Cougars Focused on MWC Dog Fight with Air Force

BYU's shutdown cornerback <b>Jernaro Gilford</b> reflected briefly on last weekend's loss to Stanford before giving insights of this weekend's game against Air Force.

Against Stanford, Gilford recorded three tackles, one interception and had two pass deflections leading a Cougar defense that held freshman Cardinal quarterback Trent Edwards to 25 yards passing, the lowest in Stanford school history.

"Me personally, I like it because I know the balls coming, so I like it," said Gilford. "I live for stuff like that. That's what I play for. I mean, that can be the fun part for me."

Stanford threw three passes Gilford's way and he had the chance to intercept all of them. However, a rubber cast on his hand made it difficult to hang on to the other two and he deflected them instead.

"We've played a couple of great receivers this year. We played USC receivers and we've defended against some of the best receivers in the country," said Gilford. "That is what I like about our defense. Regardless of whom we play, I'll be on the receiver man-to-man, reading our keys and coming up and making tackles."

With teammate Brandon Heaney out for the year because of injury, Gilford said he is impressed with back up corner Chad Barney.

"Chad has stepped up. I mean, he's a great player. The whole defense, in general, has made a statement including myself, Chad, linebackers and everybody. But other than that, he's (Barney) stepped in and played man-on-man coverage and has made a lot of tackles. He's playing great right now."

Heading into the thick of its MWC schedule with five consecutive Conference games, Gilford was asked if the team's mentality after a tough Stanford loss would have a negative residual affect heading into the Air Force game.

"Not really," said Gilford. "I mean it was non-conference. This week is a conference game. We are 1-0 in conference and they're 1-0 in conference. To do anything during the season to be successful, you have to win your conference. We're both 1-0 and this is our second game in conference, so it should be a good game."

BYU's defense is looking forward to this game with a not-so-fond memory of last season's pummeling they took at the hands of Air Force.

"I wasn't there (injured), but even watching it on TV made me feel bad. You know just the way they were scoring and talking, but we are practicing hard this week so we'll be ready for them. I hope they do come over here ready to play because it's going to be a good game."

Defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall is getting his young charges prepared for Air Force's vaunted option attack.

"We'll be ready for it," says Gilford. "It's going to be a big challenge, but we'll be ready."

How are the Cougars getting ready for the shiftiness, confusion and misdirection they expect from Air Force's excellent quarterback and speedy running backs? "Avoid all the cut blocks and cut backs and make the tackle. You have to be sure that you make tackles. You can't let anything slip away," Gilford added.

The base package of Mendenhall's 3-3-5 defense will be tested against Air Force. With Stanford held to just 144 yards on 44 carries, the Cougars revamped and 12th ranked defense will be tested for the first the option against this year.

"Pretty much, we're not going to change for nobody," said Gilford. "We're going to make everyone else change for us until they figure us out."

Despite their rising rankings nationally as a top flight defense against great competition, Gilford noted, "We're not even proud of it yet just because of the mistakes that we've made so far. We still have a lot to improve on.

"I don't know if the improvements will come this week or next week, but it will come sometime this season. When it does, it's going to be a good thing," continued Gilford. "We just have to cut back on the mistakes that we're making. Sure enough, we have been playing good, but we've made a lot of mistakes.

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