BYU Learning How Good They Can Be

"I feel that if we execute like we should, we can play with anyone in the country." That statement today by BYU middle linebacker Mike Tanner articulates how most of the coaches, players and Cougar fans feel after their first loss of the season against USC last Saturday.

Every football team has to go through the process of self-discovery to find out how good they are. BYU took that very big step Saturday at USC and emerged very optimistic, but still lacking.

"We're gaining confidence, we just have to go out and play our own game," according to BYU head coach Gary Crowton. "I think we're playing some real good football. Defensively and offensively we're getting better, but we're inconsistent. Playing a defense as good as USC can make you inconsistent at times, but that's something we need to work on to get better."

Crowton pointed out a few instances when BYU was unable to capitalize on opportunities. "What we need to do better is when we're in field goal range and the quarterback gets a sack and puts us out of field goal range. That was tough for me, so I talked to Matt about that right after it happened and the next time, he didn't take a sack and we got a field goal out of it. So I saw a maturity in Matt right there and with how Matt manages the game."

He added that "Matt and the rest of the young guys need to manage the game better and just do it when they play without putting too much thought into it. If we can grow in how we manage ourselves during the game, then we'll be a real good football team. I saw some of that growth with the team during the game."

How tough was it to take the loss to USC? Tanner responded, "You can say all you want to say about how well you played and all that, but you lost. If you lose, you lose. We made some mistakes in which we could say ‘if we didn't do this or that, we win the ball game.' But we did do those things and made those mistakes, so we lost. If we're going to be a good football team, we have to correct those mistakes."

Tanner also had a positive spin on the game. "We watch film and can see that if we take away as few as even five plays in that game, then we win, so that's encouraging. We just need to eliminate those plays, but the fact is that we made those mistakes and that can't happen if we're to be a good football team."

The senior middle linebacker confided he did not sleep Saturday night following the game. "I just felt sick, I couldn't sleep or anything. I just want to win every football game so bad that it hurts – especially knowing that we were so close. I'm a senior, so I won't get another chance. As a senior, I need to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a position where we have to ask ourselves, ‘What if?'"

Crowton probably said it best: "On offense, we were a bit tentative because, I think, we came out not knowing how good we are. When you're unsure, then you don't play with confidence and that's why we dropped that pass on the opening drive and fumbled that kick.

"I'd rather be where you're so confident that you just go all out and maybe leave something behind, than be tentative. Once we do that, then we can be a good football team. I think that we're getting there and learned a lot about ourselves as a team against USC, but we can't be complacent with that. We have a tough New Mexico team coming and we have to be up for that game.

So how good is this BYU football team? Says Crowton, "I don't know, we beat a real good Georgia Tech team and we played well against a very good Southern Cal team, not all of the time, but we played really well at times. Once we put it all together, then I think we can be a real good football team."

Commenting on Matt Berry's consistently under throwing on the deep passes, Crowton said that Berry's ineffectiveness throwing it deep downfield is a mental problem, not physical.

"He just needs to have confidence in the protection, set and let that ball go without thinking about it – and he'll be fine. He's hurrying his motion too much on the deep routes, thinking the rush is coming faster than it is. He was just trying to get rid of the ball too fast."

MONDAY PRACTICE NOTES:

* Back up quarterback John Beck did not suit up for practice. He will be held out of next week's game. He will not practice until he goes seven days without showing lingering symptoms of the concussion he suffered at the tail end of the USC game.

* Defensive tackle Manaia Brown dressed in pads for the first time since the Georgia Tech game and participated in light drills.

* Running back Reynaldo Brathwaite is probable for next week's game with bruised ribs. Brathwaite still practiced today.

* Running back Marcus Whalen will practice on Wednesday. The final decision on whether Whalen will play will be determined after Thursday's practice.

* Running back Fahu Tahi will not serve his suspension against New Mexico. Crowton will select one subsequent game for his reason as a result of an off-season, non-football related incident.

* Former quarterback Lance Pendleton is still waiting to be declared academically eligible to play football and Crowton has decided to switch him from defensive back to wide receiver.

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