For those who have been staunch supporters of the oft beleaguered coach, there has to be at least a careful sense of vindication considering last week's methodical dismantling of San Diego State. For the remaining detractors I say, try and have a little fun this weekend. I know some of you will not be happy until Gary is ridden out of Provo on a rail, but given the Cougar culture that moves ever so slowly at BYU, that desire may be left wanting.
As with everything containing polar opposites, the truth lies often somewhere in between, which is probably how most BYU fans feel. The monkey on Coach Crowton's back is struggling to stay on; of course with two more conference wins including one over a top ten ranked Utah, and a Bowl game victory, the monkey will have jumped off looking for another ride.
The first stop on the "keep the streak alive" tour is a home game vs. defensive specialists New Mexico. They aren't pretty, and they definitely don't play with pizzazz, but they are a team to be reckoned with. Rocky Long has been able to hide his offensive woes over the past four weeks due to stellar defensive efforts. The Lobos turned the turnover table on UNLV which had the offensive production to beat them, but just like BYU, they gave up way too many balls that kept UNM in the game. In a defensive battle royale, the Lobos came out on top over the Ambulance Aztecs. UNM shut down CSU's running game and forced a freshman QB to try and beat them through the air, which he couldn't.
Now that they have had a week off, the Lobos are ready to rumble into Provo, and they are bent on bruising up BYU on their way to a bowl bid. Make no mistake; this game will be a knock down drag out affair. Both teams have everything to win and a lot more to lose. New Mexico realistically could handle a loss in Provo much better than BYU since they finish their season in Albuquerque vs. Wyoming. BYU will finish the season on the road in Salt Lake City.
As far as desperation play is concerned, the edge has to be given to the Cougars. Crowton has been coaching every game as a lifeline to his job, while the Cougars have been playing each game as if it was the most important one of the season. The focus is there on both sides.
On the offensive side of the ball, there is no contest. BYU has a major advantage here, but New Mexico's defense can neutralize even the best offenses in the country. They held Texas Tech and Utah to 24 and 28 points respectively.
The Lobo offense is truly offensive. They are limited to workhorse efforts by their fragile running back Dontrell Moore. He can flat out play if he can stay on the field. He suffers from Fred Taylor syndrome, but even at 75%, he is a lethal weapon to unsuspecting rush defenses.
Defensively, it is a matter of mentor versus prodigy. Rocky Longs team sports a top 25 defense with their forte being in stopping the run game. Bronco Mendenhall's Mountain Mayhem defense has been getting better and better over the course of the season, and are also very tough against the run.
In all of New Mexico's losses except one, the opposing team was able to establish the run game. For BYU to win this one they are going to have to do the same. This is going to require patience on Coach Crowton's part. He has been criticized in the past for throwing the game plan out the window when scores were not quick in coming.
The first half of the San Diego game really showed us that he can exercise patience and slowly work his game. More of this will be needed against New Mexico. Utah was able to run all over the Lobos, and was able to play keep away by the end of the first half. Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi need to be at their best. They have practiced against the 3-3-5 all season, so they should be able to make adjustments at the line to put up decent yardage.
New Mexico's passing game is anemic at best, and BYU will be able to crowd the line and force Lobo QB McKamey to throw. With Dontrell Moore in the backfield, BYU will need the extra bodies to shut him down.
New Mexico's defense is going to have a hard time breaking through the Wasatch Front or the largest Offensive line in the MWC. Lobo's secondary is considered the best in the league, but they still lack the speed necessary to keep step with Watkins and Collie. Now that Beck has found his mid range and center field game, these two speedsters should have a few opportunities to break free for the long ball.
Turnovers have been discussed as a major factor in this game. This may be the case, but given the performance over the past two games, New Mexico is +3 and BYU is +/- 0, it may not be as vital. Ever since the UNLV debacle, BYU has taken much better care of the ball. Air Force set themselves up for failure vs. the Cougars when they focused on stripping the ball vs. tackling. If New Mexico works the same tactic, it could get ugly fast.
