly confines of Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 19, beginning at 5 p.m. (MT). The game will be produced by SportsWest and will be broadcast locally on KSL, Ch. 5.

GOOD GRIEF, CURTIS BROWN

In his first career start (at Utah State), true freshman Curtis Brown ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns, helping BYU record its largest come-from-behind victory in school history. Fueled by Brown's performance, the Cougars erased a 27-point halftime deficit to beat Utah State, 35-34, on Friday in Logan. Brown, who averaged 6.6 yards on 33 carries, also added 49 yards on 4 receptions and was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week. Brown became the sixth back in BYU history to rush for over 200 yards in a single game, and his performance ranks fourth on the school's single-game rushing list. Brown is the second BYU player to have earned MWC Player-of-the-Week honors this season. Quarterback Bret Engemann was named the Offensive Player of the Week after leading BYU to a 42-21 victory over Syracuse in the opening game of the season.

NOT SO FAST

Through five games this season, the Cougars have scored just seven points in the first quarter of play. In fact, BYU has been outscored 30-7 during first-quarter action. The Cougars have not scored in the first quarter since recording a 6-yard touchdown pass from Bret Engemann to Andrew Ord with 8:14 remaining in the first quarter against Syracuse. Since the Syracuse game, the Cougars have had 16 first-quarter possessions, and have crossed midfield only six different times. BYU's average field possession during the first quarter of play this season has been its own 46 yard line. In the past four games, the Cougars have been unable to enter their opponent's Red Zone.

COUGARS OVERCOME 27-POINT HALFTIME DEFICIT

After trailing by as many as 27 points at Utah State on Friday, Oct. 4, BYU mounted a 28-point second half to produce the largest come-from-behind win in school history. Led by true freshman Curtis Brown's 217 yards rushing and Bret Engemann's 294 yards passing, BYU pulled off a 35-34 win over Utah State in front of a sold-out crowd in Logan. In his first career start, Brown reeled off 217 yards on 33 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Brown tallied a career high three touchdown runs, including a 32-yard touchdown run with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter to pull the Cougars to within 13 points. He also added 49 yards on four receptions, including a career-best 45-yard reception in the second quarter. By the end of the first half, the Cougars were trailing 24-7, and with only four seconds remaining in the half, Utah State's Jerome Dennis intercepted an Engemann pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. Everything changed for the Cougars in the second half as the offense found its rhythm, and the defense shut down the Aggie offense, marking the second second-half shutout for the Cougars this season. Reno Mahe made a strong showing, recording his fourth career 100-yard receiving game. Mahe caught five receptions for 102 yards and rushed four times for 30 yards against the Aggies. BYU took the opening drive of the second half 70 yards, scoring on Brown's one-yard run. Four minutes later, Brown scored again on a 32-yard run, cutting the USU lead to 34-21. After a Utah State drive that took over five minutes off the clock, the Cougars got the ball back and marched 70 yards for their third straight touchdown. The game-winning catch came with 6:46 left in the game when Engemann found tight end Gabe Reid in the end zone on an 18-yard pass, capping the 7 play, 82-yard game-winning drive.

TWO GAME SKID COMES TO AN END

Entering Friday's game at Utah State, the Cougars had lost two straight games, marking the first time since the 2000 season BYU had lost two straight games during the same regular season. The win at Utah State prevented a third straight loss. 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.

BYE-WEEK SUCCESS

Since 1922, the Cougars have posted a 34-25-2 (.574) record following an off week, including a 35-34 win at Utah State on Friday, Oct. 4. The Cougars have posted a mark of 18-6 since the 1984 season following a bye week. BYU is now 3-0 following a bye week during the Crowton era.

NATIONAL RANKING SHORT LIVED

Following the Cougars' 35-32 victory over Hawaii on Sept. 6, BYU climbed from among the unranked to No. 24 in the Sept. 8th USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll. After a 31-28 loss at Nevada, the Cougars fell from the top-25. BYU has been ranked in the top-20 or top-25 polls in 23 of the last 27 seasons. The only years in which BYU has never been ranked during the season (since 1976) were 1978, 1987, 1998 and 2000. Last season BYU broke into the top-25 on Sept. 9, following a 44-16 win at Cal. The Cougars climbed as high as No. 7 in the USA Today/Coaches' Poll and No. 8 in the AP Top-25 poll. The Falcons represent the first ranked team BYU has faced this season, and the first game against a ranked opponent since taking on No. 22 Louisville on Dec. 31 in the 2001 Liberty Bowl.

