Trailing 10-13 after Arizona's only touchdown with 6:15 left in the third quarter, the Cougars moved 75 yards in 10 plays to the Wildcat five yard line, where they faced fourth and one. BYU elected the field goal, the snap was bobbled, and the TBS game crew jumped to the conclusion that it was a bad snap. It wasn't. Holder Jason Beck simply mishandled it.
The big lessons from this game are not necessarily the obvious ones.
First, BYU appears to have a defense. A very young and inexperienced defensive line and a new secondary coach caused many to be cautious, if not outright pessimistic, that the defense would be even worse than last year's, if that's possible. Not to worry. Overall, every facet of the defense was acceptable or better. Arizona sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama, who started the last four games of last year, was touted by coach Mike Stoops as the most accurate, strongest arm he had ever coached. He was said to be ready to pass the Cougars silly. Instead he was held to 19 completions on 39 attempts for only 186 yards, one touchdown and one interception. On the ground, except for a busted play that was nearly an eight-yard loss but turned into a 54-yard gain, Arizona would have had only 13 net rushing yards.
Second, in a hostile road environment, the Cougars held it together in the face of adversity. There were plenty of opportunities to fold, but BYU would not do it. It will serve them well this year, with games against TCU, CSU, Air Force and Utah all on the road.
Third, the Cougars have a running game. It was not much in evidence last night, but the signs are there. Curtis Brown carried only 11 times, but he and Fui Vakapuna are the real deal. Look for the rush to surprise Cougar foes.
Finally, BYU more then held its own against a Pac-10 foe. Arizona is much improved over last year and will turn in Mike Stoops first winning season. Yet, the Cougars outplayed their hosts, having 17 first downs to Arizona's 15, 313 total yard to the Wildcats' 253, and slightly more time of possession. In what was in many ways a typical opener, both teams made mistake. BYU simply made two more. The most crucial were Jonny Harline's fumble on the first play from scrimmage, which set up Arizona's first field goal, and the Jason Beck bobble.
Next up: at home against CUSA defending champion Tulsa who beat Stephen F. Austin a 45-13.
Utah 10, UCLA 31.
The Utes looked out of synch on offense, picking up only 15 first downs and 285 total yards. Of 11 third down attempts, Utah converted none. Coach Wittingham's two all-conference quarterbacks managed to complete only 13 of 33. Tied at 7-7 with 2:45 to play in the half, undefeated starter Brett Ratliff was pulled in favor of Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady, looking to spark some scoring. It worked. Grady's second pass wound up in the arms of Bruin Brandon Breazell who returned it 35 yards for a UCLA touchdown.
Next up: versus Northern Arizona.
TCU 17, Baylor 7. This game was closer than the score indicated. Baylor outgained the Frogs and had 24 first downs to 16 for the visitors. With Baylor leading 7-0 and starting QB Jeff Ballard out with a mild concussion, freshman Marcus Jackson was thrown into the breach. After an interception of a tipped Baylor pass while leading 10-7 in the fourth, Jackson led the drive that sealed the win
Next up: UC Davis.
SDSU 27, UTEP 34. When you outgain your opponent 384 yards to 243, have 22 first downs to his 12, and hold the ball for over 37 minutes to 22, you expect to win. When you do all that and lose, it hurts. When you do all that and lose at home, it upsets the locals. Just ask first year Aztec coach Chuck Long, who saw the boo birds come out as his Aztecs gave the game away.
Quarterback Kevin O'Connell injured the thumb on this throwing hand, and should have come out. He didn't, and on the next play fumbled while trying to pump-fake. The Miners recovered in the end zone to go up 27-3. The Aztecs came back to 24-27 under backup Darren Mougey, but an interception at midfield with 7:03 remaining led to UTEP's final score.
Next up for SDSU: September 16, at Wisconsin.
Colorado State 30, Weber State 6. The Rams had their creampuff opener and got the win they wanted. It did not attract much attention in Ft. Collins, however, as only 28,000 showed up for the event. The biggest news of the week was the loss of leading rusher Kyle Bell, a junior, to a knee injury in practice.
Next up: Colorado, who is coming off a 19-10 loser to Div. I-AA Montana State, at home no less.
New Mexico 6, Portland State 17. The Lobos showed that Colorado is not the only school that can embarrass itself at home against a Div. I-AA foe. New Mexico offensive coordinator Bob Toledo, formerly UCLA's head coach, saw his offense sputter all night, managing only field goals in each of the first two quarters and nothing thereafter.
Next up for New Mexico: at New Mexico State.
UNLV 54, Idaho State 10. A yawner. Coach Mike Sanford needed a confidence builder, and I-AA Idaho State was willing to oblige. What more can you say? Although, the way things went in some D-IAA match ups, this win looks a little better.
Next up: another confidence builder, but for Iowa State, in Ames.
Next up: at Virginia.
Air Force did not play. The Falcons open the season September 9 at Tennessee.
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