I have been a loyal and passionate fan of BYU athletics for many years – decades actually, though I am loath to admit it. My love of Cougar sports is strongly tied to a belief that within "big time" collegiate athletics BYU is different. I believed that BYU has the right perspective of how athletics fits into the bigger picture. Moreover, I believed that BYU athletics has a unique role in the future of collegiate athletics – that BYU will be an agent of change for the better.
This week though, for the first time, I fear for the future of BYU athletics … NOT because of Honor Code violations and NOT because of organizational changes in the athletic department. No, I fear for BYU athletics because I sense that supposedly loyal fans are losing our perspective of what BYU athletics is.
The invective, hyperbole and rumor-mongering that has existed this week on BYU internet sites is simply antithical to the philosophies of BYU. These activities damage the moral credibility of BYU sports and, thus, turn BYU into just another university with a football team.
If the only way for BYU to succeed in Div. 1 athletics is for it to become extreme in the pursuit of that success and abdicate the unique perspective that BYU has, then I speak for myself when I say, "Lose the football team, not our integrity."
That is not to say that we, as fans, should not debate or even criticize. Indeed, part of a healthy perspective about athletics is that is a cause for fun debate. But the conversations need to be focused on positive outcomes while maintaining the values we share.
Please excuse my soapbox moment as I return now to regularly scheduled programming ...
My optimism for the 2004 BYU football team is tempered this week after a disappointing loss to UNLV, but this team is not broken. Most, if not all, of the team goals are still obtainable with fewer margins for future error. How many times did a LaVell Edwards' coached team lose an early conference game, yet in the end were conference champions?
This happened more than a few times – and I think will again in 2004. BYU's offense is causing opponents to carefully consider their defensive strategies. The defense is as good as any in the league. Matt Payne continues to impress. It is time for all the pieces to come together against a confident, but not particularly talented, team from Wyoming.
10 REASONS WHY BYU BEATS WYOMING ...
1) Desperation: For a lot of reasons, this is a must win game for BYU. I think the team and staff will be focused and ready.
2) Curtis Brown: This guy continues to impress. He plays hard every play. I would love to start seeing him in a more featured role, something like what USC does with Reggie Bush. Line him up in the backfield, slot, motion, etc. He is averaging about 4.5 yards-per-carry for the season, and I think that will continue.
3) Return of the tight end: Crowton is building the offense layer-by-layer. He started with the long ball and has added the short crossing routes from the slot and the flares out of the backfield. Last week, we saw the tight end featured in some new additions, including the middle screen. It is tough to defend everything. Wyoming will have to pick their poison.
4) 1987: Wyoming has not won in Provo since 1987 and their current conference road losing streak is 15 games. Wyoming has played only one road game this year, at Texas A&M, where they were humiliated 31-0. This is not the week to expect those trends to end.
5) 252: Wyoming only had 252 yards total offense against San Diego State last week at home – 180 yards passing and 72 yards rushing. Against Texas A&M, Wyoming only had 181 yards in total offense. Last year, BYU defense only gave up two field goals against a better Wyoming offense than what they will face this year. Wyoming will have trouble moving the ball on Saturday night – and won't enjoy the short field position they did against SDSU.
6) 13-10: Last year's game in Laramie must still be a sore memory for many on the BYU offense. Wyoming's only touchdown last year was on an interception return. If not for another late BYU interception inside the Wyoming 20, BYU would at least have tied the game 13-13. My bet is the BYU offense will put a stamp on this game from the outset.
7) 100 of 117: Wyoming's defense is 100 out of 117 Div. 1 teams in pass defense. Thus far in 2004, they gave up 346 passing yards to Mississippi, 325 yards to Texas A&M, and 295 yards to SDSU. BYU's passing offense is better, at least statistically, than anything Wyoming has faced thus far. Expect BYU to go over 400 yards passing.
8) Terrance Butler: The Wyoming cornerback has shown a vulnerability to letting his assigned man get behind him. You can be sure Crowton will be building a few special plays targeted at getting Todd Watkins or Austin Collie in man coverage on Butler's side.
9) Johnson, Karcher & Richards: No, this isn't a Laramie law firm. These are the three starting sophomores on the Wyoming offensive line. Expect them to have their hands full with BYU's defensive line and blitz package.
10) Aaron Francisco: The leader of the defense is beginning to dominate – as he did for much of last year. I think Aaron is going to lead by example and make a number of big plays for BYU on Saturday night.
AND 5 REASONS WHY THEY MAY NOT ...
1) Confidence: The one thing that Wyoming has that BYU does not is confidence. BYU needs to dominate Wyoming from the start to neutralize that confidence.
2) Turnovers: What BYU team is going to show up Saturday night? The team that won the turnover battles against Boise State and Colorado State? Or the team that gave away games against Stanford and UNLV? Wyoming has been pretty good with turnovers this season, giving up just 7 in 5 games.
3) Big Plays: The Achilles heel of BYU's defense seems to be the big play. It seems that in every game, there is one play they just don't execute and goes for long yardage. In a close game, one breakdown could be the difference. Moreover, Wyoming has hit 15 plays so far this season for more than 30 yards (includes defense and special teams).
4) Balance: Wyoming is averaging 212 yards rushing and 150 yards passing per game. If they can establish a running game against BYU, the Cougars could be in for a long night.
5) Dustin Pleasant and Jovon Bouknight: Wyoming has two pretty good wide-outs in Pleasant and Bouknight. These guys aren't going to get confused with Michael Williams (USC) or Todd Watkins, but BYU has given up big yards passing and these guys can cause problems.
KNUTE'S PREDICTION: Wyoming stays within 10 points through the first quarter, but BYU is too talented and too focused. Wyoming can't establish a running game and the passing game is inconsistent. BYU's offense starts firing on all cylinders, until Crowton calls off the dogs in the 4th quarter.
BYU 45 - Wyoming 17.
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