FOURTH AND GO FOR IT

Including eight fourth-down attempts at Utah State, BYU is 12-of-22 (.545) on fourth-down attempts this season, including a four-for-eight (.500) effort at Utah State. Fourth-down conversions led to 14 of the Cougars' 35 points against Utah State.

SEEING YELLOW

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, BYU was flagged for a season low seven times for only 31 yards. Against Utah State, the Cougars were penalized 10 times for 71 yards, marking the fourth game this season BYU has had 10 or more penalties. On the season, BYU is averaging 10.8 penalties for an average 85.4 yards per game.

ROAD WOES

After losing four straight road games, dating back to the Cougars' loss at Hawaii last season, BYU defeated Utah State in Logan on Friday to record its first road win since upending Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., on Dec. 1, 2001. Saturday's game will mark the fourth straight road game for the Cougars this season. Following Saturday's game in Colorado Springs, BYU will finally return to the friendly confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium to take on UNLV on Saturday Oct. 19. The UNLV game will be the first game at in Provo since playing back on Sept. 6. Following the Oct. 19th game against UNLV, the Cougars will take to the road yet again, traveling to Colorado State. Over a span of the first seven weeks of the season, BYU will have played just one home game. The Cougars are 7-3 (.700) on the road under head coach Gary Crowton.

THE STREAK IS STILL ALIVE ... 343 GAMES AND COUNTING

With Curtis Brown's two-yard run in the second quarter (at Utah State), BYU extended its NCAA record streak to 343 games without being shutout. BYU was last shutout during the 1975 season (Sept. 27, 1975 vs. Arizona State.) The Cougars don't have a single person on their 2002 roster that was alive the last time BYU was shut out.

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. Whalen did not play against Utah State. On the season, Whalen ranks second in the MWC 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 eclipse the 1,100 yard mark 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.

INJURY REPORT

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 Saturday's game. Sophomore running back 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 three weeks and will be evaluated by team trainers this week. His status has yet to be determined. After missing the Utah State game with a pulled hamstring, receiver Andrew Ord has been listed as probable against Air Force. Cornerback Jernaro Gilford (knee) has also been listed as probable for the Air Force game.

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. At Utah State, Payne had three punts for 136 yards, averaging 45.3 yards per punt, including a 51 yarder. Currently, Payne leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks second in the nation with a 47.2 per-game average. Payne leads the nation in net punting, averaging 43.1 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 18-of-21 (.857) 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. At Utah State, the trend continued with scoring drives of 82, 80, 70 (twice) and 53 yards. 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 and eight different 80-yard drives.

ROSTER BREAKDOWN

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 fivegames, Poppinga is averaging 1.00 sack per game. He also leads the Mountain West with 11 tackles for a combined loss of 48 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 1.8 sacks per game. Offensively, BYU has allowed 10 sacks through the first five 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. Against Utah State, Engemann engineered a 28-point come-from-behind victory, throwing for 294 yards on 26-of-43 (.605) attempts. In the first half, Engemann was 10-of-21 for 106 yards. In the second half, Engemann and the Cougars rallied to score 28 unanswered points, upending the Aggies, 35-34. In the second half, Engemann was 16-of-22 (.727) and completed his only touchdown pass of the night -- the 18-yard, game-winning pass to tight end Gabe Reid. On the season, Engemann has produced 1,078 yards on 99-of-177 (.559) attempts. He has completed six touchdown passes, and has given up five 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. Against Utah State, Nead played a major roll in the come-from-behind victory, recording a team-leading 6 receptions for 47 yards. On the season, Nead ranks second on the BYU roster with 18 receptions for 201 yards, averaging 40.2 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.

THIRD-DOWN WOES

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. At Utah State, BYU again struggled on third-down, converting just 9-of-19 (.474) attempts. On the season, the Cougars are 35-of-88 (.400) on third-down conversions. Over the past three games, BYU has converted just 17-of-50 (.340) third-down attempts.

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