The level of talent, the greater need to win this game and the home field are all in BYU's favor. Watch BYU grind it out on the ground to force New Mexico to focus on what they do best. Look for Watkins and Collie each to score on a long bomb. BYU's defense will score in this game as they will take apart an already bad New Mexico offense. BYU will not score as much as they have the past two weeks, but they will score more than the Lobos. BYU 30 – SDSU 21
Ross Picks: This Week 14-6 (.700) Season 48-19 (.716)
(UNLV @ CSU) Two teams that could have had a better season. There is no lack of talented players between the two, but injuries, coaching turmoil and tough schedules have all combined against the Rams and the Rebels from being anything more than conference fodder. CSU had to endure a Utah scoring fest, but showed some spunk in the 4th quarter in scoring 21 unanswered points. CSU is hurting right now and they are young, but their freshmen slinger Caleb Hanie is proving to be a challenge. His QB rating is 119.9 and will improve over the next two games. After disciplined play vs. New Mexico, UNLV has committed 33 penalties in the last two games. Something could be said of the officiating, but the team has lacked decorum in recent weeks, and the long season together with not knowing who their new coach will be seems to be gnawing at the players. In spite of the 22 flag nightmare, the Rebels took Wyoming to overtime before succumbing to the Cowboys. UNLV will not be up to the challenge on the road, while CSU continues to prepare for next season under Lubick. CSU 36 – UNLV 22
(SDSU @ Air Force) Well Fisher DeBerry had the week off from MWC opponents and was able to travel east for a battle between service academies. Navy has been the team to beat over the past two seasons, but the Falcons are still strong enough to take out service academy whipping boy Army. Coming back home to Colorado, the Falcons will be sporting Junior QB Adam Fitch behind center. Fitch had been the intended starter at the beginning of the season, but an injury kept him out of the line up until this past Saturday. This isn't what the Aztecs need right now. Air Force freshman Shaun Carney would have been tough enough, but the poise and experience that Fitch possesses makes Air Force a different team. San Diego is literally limping along as the walking wounded have reached epidemic proportions. While there won't be any fireworks, the grass will get torched as the Falcons run over the Aztecs Air Force 33 – SDSU 22
(Utah @ Wyoming) The Cowboys dodged a bullet that could have effectively ended their post season hopes. Any time a team commits 22 penalties, that team should get spanked by the other. Unfortunately for Wyoming they struggled to an overtime win. The good news is that it was their first road victory in forever. What is also good news where one can find it when facing Utah, is they play in Wyoming. Local Weather in Laramie is showing Snow with temperatures between 25 and 41. Regardless it is going to be cold up there, and Utah better have ice in their veins as beating the Cowboys in November isn't easy regardless of national ranking. Utah is on a roll, and have effortlessly run up the tally on their opponents. Their ability to strike quickly has been their calling card, however things tend to get bogged down in Wyoming, and this year will be no exception. Utah will come out the victor, but their BCS ranking will take a hit as they won't be convincing. UTAH 30 – Wyoming 27
Roll Call: Urban Meyer – Head Coach Utah - Stock Rising ….Leaving on a Jet Plane, don't know when I'll be back again… Naah, can't be! Urban Meyer wants to win a national championship in Salt Lake City before leaving, or better yet take Utah to a BCS conference. Yes it is nice to dream, but Urban has to be listening as his name keeps popping up on one short list after the other.
Fisher Deberry – Air Force – Stock stable With a victory at West Point, and staring QB Adam Fitch back in the lineup, the Falcons can stave off their season ending slide. A bowl invite will keep the DeBerry mystique alive.
Gary Crowton - Brigham Young - Leveling Off New Mexico will reveal if BYU's recent run is a false bottom or if they have turned it around. Crowton needs to keep managing his players and game strategy patiently. A blow out will see the bandwagon fill up faster than a BYU courtship.
Joe Glenn – Wyoming – Stock Stable Whew, that was close. Joe has taken the Cowboys where they haven't been in a long long time. A bowl invite should be coming since several conferences are looking to fail filling up allotments.
Sonny Lubick – Colorado State – Stock dipping CSU will have to dust themselves off and prepare for the Rebels this weekend. Sonny has quality players, but they are…oh no… here it comes… "Young and inexperienced". His history with the Rams will stave off any "new coach" talk regardless of how they finish out.
Rocky Long – New Mexico – Stock beginning to dip The Cougars will most likely take this weekend's game, and that leaves New Mexico having to win one at home against Wyoming who is already bowl eligible. 6-5 will see the Lobos in the post season, but will also see certain Administrators grumbling a bit. Next year Rocky will have to take it up a couple of notches.
John Robinson – UNLV – Stock has been bought out. Still waiting! The longer the administrators wait to choose, the worse the team will perform as players struggle to care about the next two games.
Tom Craft – SDSU – Stock Crashing It has started. The calling for Crafts head has begun in earnest. It is a tough break for a coach mired in a situation that is as hapless as they come. Injured players galore never is easy to deal with, and lack of real depth only reveals just how fragile the program is. Tom may get lucky and stick around for one more year, but the leash will be chokingly short.
Whispers: The church of Ben Olson is ready to revolt, painting Coach Crowton's assumed failure at retaining the prep star with a darkly Rasputin brush. Some supposed insiders are confident that Ben will not return, and recent press has pushed the idea into the public forum. Others in the "know" are nodding towards the absence of a real Athletic Director as being the key issue. Hmmm, lets see who is on the roster come January.
Fandumb: This weeks fandumb award goes out to all the Ute fans that kept a mundane smack thread alive as long as they did. A certain BYU fan going by the moniker of Bart Simpson was able to crash the lines with this yawner:
"Why BYU beats TUN (team up north)
1. BYU is playing some of their best football right now. They have over 1000 yards and 90 points in their last 2 games. Yes, they still have to keep that momentum moving through new mexico, but who says that won't happen, especially at home.
2. Rivalry factor- This game is ALWAYS close. It hasn't been more than a 7 point spread in 7 years. I highly doubt that streak will come to an end. Don't forget 2001. BYU was #8 and utes had a similar record to current BYU, BYU had to have some late game heroics to pull it off.
3. Watkins and Collie- nobody has been able to shut them down all year. In fact, the only game where BYU hasn't scored a deep ball for a td was against stanford where 3rd stringer jason beck was playing in his first d-1 game ever. Enough about scalley. Maybe he has a good work ethic, and gives it "110%" every time he steps on the field, but he has nowhere near the talent of Watkins and Collie, and scaley can only cover one man at once. I predict BYU scores on 2 deep balls.
4. Curtis Brown- This guy is the hottest running back in the mountain west, possibly even the country right now. He was had over 100 yards for 4 consecutive games now and it doesn't look he is going to slow down any time soon. If Brown and the deep ball find consistancy against the utes, say goodbye to the fiesta bowl!"
Yes a bit over the top with the Scalley and Brown comments, but rather boiler plate smack. What is truly amazing is that it warranted no less than 85 responses. Wow, and I thought Utefans trolling on BYU message boards were successful.