Cougars to Battle Rebels
PROVO -- Following a victory over Colorado State in its first conference game, BYU (2-3, 1-0) looks to stay unbeaten in Mountain West Conference play when UNLV travels to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday. UNLV is coming off of a 48-13 victory over in-state rival Nevada for its first win of the season. Last season the two teams played an overtime thriller. UNLV and BYU dueled to a 20-20 tie at the end of regulation. The Cougars scored a touchdown on their first possession of overtime and intercepted a desperation Kurt Nantkes pass on fourth down to preserve the narrow victory. BYU coach Gary Crowton holds a 2-1 record against the Rebels.
The series between BYU and UNLV dates back to Dec. 2, 1978, when the two teams traveled to Yokohama, Japan for the Yokohama Bowl. The Cougars won the inaugural game 28-24. The Rebels and Cougars faced off four times between 1978 and 1982, with the Cougars winning three of the four games, but didn't meet again until UNLV joined the expanded WAC in 1996. From 1996 to 2001, the Cougars went 5-0 against the Rebels. BYU has won every game it has played against the Rebels in Las Vegas but holds only a 3-2 advantage against UNLV in Provo. The Rebels won the last meeting in Provo, 24-3, on Oct. 19, 2002.
SETTING THE GAME
KICKOFF: 8 p.m. (MST)
SITE: LaVell Edwards Stadium (64,-45)
TELEVISION (National): ESPN2; Dave Pasch, Rodney Gilmore, Trevor Matich and Rob Stone
LAST 10 GAMES: BYU leads 8-2
LAST FIVE: BYU leads 4-1
RADIO (Local): KSL-Radio; 1160 AM (Greg Wrubell, Marc Lyons, Bill Riley)
INTERNET WEBCAST: http://www.byucougars.com/football
THE SERIES: BYU leads 9-2
IN PROVO: BYU leads 3-2
LAST MEETING: Oct. 25, 2003 (BYU, 27-20 OT)
LAST MEETING IN PROVO: Oct. 19, 2002 (UNLV, 24-3)
VIVA LAS VEGAS
Despite Utah's proximity to Nevada, there is only one member of the Cougars' roster that hails from the state of Nevada. Fullback Moa Peaua calls Reno home and prepped at McQueen High School, where as a senior he helped lead his team to an 11-0 record and a state championship. Following the season he was named the Gatorade MVP for the state of Nevada. Two members of BYU's team served LDS church missions in the city of sin. Linebacker Richard Nehiring served in Las Vegas from 2001-2003. Washington State transfer Aaron Wagner also served there from 2001-2003. Two Cougar coaches have ties to the Rebels. Tight ends coach Mike Empey also coached tight ends for the Rebels from 1997-98, and linebackers coach Barry Lamb served in that same capacity at UNLV from 1981-1986.
TALE OF THE TAPE
BYU's projected starting offensive line averages an enormous 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds. They will face a UNLV defensive line that averages 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds. When the Rebels have the ball, Cougar defensive linemen that average 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds will face a UNLV front five that are listed at 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds.
After five games, Todd Watkins is currently second in the MWC and ninth nationally in receiving yards per game, averaging 107.6 yards per contest. Through five games, Watkins has amassed 538 yards. Last year's leader, Toby Christensen, had only 547 yards in 12 games. Watkins has touchdown receptions of 69 and 79 yards and was referred to as possibly the nation's best "deep threat" by Sports Illustrated. Although he caught only four passes for 24 yards against Colorado State, his presence made it possible for Cougar running backs to rack up a season high 207 yards and three scores.
THE HOUSE OF PAYNE
Five games into the 2004 season Ray Guy award candidate Matt Payne has punted 33 times for 1,533 yards, including a 79-yarder against USC. He leads the MWC in punting and is third in the nation with a 46.45 yards-per-punt average. Payne also wreaks havoc on punt and kick coverage, recording two-highlight reel-quality hits on Boise State punt returner Chris Carr as well as on an unsuspecting kick returner for Colorado State. Payne also hasn't been a slouch when kicking field goals or extra points. The Lou Groza award candidate has scored a team-leading 32 points, including two field goals 52 yards or greater. He is a perfect 6-6 from 40-plus yards. Payne has hit all eleven of his extra points this season and seven of eight on field goals.
GOING DEEP PART II
Freshman wide receiver Austin Collie has caught 24 passes on the season for an average of 12.2 yards per catch and three touchdowns. His three touchdown receptions have all been 40 yards or greater with a long of 57 coming against Boise State.
BYU is currently seventh in the MWC and 80th in the nation in total offense, averaging 336.20 yards per game. Even after punishing the Colorado State defense with 207 yards rushing, the Cougars still rank next to last in the nation in rushing offense, averaging just 61.6 yards per game. BYU is one of the top passing teams in the nation, ranking third in the conference and 17th in the nation, amassing 274.6 yards per game. Against UNLV, the Cougars will face off against the MWC's fifth best defense. The Rebels rank third in the conference in pass defense (201 y.p.g.) and sixth against the run (181.4 y.p.g.).
The Cougars' defense ranks sixth in the conference and 83rd in the nation, yielding 404 yards per game. After facing Boise State and Colorado State, who both rank among the top-10 in the nation in passing offense, BYU is last in the MWC against the pass. The Cougars give up 293.4 yards per game through the air. BYU has faired a little better against the rush, ranking second in the conference and 33rd in the nation, giving up 110.6 yards per game on the ground. The Cougars will face off against a balanced Rebel offense that ranks sixth in the conference in passing offense (169.6), fourth in rushing offense (167.8) and sixth in total offense. They boast the conference's top rusher in Dominique Dorsey, who ranks 15th in the nation in rushing yards per game with an average of 112.4 yards per contest.