On the next series, Beck and BYU running back Curtis Brown couldn't seem to decide who was supposed to end up with the ball, and it fell to the ground where the Cadets recovered. The defense held, however, and Air Force settled for a 48-yard field goal. BYU sputtered again on its final possession and the halftime score was 10-3 Falcons. The Cougars looked tentative, uncertain and seemingly headed for yet another frustrating loss against a team they were capable of beating.
Looks can be deceiving, however.
Cougar coach Gary Crowton noticed on the last series of the first half that Air Force appeared to be leaving the deep middle vulnerable to the long pass, and on the first series of the second half Beck and wide receiver Todd Watkins proved him correct on a 70-yard touchdown bomb that Watkins held onto by his fingernails – and BYU never looked back.
After the game, Crowton said the Cougars were playing not to lose in the first half instead of playing to win. In an apparent fiery half-time speech, he told them to loosen up and have some fun. Beck and his offensive teammates had the time of their lives for the first time this season scoring 38 points an unleashing the long-known offensive potential of this Cougar squad.
The Cougars next series was a four-play, 67-yard drive capped by a pass from Beck to freshman tight end Dennis Pitta, good for an 11-yard touchdown, Pitta's first of his career. The Cougar defense again shut down Air Force and Pitta blocked a punt after a bobbled snap. Sophomore linebacker Gary Lovely scooped up the ball and scooted eight yards for another touchdown.
The Cougars laid 21 points on the Falcons in the third quarter, and they weren't done yet. Beck threw fourth quarter scoring strikes to freshman receiver Austin Collie and a second touchdown strike to Pitta. Kicker Matt Payne added a 53-yard field goal. How long has it been since BYU scored 38 points in a half? Try three years to the week: Oct. 20, 2001, against Air Force.
Overall, eight BYU receivers caught passes, with Watkins and Collie leading the way with six each. Beck completed 20 of 31 attempts for 319 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Backup quarterback Matt Berry also completed his only pass for 35 yards and a first down late in the fourth quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougar held Air Force to 363 yards and quarterback Shaun Carney, who had been leading the conference in completion percentage, to only 10 of 22 completions.
Has this BYU team finally turned the corner? Perhaps. Over the last four games, the team has averaged 450 yards of total offense. Only droves of turnovers against UNLV kept the team from a four game winning streak. They now have two weeks to rest, get healthy, and polish their game for the home stretch.
Home dates with San Diego State and New Mexico, followed by a trip to Utah, finish the regular season. Don't look now, but if the Cougars win out they're MWC champions.
Next up: Nov. 6 vs. San Diego State.
Colorado State 30, Wyoming 7
In the Border War, a surging Colorado State team overpowered the Cowboys. Freshman Caleb Hanie, starting his first game ever in place of injured Justin Holland, completed 11 of 22. Jimmy Green rushed for 124 yards, and Wyoming obliged with two interceptions and two fumbles. The Cowboys led 7-0, but could do no more as the Rams scored 30 straight on their arch rival.
Next up: for Wyoming, Oct. 30 vs. Air Force. For Colorado State, Oct. 30 vs. New Mexico.
New Mexico 19, San Diego State 9
The Lobos evened their record at 4-4, while the Aztecs fell to 2-5. A thing of beauty it was not, as both teams combined for only 366 yards of total offense. The Aztecs ground out a negative 19 net yards on 30 attempts. They also combined for three turnovers and 16 penalties. If not for a fourth quarter "surge" that led to SDSU's only touchdown, the teams would have barely outscored the Red Sox and Cardinals in Game One of the World Series. The entire third quarter scoring consisted of the teams trading safeties. New Mexico running back DonTrell Moore played, but is not yet fully recovered from leg injuries. He was held to 70 yards on 22 attempts.
Next up: For San Diego State, Oct. 30 vs. Utah. For New Mexico, Oct. 30 at Colorado State.
Utah 63, UNLV 28
The good news for the Rebels was their lackluster offense actually scored four touchdowns in a single game. The bad news was the Ute offense scored that many in the first quarter as they continue to stake their claim to postseason glory. At this point, one must fairly ask whether anything can stop the Utes – as they scored touchdowns nearly every way a team can: kickoff return, rushing, passing, an interception return and a blocked punt. Their only possible concern was the Utes gave up 422 yards of offense, despites the Rebels' four turnovers and 11 penalties.
Next up: for Utah, Oct. 30 at San Diego State. For UNLV, Nov. 6 vs. Wyoming.
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