A tune-up was needed. The BYU brass explained that the Cougars cannot play three undefeated teams every year, omitting to mention that the Cougars' ineptitude contributed to two of those teams' unblemished records. The team needs time, they said, to work the kinks out, to learn how to win again, to restore our former glory. So they went looking instead for a pushover and the I-AA Panthers of Eastern Illinois were invited to Provo, the first I-AA opponent sought out by BYU in ten years.
The plan worked to perfection. . .for 16 ½ minutes. The offense looked like a precision machine, rolling up 17 points on 8-11 passing by John Beck. From there it got ragged, with Beck completing only 16 of 29 and throwing two interceptions the rest of the way. After committing only one foul in the first quarter, the Cougars were flagged six times during the last three quarters. They also lost two fumbles and missed a field goal.
To their credit, the Panthers did not give up and gave BYU a game despite what the scoreboard said. Although it was 31-0 at the half, BYU was held scoreless for 27:45 before two late touchdowns.
The play calling was more varied than against Boston College. There were more downfield throwing plays in the mix, and more handoffs to the backs. Curtis Brown was given 18 carries, and responded with 110 yards. Fahu Tahi carried another nine times for 59 yards, and in all the Cougars rushed the ball 28 times, not counting sacks. Todd Watkins finally made his 2005 debut after being rendered a non-factor by Boston College, leading the team with seven catches, some of them spectacular. Dan Coats, Nathan Meikle, Matt Allen and Zac Collie all shone, as well.
The Cougars are still a work in progress, however. It cannot be overemphasized that a Division I-AA opponent held the Cougars scoreless for nearly half a game. The kicking and punting games also leave much to be desired. The penalties have got to stop, too. Eight flags at home against an overmatched opponent is unacceptable.
Next up: after a bye this week, TCU comes to town September 24.
The thriller of the week came courtesy of New Mexico, as the Lobos traveled to Columbia and did the MWC proud. After a barnburner win over UNLV in their opener last week, New Mexico did not trail the Tigers until 6:02 remained in the third when Missouri went up 28-21. The teams exchanged punts before the Lobos then moved 65 yards in three plays, the tying score coming on a 41-yard halfback pass from Dontrell Moore to Hank Baskett.
The Tigers responded by moving to the New Mexico 35, but came up short on fourth and nine so the Lobos took over on downs. A pass from Kole McKamey to Baskett covered 47 yards, and the Lobos punched it in to go up 35-28 with 11:15 remaining. Missouri again moved the ball, tying the score at 35 with barely seven minutes remaining, but New Mexico would not fold. The Lobos moved quickly to the Missouri 23, where the drive stalled. Kenny Byrd hit from 40 yards to put the visitors up 38-35 with 4:22 remaining. Brad Smith intercepted a pass three plays later and returned it 18 yards to the Missouri 12, and the deal was sealed.
New Mexico scored its last touchdown to open the final 10-point margin, and although the Tigers moved the ball once more, it was too little, too late. The teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but Mizzou's three turnovers ultimately were the difference in this one as the Lobos committed none.
Make no mistake, New Mexico is for real and has a bona fide shot at the conference title. This could be Rocky Long's best team ever, but the Lobos' have a big challenge in unfavorable conference schedule, as they must play TCU, Wyoming and Utah on the road.
Next up: New Mexico State.
Utah 31, Utah State 7.
Utah State, at long last admitted to a weakened WAC, was as outgunned as usual and could do little more than show some spunk. The Aggies were playing their opener on the road against a good Utah team which had already played a game. It showed, as the Utes ran off 31 unanswered points to easily overcome Utah State.
#22 TCU 10, SMU 21.
After a huge win at Oklahoma, the Horned Frogs jumped into the rankings and traveled to former conference foe and traditional archrival Southern Methodist. Was a letdown inevitable? Apparently so. After taking a 3-0 lead, TCU fell behind 14-3 and could manage only one touchdown the rest of the way. In all, the Frogs croaked out a measly 253 yards of total offense, coughed up the ball up four times and committed seven penalties. They are not going to beat many teams doing that.
Next up: Utah.
UNLV 34, Idaho 31.
It was not impressive, but it was a win. The Rebels non-conference schedule this year includes Idaho, Nevada and Utah State. This week the Vandals traveled to Sin City and even at home the Rebels had all they could handle. A 41-yard field goal as time expired provided the margin of victory, and doubtless also a huge sigh of relief from first year coach Mike Sanford. A bit of work may be in order, as UNLV surrendered nearly 500 yards of total offense. . .to Idaho. . .at home.
Next up: at in-state rival Nevada.
A spanking in Minneapolis. The Gophers led 28-10 after one, 42-10 at the half, and barely broke a sweat. The Rams moved the ball against Minnesota, gaining a net of 425 yards, but their defense surrendered 547.
Next up: a bye, followed by the Nevada Wolfpack in Ft. Collins.
Wyoming 38, Louisiana-Monroe 0.
It was Cowboys and Indians in Laramie, and the 'Pokes prevailed easily. Wyoming scored at least one touchdown in every quarter and held their guests to 220 total yards. After getting pummeled last week at Florida, they Cowboys came home to a cupcake, an annual event now in Laramie. Corey Bramlet is a legitimate threat, however, and completed 13 of 23 for 223 yards before being given a rest in the second half.
Next up: at Air Force.
Air Force 41, San Diego State 29.
How good are the Falcons? They rolled up 503 yards in their home opener, but how bad are the Aztecs, who were drubbed last week by UCLA? On the plus side, AFA also looked good in their opener at Washington last week, but the Huskies are headed for another dismal year. Next week will provide as least part of the answer as a respectable Wyoming team comes to town, and will be the best team the Falcons have played so far this year.
Next up: Wyoming.