"Real" Season Finally Begins for BYU Saturday

BYU's brutal preseason is over and players and coaches alike say their "real" season – Mountain West Conference race – begins Saturday at Colorado State.

"It's over. What happened against Boise State is over and we're moving on," says cornerback Nathan Soelberg.

It's important for a cornerback to have a short football memory and that attribute is not lost on Soelberg. "I forgot about the Boise game on the plane ride home. I just concentrated on what we needed to do against Colorado State. You have to do that or you'll go nuts. I just have to put it behind me and move on. We feel great going up against Colorado State," he said.

After the Boise State game, the Cougars arrived home around 4 a.m. and had to report by 10:30 that morning to lift weights.

Says wide receiver Jason Kukahiko, "I got basically no sleep, but you expect to get up following a loss and join your team. We're a team and we're a family. Getting up to work out again is expected and a good thing."

Kukahiko admitted frustration after the tough Boise State loss, but like Soelberg and other teammates, he's put the loss behind him, "Saturday morning you still have the wounds. You don't feel very good and it sort of sucks. It's sort of the same thing Sunday, but as soon as we came out as a team on Monday, it was behind us and we knew we had to move on."

BYU coach Gary Crowton, told reporters that "I don't feel like there is any hangover from the Boise State game. I feel there might have been some hangover from the Stanford game, but not against Boise State. The team is looking forward and preparing well for Colorado State."

Also hanging over the Cougars' heads are consecutive blowout losses against Colorado State. Crowton said, "I want to forget last year's game with them and move forward. Coach Lubick has been there a long time. Their program is very established and when a program is established like that, personnel turnover isn't as tough as when you're trying to get it established. Colorado State does a good job of reloading every year, he said."

One person who is particularly passionate about this game is senior BYU defensive end John Denney.

"I'm from Colorado, so I always want to do well against CSU. They're also a top team in the conference and we have to do well after being embarrassed by them for the last two years. We really want to come out well and play them well this year," he said, adding "this is a huge game for us and I know we'll be ready. Any loss is hard to take, but what you have to do is learn from it. We know what we did right and what we did wrong. We just have to move on and learn from it. You have to just turn off what happened in the past and look to the future and learn from our mistakes. We have a clean slate going into conference play and I think we have a real good chance to run the table in conference."

Denney also noted that although the defense has had its moments, they are missing something and definitely want to score in the near future, "We want to see some defensive scores. We haven't done that yet. We've made some turnovers, but we want to score with those turnovers. We're an aggressive defense and I think we need to see some defensive scores."

Running back Bryce Mahuika added, "I think we're taking the Boise game as motivation; knowing that we played a great game, but came up short against a great team. If we continue to play like that, good things will happen. This game is huge against Colorado State. We can't afford to lose anymore games."

Crowton wrapped up their comments succinctly: "We're 0-0 in conference right now and we're starting a new season right now."

One aspect of BYU's attack that is completely out of the bag are the matchup problems wide receiver Todd Watkins creates with his speed and size downfield. Crowton said CSU is very aware of Watkins and will do a variety of things to counteract the damage Watkins can inflict.

"Their two corners are sophomores and they both have decent size. They play a lot of zone. If they want to double up on Todd (Watkins), then they'll cover him over the top in zone coverage. If they want to man-up on you, then they'll come after you and be more aggressive. They play a variety of different things. They have a lot of options. I don't think they'll get too far out of their scheme. They have a lot of options on how to double-up outside and I'm sure we'll see that."

Colorado State and other teams will try to jam Watkins at the line of scrimmage, hoping to disrupt the timing of the play and his ability to get downfield, but Crowton said "Todd can escape at the line of scrimmage; that's something he's really good at. He can outrun safeties when they double over the top as well. If they double Todd, that means they'll have single coverage on someone else."

Crowton also emphasized the need for other players to step up. "We need our tight ends to step up and look to them more. I feel that we have very good tight ends, so that shouldn't be a problem."

He also pointed out other players who stepped up in the second half against Boise State when they doubled Watkins more. "Austin (Collie) didn't have any catches in the first half, but he finished the second half with 5 catches for 95 yards."

One aspect Crowton is keeping his fingers crossed on is the team's health. "The biggest thing I wanted to do is to stay healthy through those first few games. That was my biggest concern. We're going into this game a little nicked up, but we haven't lost anybody."

Denney summarized the team's confidence factor. "We feel great. We've put what has happened thus far behind us. We've learned from it and I expect us to finish strong this season. I feel that we're more confident going into conference play than we've been during the last couple of years … and we expect to win the conference."

This bunch of Cougars may have lost a tough game at Boise State, but they have lost none of their swagger that has kept their spirits and confidence facing what is currently the country's No. 1 SOS (strength of schedule) rating.

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