Crowton feels BYU is beginning to see the benefits and fruition of hard work and preparation involving two key areas. "I've been talking about us working hard on the run game during practice, and you know it's been coming," he said.
"The line's been together now, the same line, the whole season. The running backs have been together through the season, so things are just starting to come together, but we still have a long ways to go," he added.
After fumbling the ball seven times during their loss to UNLV, the Cougar running backs had a better grasp on the ball and game against Wyoming -- and hope to have the same success against Air Force.
"They (BYU running backs) all can carry the ball pretty good, but what happens is -- in a crowd struggling for extra yards -- when the ball gets fumbled," Crowton continued. "There's five points on how to hold a ball and we talk about those five points all the time: Keeping it up against your body; keeping your forearm on it; your ribs; your hand; and all that.
"Hopefully, when we go into this game, we've learned our lesson. I know the guys feel bad, but it doesn't take back the fumbles. All they can do is not fumble next week," said Crowton.
Whether it's teaching, disciplining when mistakes occur, pulling players out of games, or simply yelling at those who make the mistakes, Crowton has seen and done it all. More importantly, he recognizes the responses must be different with each individual.
"It's all just a matter of style, I think. I've done it both ways. Both ways have worked and both haven't at times -- getting on them to reinforce the importance of hanging onto that football, even before they fumble, or even if it's out (away from the body). Right now, we're trying to get on them even if the ball is out and they don't fumble. That's what we're looking at. You know we're (also) going to get on them and pat them on the back and tell them to hang in there. These are some of our better players that fumbled, and there was just to many of them (in the UNLV game)," Crowton said.
"As you look at the different kids," he added, "you have to react a little bit differently. All the kids have their own unique personalities and the coaches have their own unique personalities. You just gotta react to the kids in a way that's going to help them. That's the most important thing. As a coach you have to be yourself and do it. You can't be phony about it. Every kid is different.
"Some kids are crying after a fumble and other kids are mad and swearing and cussing. Other kids have a different attitude because they're all different. You just look at them all as individuals. If we can continue to educate them, work in practice, they'll get better," he continued.
Whatever approach Crowton and his coaches used worked for his running backs during the Wyoming game. Now with Air Force's run defense currently ranked No. 102 nationally, BYU hopes to continue that ground attack with continued success.
Crowton, however, is nervously cautious about the Falcons. "When I looked at the Air Force games, Cal rushed for about 350 and Navy rushes a lot, so it's a little misleading. Those two teams are big runs teams. Cal chose to run the ball against them and Navy doesn't throw the ball very often. I think their average run defense is better than people say based on just those two opponents," he noted.
"They've (Air Force) changed a little bit from the games I've watched. They're a good football team and they've had some big wins and actually played defense really good."
Air Force may have changed a few things schematically, but one change they made came because of stricter NCAA regulations which cracks down on teams who employ "chop block" techniques. Coach Crowton elaborated.
"Just to define the chop block, if a guy is hitting him high, another guy can't hit him low -- and it's not just Air Force; it's any team. There was a rule change that affected Air Force a little bit. If a (offensive) tackle is here and the (running) back is here (outside the defensive tackle) outside the box, he couldn't go around and cut (the defender). "What happened is it made Air Force have to bring that wingback inside so his leg is inside the leg of the tackle in there, so now he can come out and do that same thing, but it just gave him a little farther to go. That was a rule that affected Air force a little bit or any team that did that block. I think they've adjusted well to it and I haven't noticed anything on film or anything. Bronco (Mendenhall) might know better than I because he's looking at the other side. I'm looking mostly at their defense. Nobody on their defense isn't chopping anybody. I think the rule changed last year and there have been less injuries because of that block," said Crowton.
When asked if he would ask referees to keep an eye on enforcing the chop block rules, Crowton responded, "I just have respect (for Air Force) and I don't have any complaints or gripes about any of that. I can't worry about that kind of stuff. All I think about is executing one play at a time and one game at a time. Right now, we have not played well against them in the last two years offensively and we need to play better against them. Their scheme has been good against us and our execution has been poor. Whatever the reason, we just haven't played good. I'm trying to correct that so we can move forward," he said.
Cornerback Brandon Heaney suffered a broken arm in the end zone during the Wyoming game. "He's going to be (out) six weeks," Crowton said. "The break was ugly. It was three breaks in the two bones. Completely shattered; you know it was ugly. It just snapped and he knew it. He's one tough kid. He's on the ground and told Kevin (trainer), ‘My arm snapped.' When he hit the ground, a guy rolled over on it at the same time. The exact ‘bam, bam' like that!"
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