Is BYU Growing Up?

BYU fans have endured a three-year losing streak that all but wiped out every NCAA record that legendary Coach Lavell Edwards spent 30 years accumulating. Even though this year's team fields the last of a few remaining players from the Edwards era, they have yet to learn how to overcome adversity. Or have they?

When you get into a familiar rut of losing sometimes it just becomes easier to just stay stuck in it rather than keep working to break out. Breaking the bonds of a three-year routine takes more effort than simply throwing touchdowns; it takes a complete paradigm shift by rising up above the adversity to learn how to win.

. Down 24-13 to New Mexico in the fourth quarter in what was a pivotal game on many fronts, BYU found that paradigm shift. They dug down and pulled out a win by overcoming major hurdles in what could be a turning point for this program.

"Yeah, a lot of guys grew up quick," said BYU tight end Daniel Coats. "They figured out what they were doing wrong and they took the criticism from the coaches right, and they did what needed to fix it.

"We realized we weren't playing like we know we should be playing. Coach Mendenhall taught us so many things that we weren't doing. Just thinking we are a better team and therefore we should win isn't good enough. We have to earn the win and against New Mexico we found that out early also. We've learned that we have to fight every play and at San Diego State we didn't fight every play. We've learned every game is a battle and we have to rise above it. There are no gimmes in college football."

Fighting for a win instead of thinking you deserve one requires a change in both attitude and swagger. BYU quarterback John Beck is pulling from the counsel of BYU quarterback coach Brandon Doman and some NFL mentors to help improve two parts of his fighting mentality. The first part comes by way of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who teaches his players to have more of a "chip" on their shoulders.

"I remember when someone asked the head coach for the Patriots, Bill Belichick, ‘How do you get your team to perform so well?' and he said, ‘I just try to make sure my team knows they should have a chip on their shoulder every week they go into practice because every team tries to come in here and knock us off.'" Beck recounted. "For me, I want our team to know that, hey, these guys are coming in here to try and knock us off. They're 2 and 0 in the conference and they're probably very confident in themselves, they have a good offense and their defense had a big strong stand against Utah so they're probably all fired up. They're going to be confident coming in here, so I want our team to have that chip on their shoulder every day at practice, and I know if this team practices the way we are capable in preparing ourselves, then we'll be ready to go on Saturday."

The second part comes by way of Coach Doman who, the previous week, told Beck he needs to show more poise in the huddle and on the field. Doman's advice was both timely and taken to heart.

"He talked about just small things, like the checks I make at the line and the way that I control myself out there," Beck said. "You know, just poise. Poise is a huge thing at the quarterback position and the way that you act. I think one of best things that coach Doman told me this past week was to have a presence on the field and let them know you're out there. I'm a very competitive person and I want to make sure I'm being me out there. During the TCU game, I felt like me. During the San Diego State game I wasn't me because I know I can play at a better level and that's one thing I'm trying to do this last week. Coming into the Colorado State game, I have four days of practice to better myself and to get my level higher to go out and try to compete,"

With BYU trailing 24-13 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the UNM game, Beck engineered two different scoring drives that led to 14 unanswered points. In the final drive, Beck drove BYU 80 yards in five plays, connecting on five straight pass attempts with 2:48 left in the game. In the huddle, poise and confidence showed in the face of quarterback.

"He knew it from the get go, you know," said Coats. "It's great when you can look at the face of the quarterback, and he's like, ‘Okay guys, lets hurry up and score and win this one really fast.' You know what I mean? There was no doubt in his mind and it showed and we all knew we could go down field and win this game because we felt we should win this game.

"John Beck is always a leader. Even if he's having a bad game you would never think it even if you look at him in the face. He'll always talk to you and he feels he represents the team, and that he has to keep us prepared. He's our captain.

For his excellent performance, Beck has been named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks by completing 34-of-44 passes (77.3 percent) for 371 yards and three touchdowns in the come-from-behind win against New Mexico. He leads the conference and is the nation's sixth-ranked offensive performer, averaging 335.6 yards of total offense per game. Beck has completed 156-of-244 attempts (.639) for a Mountain West Conference best 1,734 yards and 11 touchdown completions in five games.

"I think there is still a lot of room left in our offense," said Beck. "I really think we still have a higher level of execution still in us. I've seen it. If we can play every drive like we did those last two in the New Mexico game, we can be unstoppable. But it's up to us to come out to practice with that same mentality."

This Saturday the Cougars can truly show what they have learned as BYU hosts Colorado State for homecoming. BYU tight end Daniel Coats feels the game could end up being a battle between the running backs, and with a win against CSU he also feels this is BYU's chance to send a signal to the University of Utah.

"We haven't watched film on [Colorado State] yet but just having played against them for a couple of years, we know they have a good cover two zone and they like to zone blitz a lot," Coats said. "We run against them pretty good so it's going to be a good physical running game and we just got to be ready for that.

"Everyone might not say it but Utah is on everybody's mind. Everybody can't wait for that game, and so we're always paying attention to what they're doing and since they lost we definitely want to win. Just to kind of say, ‘Well, you guys didn't [win] but we did.' We know Colorado State is going to be a fight though and it's not going to be an easy game. Utah played hard and Colorado State just played harder, so we just have to go out there and make more plays than they do."

Has BYU finally turned the corner? We'll have a better idea come Saturday.


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