BYU's UNLV Self-Destruction Mind-Numbing

<b>BYU 20, UNLV 24.</b> <br> Every loss is painful. This one was particularly stunning, mind-numbing and incomprehensible; not merely by reason of the loss itself, but in the manner in which BYU self-destructed.

Seven times the Cougars put the football on the ground, although one was nullified by penalty – and four times they lost it. Quarterback John Beck added to the misery by throwing an interception.

Not wanting to be left out, kicker Matt Payne, once thought to be as sure as death and taxes, missed a easy chip shot for the second time this year – a 27-yard attempt in the first quarter which would have put the BYU in position to win it at the end with an easy field goal.

Instead, with first and goal at the 10 and seconds remaining and no timeouts, the Cougars couldn't afford to run the ball. Three passes fell incomplete and the game was over. Payne, virtually deified just three weeks ago by savants in the Salt Lake press as the best player on the team, has since assiduously put the lie to his benefactors' wisdom by muffing kicks that would have led to a 4-2 record instead of 2-4, attempts that a competent high school kicker should be able to convert.

Rarely has a team more thoroughly beaten itself than the Cougars' did on Friday.

* First downs? 26 - 15, favoring BYU.
* Total offense? 449 - 259, favoring BYU.
* Time of possession: 32:12 - 27:48, favoring BYU.

On the heels of impressive and respectable performances against Boise State and Colorado State, the Cougars took a giant step in the wrong direction. Even their staunchest supporters are now asking whether BYU can turn it around. With every remaining game, the season seems to be on the line.

One question was put to rest Friday night. There are no "gimmes" on the Cougars' schedule. BYU will see to that.

Next up: Oct. 16, vs. Wyoming.

Could the Cowboys possibly be for real? A 4-1 record would seem to so indicate, but cursory glances can be misleading. The Aztecs don't provide much of a litmus test, moreover, especially when they take a page from BYU's playbook.

San Diego State had 20 first downs to Wyoming's 14 and out-gained the Cowboys 363 to 264, but committed three turnovers to none for the hosts. Have we ever mentioned that you can win a lot of games by not beating yourself? Just ask the Cougars. Wyoming has had a weak schedule, including I-AA Appalachian State and Louisiana-Monroe, but doesn't mean it's a bad team. It does mean that we just don't know yet, and given BYU's erratic act, next week might not prove anything, either.

Next up: Wyoming, Oct. 16 at BYU; San Diego State, Oct. 16 at Colorado State.

The Falcon's punt team put on a display that is rarely equaled. Donny Heaton had two punts blocked, and of the six he did manage to get away four were shanked for less that 20 yards each. In all, Heaton's six punts traveled just 156 yards, an average of just 26 yards. The two teams combined for only thirty first downs and 13 pass completions. Air Force didn't wrap it up until converting and third and one with less than three minutes left. DonTrell Moore was back from strained knee ligaments, but barely managed 100 yards.

Next up: Air Force, Oct. 23 vs. BYU; New Mexico, Oct. 16 at UNLV.

Colorado State did not play. Next up: Oct. 16 at San Diego State.

Utah did not play. Next up: Oct. 16 vs. North Carolina. (The Tar Heels beat arch-rival No. 25 North Carolina State 30-24, despite gaining only 14 first downs to 31, and 334 yards of total offense to 587.

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