Cougars Avoid Another Self-Inflicted Loss

It had all the earmarks of another self-inflicted BYU loss. Flashes of brilliance intermixed with egregious miscues: three lost fumbles, two interceptions, a fumbled pitch, and a questionable intentional grounding penalty in a close game. A team which turns the ball over five times has no business coming away with a win, and generally doesn't.

This time, however, the outcome was different. The defense came up with big plays when it had to. The offense put together a long drive without needing any fourth down conversions to force overtime, then drove it into the end zone in the first extra session and shut down the Rebels on their possession.

Both teams badly needed a win, but the Rebels fall to 0-3 in conference play, and after starting the season 4-1, with a win over ranked Wisconsin, have now fallen to 4-4.

BYU has only the slimmest mathematical chance to win the conference title, but can still finish 7-5 and go bowling.

Matt Berry continues to recuperate from his hand injury, but is still not 100% and some of his throwing repertoire is still affected. He was visibly improved over last week, however, going 31 of 44 for 274 yards and two touchdowns, and scoring another on a quarterback sneak. One of his two interceptions was horrendous, but led to no points as the defense forced a short field goal attempt which was barely wide right.

In a change of pace, all the offensive plays were called by co-offensive coordinators Robbie Bosco with suggestions from Todd Bradford upstairs. Head coach Gary Crowton added his two-cents, but left the play-calling decisions to his coordinators.

Crowton, in post-game comments, said he had intended this season to get away from calling the plays, and started out that way, but resumed the duty after Berry went down in the New Mexico game. Berry's recovery, said Crowton, allowed him to resume the preseason plan and freed him to look at the bigger game management picture during the contest.

So, are the Cougars back? Hardly. The running game still needs major work. The option isn't much of an option if the quarterback isn't a threat to hurt you and Berry is not viewed by offenses as a credible option threat. He is too predictable and passes off the ball even before he makes any positive penetration. Moreover, Berry also needs learn to avoid the critical sack, but it's not all his fault. BYU's three freshmen guards are improving, but are still freshmen. Four sacks are still too many.

The bottom line, however, is a young team bouncing back and making noticeable improvement, overcoming major errors and mounting pressure to beat a competent foe on its home turf.

Next up for the Cougars, the Boise State Broncos visit Provo for a Thursday night ESPN game, after laying 77 points on San Jose State. BSU is ranked No. 27 in the coaches poll this week, and No. 30 in the writers poll.

New Mexico 47, Utah 35.

New Mexico, known for its defense, laid 47 points on Kyle Whittingham's Utah defense – and in Salt Lake City to boot. This was no fluke. Two Lobos rushed for more than 100 yards, the team rushed for over 400, and New Mexico tallied 633 yards overall. Meanwhile, their defense held the Utes to only 300 yards, nearly 100 below their average.

Utah's first visit to the national rankings in seven years lasted just six days. The Utes came into the game ranked No. 16 in the BCS standings (No. 23 USA Today/ESPN, No. 24 AP) and appeared to have spent the week reading their clippings and planning a trip to Memphis. Ironically, the last time the Utes were ranked they also tanked, getting blown out by Rice 51-10 in 1996 a week after breaking into the top 25.

This game, folks, was not even as close as the score indicated. New Mexico trailed 14-13 before scoring on five consecutive possessions to blow the game open 36-14. The Lobos needed just three plays to score two of those touchdowns to open the second half and Utah never recovered. New Mexico had five different plays gain 40 yards or more.

Furthermore, the Utes second touchdown was handed to them in the form of a Lobo fumble at their own 18 yard line.

It doesn't get any easier at Utah travels to Colorado Springs Saturday to meet a Falcon team that is suddenly tied for first again and has had two weeks to rest up and prepare for the Utes.

New Mexico now hosts UNLV, CSU and Air Force before closing the season on Nov. 22 in Laramie. Believe or not, if the Lobos win out they will be the regular season champions. Assuming they beat out CSU and Air Force will have at least two losses to the Lobos' one, and the Lobos win the tie-breaker over Utah by virtue of having already beaten the Utes.

SDSU 25, Wyoming 20.

The Aztecs never trailed, but did allow two late Cowboys touchdowns to make it closer than it needed to be. SDSU was up 25-6 with half the fourth quarter expired when Wyoming took the ball 72 yards in eight plays. A 56-yard drive brought the score to 25-20 with 3:39 remaining, but the Cowboys couldn't finish their comeback.

Colorado State and Air Force were idle. The Rams visit Wyoming Nov. 1. The Falcons host Utah in a contest which will eliminate one of the two from the title chase.

Four teams are now tied in the loss column and retain a realistic shot at the conference title: Utah, Air Force, CSU and New Mexico.

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