Revenge or Let Down?

TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson talked about it. BYU fans are a worried about it. Even the Cougar football team is making a point of avoiding it. PBGLD – post-big game let down – has brought many promising seasons to a screeching halt. This Saturday, the Cougars must prove that they put last weekend's thrashing of TCU behind them. Otherwise, they risk repeating last year's debacle in San Diego.

"We're focused and we're ready to go because revenge is what's on our mind," said a stern Manase Tonga. "Obviously we're going to do it within our assignments and game plan. Nothing is going to change from the way we've been doing things from day one."

"The TCU game was a big win for us," said quarterback John Beck. "Not only because they were ranked, but because it was a conference game, and we've set out to win all of our conference games this year, and we'll take them all on one by one. With that [TCU] game we were able to accomplish that, and now it's time to move on."

BYU put up over 330 passing yards against 22nd ranked Boston College to out the start the 2005 season. The Cougars racked up 517 total offensive yards (a MWC record) and five touchdowns (tied an MWC record) two games later in their loss to TCU. The team then let down their guard when it took an average San Diego State squad for granted the following week. BYU underachieved its way to a 31-10 spanking by the Aztecs. In an effort to avoid repeating last year's let down, the Cougar players are keeping the 2005 SDSU game at the front of their minds.

"Last year we played TCU tough and we put up over 500 yards against them," said Tonga. "I think our mindset going into that San Diego State game last year was we were to confident and didn't take it as serious. This year, we are aware of that and have learned that we can't let our guard down. This year, we're not going to let anything stand in our way, and we're staying focused on accomplishing that."

Senior slot receiver Nathan Meikle echoed Tonga's comments.

"Last year, we almost beat TCU and went into San Diego State expecting to win, and they thumped us," Meikle said. "They owned us the whole game, and the final score was 31-10, and it really wasn't even that close. It's now a different year, and we're a different team, and they're a different team. We all understand that. In the back of our minds, there is a little bit of that revenge factor there. Even though the teams may be a little different from year to year, for us there is a guard against the let down factor.

"We as a team have addressed that, and we are talking about that constantly—to not have a let down. Basically, what it comes down to is they are in our way to winning a conference championship. That's how we're approaching it. You can't really practice for revenge, but how you can approach it is to work a little harder, watch a little more film and practice a little bit harder to make sure you get the job done."

"That situation is still on our minds," said linebacker Kelly Poppinga. "We want to make sure we stay focused and sharp. We don't try and think about it too much where we get psyched out about it, but you do remember it to the point to where you don't let that happen again. Right now our win over TCU is behind us and we are preparing for San Diego State to make sure we're the best team on Saturday."

Quarterback John Beck is doing his part to make sure his offense is fine tuned for another high output performance against an experienced Aztec defense.

"I think we're doing a good job in staying focused," said Beck. "We came out today and had a really good practice. Right now we're trying to find ways to actually step up our game to do things even better."

BYU has dominated the series in Provo, posting a 13-2 record against San Diego State. One of those two losses came during the 2000 season on a last-second field goal. This year, the Aztecs are 0-4 to start the season and news out of the SDSU camp is that third string quarterback Kevin Craft will get the start due to an injury to starting QB Darren Mougey. Craft is a redshirt freshman and the son of Tom Craft who was fired as SDSU's head coach last season.

Also missing the contest against the Cougars will be quarterback Kevin O'Connell (who had 18 consecutive starts prior to his injury), tight ends Lance Louis, Eric Miclot and Steve Schmidt, wide receivers DeMarco Sampson and Roberto Wallace and running back and Doak Walker Award candidate Lynell Hamilton. Still there is no reason for the Cougars to think this will be a walk in the park come Saturday.

"We still have to stay focused," said Tonga. "They're an athletic team and have speed and all that. They're good defensively and fly around and all that, but they're not as good and athletic as most of the defenses we've faced. Overall they've got skill guys that can make plays, so we can't fall asleep. They're coming off a disappointing loss and are 0-4, so they have nothing to lose coming into Saturday's game. We can't have a let down."

"On film they've got fast guys that can make plays," said Poppinga. "They've got both big guys and fast guys and they can run the ball really well. The quarterback position is kind of shaky for them because they're down to like their third quarterback and that's always tough on a team, but you know we learned our lesson last when facing young quarterbacks with Utah and TCU. It kind of goes both ways because even though they may not have the game experience we don't know what to expect either, and we learned that last year with Ratliff and Ballard. We didn't really know what to expect with these young quarterbacks, and if we don't do what we are supposed to do, it can be a dog fight and end up being a tough game.

"They've also got good skill guys that are tall like their receiver number one [6-foot-4, 220-pound WR Chaz Schilens]. They also have a good slot receiver and when they run the ball they're pretty good. Don't let the 0-4 record fool you because they've been able to put together drives and have really hurt themselves on the most part."

"They're talented and three of their four secondary guys are seniors with experience," said Beck. "Two of their linebackers are back and two of their D-linemen are back so they are an experienced group. You definitely can't look at their record and say that's how that team plays. They have a very good defense with some speed on it."

To see how BYU and San Diego State match up against each other, click on the following link for TBS's depth chart:

BYU Offense vs. SDSU Defense Depth Chart

BYU Defense vs. SDSU Offense Depth Chart

Offensively, the Aztecs will bring a spread offense mixed in with a bit of an option running attack. BYU's defense has faced this type of offense many times in and out of conference play.

"I know the offense that San Diego State runs first started out of Kansas State with [Coach] Bishop out there," said BYU safety Quinn Gooch. "It's kind of a spread ride option, pull the ball out and throw the ball down field type offense. Utah runs some of their stuff, Wyoming runs some of that and Tulsa has run the ride option offense against us to some degree. We've practiced against it in preparation for other teams, but now it's just making sure we execute and stay disciplined on defense. They have a good offensive line and block really well for that scheme. We just have to be disciplined in defending it."

"Athlete-wise, I would say SDSU is around the TCU/Tulsa range, TCU has some pretty good athletes even though we put up a lot up on them, they were a very good football team. I would say SDSU is pretty much in that range. We've been able to watch them a lot on film so I think we'll be prepared."

Click on the following link to hear Kelly Poppinga talk about SDSU:

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