Chatting with the Coach: Reloaded

Head coach Gary Crowton talks with TBS about the mental and physical aspects of preparing for a crucial game against archrival Utah. Coach Crowton goes over the strength of the Utes' team and what he wants to get out of his Cougar squad in what is arguably the most important game of his career at BYU.

Tonight, BYU fans can look into the heavens to watch a cosmic show of light and color as the earth's atmosphere passes through dust and particles in the wake of a meteor tail. Could this finally be the good omen BYU fans are looking for? Will the stars align for their Cougars as they face their rival, 6th ranked BCS contender, Utah and achieve that final win to become bowl eligible on ESPN's GameDay.

The rivalry week is finally upon us as BYU coaches and players gear up for the grand finale, and despite the loss to New Mexico, the emotions on BYU's football field are charged with a little extra electricity for the coming events.

"Absolutely, you feel that rivalry," said Crowton. "I mean, I'm thinking about this game as soon as that other game (UNM) is over. You know, I just got them in the locker room because you can just feel how important this (Utah) game is in this state. It‘s huge and it‘s exciting and I think our guys are excited about it.

"You feel the excitement. It's almost like the beginning of the season you know. You feel that excitement for the beginning of the season and I feel the same right now to end with this game. This is an exciting game."

During today's practice, the team's spirits didn't appear to be dampened by the UNM loss. If there were any lingering emotional effects from the past game, the players didn't show it as all eyes seem firmly fixed on the goal at hand.

"The main incentive of this game is it's Utah," Crowton said. "BYU is playing Utah and that's a big game in this state, and we know that. Anything else that happens after that for us will be a positive. There's a lot of positives for us if we come out and win this football game, but we don't want to worry about that. That's just too much to worry about. All we can worry about is just the game and our assignments and executing our game plan."

During the UNM game, BYU had experienced a lot of success running the two minute offense. Could a similar offense been seen on TV screens all across the country as BYU take on Utah on "Game Day" this Saturday?

"We could, we could, and, you know, we've talked about it but you'll just have to wait and see if whether we use it or not," smiled Crowton.

"We can go the two minute anytime," the coach continued. "We practice it enough so we can do it anytime. That's something we could go to during the game. I felt like as long as we were one score behind or ahead we would stay with the mix up run and pass, but when we got two scores behind that's when I felt like we needed to go to that. It worked really good and that's something we'll have to think about next year when we face them because it causes them a little more slower reaction time in getting their defenses in for New Mexico."

Crowton saw the fruits of his labors as a quarterback coach as Beck took the reigns and personally handled the two minute offense during the UNM game.

"John (Beck), you can see him developing during all through the (UNM) game," Crowton pointed out. "He's a sophomore and was also voted as a captain. His strength is working very hard and understanding the game and then helping everybody around him. I was really impressed with his desire to win that [New Mexico] game last week. When we went into the two minute offense, he called a lot of the shots down there and knew exactly what we had meetings on and knew exactly what we wanted and did it without having to be reminded. I was very impressed with that and I think he'll continue to develop. He's got a lot of potential and I can see it to starting to come forth through the season."

Led by quarterback Alex Smith, Utah has enjoyed the local and national spot light by moving up in the BCS poles after going undefeated in a schedule filled with teams that struggled to win games early on in the season.

"You know what, they're [Utah] good so we've just gotta play a good game," said Crowton. "We played a good game against them last year and we did some good things. The weather helped us probably but at the same time they're very good, and they're a good defense.

"Don't just talk about their offense, because their defense, there was a lot of quarters they went without getting any points. That's why they're good. Their whole football team is good. People always talk about their offense because they're scoring a lot of points but I've seen that defense give them a lot of opportunities to score points and they're a good football team."

For the first time in the history of Utah, ESPN‘s "Game Day" with Lee Corso will be coming to Salt Lake City to cover the Cougars' match up with the Utes at RES this Saturday.

Said Crowton: "That's a good thing for our conference and it's a good thing for both of our programs, and it's nice to have some national media attention coming in. I think it will get the players excited and I know the fans will be excited and hopefully the rest of the country will see the caliber of football that we have up here."

Having Corso and the boys of ESPN come to town to cover BYU and Utah's final game of the season can cause some to lose focus. Crowton knows this and has taken the necessary steps to ensure his team remains focused.

"Nope, haven't talked about that [Game Day] at all," said Crowton. "Just talk about playing good, playing hard and going out and doing our best and that's the kind of attitude. We just want to come out and execute and play within our game plan. Sometimes when you make it to big or bigger than life what happens is you make too many mistakes, and we've made enough of those as it is. We want to come out and not make mistakes and play our game, play hard and play aggressive," said Crowton.

*EXTRA POINTS*

BYU fans have wonder how their star running back Curtis Brown is doing after he took a hit in the head during the New Mexico game, and hope he'll be up and ready for the game on Saturday.

"Curtis is good," Crowton said. "He had that bell ringer in the game and they didn't say it was a concussion and allowed him to go back into the game but he wasn't there. John was telling me he wasn't all the way there, but he's a tough competitor and didn't want to come out of the game. In fact a couple times he put himself in there and we would have to rotate after the first play because we were a little worried about him. I talked to him today and his attitude is outstanding and he feels good so I think he should be ready to go."

Crowton continued on the importance of having Curtis Brown healthy for the final game of the season: "It's very important. The way we are playing our run game is very important to our success right now, and we need to run the ball well. If we can run the ball well against these guys (Utah), it opens up a lot of avenues. Having him not at his best in the last game and not Todd Watkins at his best affected our play. That's not to say we shouldn't play better around those guys but it did affect our play. Right now hopefully we'll come into the game healthy. When we run the ball we're a much better football team," said Crowton.

Along with Curtis Brown, BYU fans held their breath as "Cougarback" Aaron Francisco was helped off the field after suffering a leg injury.

"Aaron Francisco is doing rehab and he's probable, and my feeling is he'll be ready to go and he'll play well," said Crowton.

Francisco was wearing a knee brace during today's practice, and was both working out defensive formations with the starting defense and running full speed sprints along the side lines.

Also on the sidelines, not suited up, was BYU cornerback starter Brandon Heaney who was hoping to be able to come back in time to play against the Utes in his final season.

"They're [BYU trainers] not going to let him play," said Crowton. "They looked at it and he tried. He's got a couple of plates in that arm and he wanted to play, and he was mad at he doctors but the chances of him hurting his arm again, there's some chance in there and we don't want to hurt anybody."

Wide receiver Todd Watkins was suited up and practicing with the team after being absent from practice the entire week leading up to the New Mexico game.

"He [Watkins] separated his shoulders earlier in the year against UNLV, and he didn't play as well against Wyoming because of that shoulder, but his shoulder is healed up now," said Crowton. "The only thing he has is a sprained foot and he practiced yesterday, he didn't practice at all last week, so that's a good sign and he looked good yesterday and I think he'll be ready for the game to play good."


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