"These are the most exciting football games to play in. We haven't put anything up in our locker room to motivate us. I feel like we don't need anymore motivation than kind of what we already have. We're obviously a very motivated team this season with a motivated coaching staff, and we're going to go out there and keep doing the things we've been doing all season long."
For his performance against the Lobos of New Mexico, Beck received his sixth Player-of-the-Week honor of the season (the ninth of his career). He passed for a season-high 464 yards on 28-of-42 attempts. By halftime, Beck, who picked up his 20th career victory, had passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns, eclipsing the 10,000-yard mark for his career. The +35.16 margin of victory per game at home is the largest home margin of victory in stadium, and program, history. It is easy to see how Beck's post-game comments were motivated by confidence heading into next Saturday's game against the Utah rather than derision or arrogance.
"You know what, I think it would be easy to feel that way, but I don't want to fall into that," Beck said of the temptation to look at the Utah game a payback time. "This entire year I've never felt that I needed to go into a game needing redemption from what happened in the past. I've let the past go and this is a new game and a new year, and when I step out into this game, I will have prepared for this game like I have all year long. I'll just go out there and work on my plays and know my responsibilities and what the coverages are. Usually on Monday we find out what the coverages are, and I've watched a little bit of film. I'm not going to do any more or any less this week. I'm going to treat it the exact same as I've treated any other game."
Last year's rivalry game stirred up emotions that might not have been there prior to other games. That in turn led to players trying to do too much and playing beyond the consistency that had brought past successes. Coach Mendenhall quickly recognized this problem and took steps prevent similar mental lapses in the future.
"Each game that we've won this year we've all treated the same," said Beck. "We win and coach gives us, I think, fifteen seconds to celebrate and then says DVD's for the next team are outside the door, and we just got done winning the conference championship last Saturday and coach said, ‘Twenty seconds.' Everybody got excited and then picked up their DVD's at the door.
"I think the big thing about last year was we had guys that were so fired up about being in the rivalry game that they were trying to do too much, and that is something that is easy to fall into. You think, ‘Hey, it's a big game,' and you want to do your best and give that little extra effort. Sometimes that little extra effort is just too much, and guys will try and get that little extra yard and the ball pops out or you get tips or something.
"As a young quarterback I was feeling like, ‘Oh geez I gotta do something to get that one back.' That's easy for a young person to fall into, and that's why I think last year we had a couple guys that were wide-eyed and trying to make a big play, but that is something I've learned throughout the years that you just gotta keep playing. That's what I like about our team, we have a lot of experienced guys that know that if something goes wrong to just keep going out there and play your game and you'll get back in it."
So the team celebrated their undefeated home record, Mountain West Conference championship and Los Vegas Bowl invite with some cheers and bold predictions against Utah with good reason. However, following the celebration, the focus immediately retuned to remaining consistent in preparing for the next opponent.
"I think the team is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and I think that is a huge point for us to not try anything different," said Beck. "Why try to go outside or try to do more or feel like you have to do more on this play to get a little bit more. I think we just need to go out there and do what we've been doing all year. This is game twelve for us, and we'll just keep playing the way we've been playing.
"I think a lot of the success this team has had goes back to how we have so many guys that are experienced, and it's not just me. It's Curtis [Brown]; it's Manase [Tonga]; it's Jake [Kuresa] and guys that have been on this football team that know, hey, don't go out of the box and do anything more than what you've been doing. If you've had successes keep on doing it, and that's what we're going to do."
Beck and company will go back to doing what they have been doing all year long. There will be no changes in how they practice and prepare. There will be no change in eating habits or strange rituals that will take place to mark the difference between this game and others already played. It will simply be business as usual for the Cougars this week as they prepare for Utah.
"One of the things I remember from some of the great quarterbacks in the NFL or guys that play in the big game like the Super Bowl is they are just cool, calm and colleced," said Beck. "They're not treating the Super Bowl like its some circus or something like that. They're just treating it like a regular football game. Each game you're playing a game of football. Teams are running coverages, your running plays and are trying to be successful.
"This game isn't going to change because it's BYU vs. Utah. The game doesn't change because it's still football. You still gotta go ten yards to get a first down and you still only get six points when you score a touchdown and one point for the extra point. Everything stays the same so you just go out and play the game, and I think the media surrounding the game can hype up the game. With it being a rivalry and the both fans being in-state with the schools being so close together, things can be made out to be more than what it really is. The fact of the matter is the game doesn't change and what happens on the field is a game of football.
"I obviously want to come out in practice and be perfect in what I do. When I go out into the game, I'm trying to make the perfect pass and make a good read. I think now that I've been able to get comfortable with my guys and understand who can make what play, a perfect pass in that situation would be who can come down with it—just putting it up and letting them come down with it. I think sometimes the perfect pass isn't necessarily what spot it hits but how smart your throws are and are you giving your guys a chance."
Currently, Beck is at the top in many categories at BYU and in the Mountain West Conference. Those categories include being second behind Ty Detmer for career passing yards at 10,271, second in career total offense at 10,281 yards and second in games played in his career at 42. He is currently third behind childhood hero Jim McMahon (176.9) and Ty Detmer (175.6) for the single-season passing efficiency rating at 173.8, and is at top of the list in six out of eight quarterback categories in the Mountain West Conference.
Nationally Beck leads all senior quarterbacks, (ranks second nationally) with a 71.04 completion percentage, leads all senior quarterbacks, (ranks fourth nationally) averaging 313.50 yards per game, leads all senior quarterbacks, (ranks fourth nationally) averaging 309.9 yards of total offense per game, leads all senior quarterbacks, (ranks third nationally) with a responsibility for 18.6 points per game, and leads all senior quarterbacks, (ranks second nationally) with an efficiency rating of 173.8. He is the nation's second leading senior quarterback in yards per completion, averaging 13.45.
To Beck, however, those statistics are meaningless at this point in time. The thing that matters most to the senior BYU quarterback is beating Utah and going undefeated in the Mountain West Conference before heading down to the Los Vegas Bowl game in December.
"As we head into this week, I'm sure that they're going to feel like they have some mismatches that they are going to want to exploit, and it's the same with us," said Beck. "Last year we were able to move the ball pretty well against them. We had some times when we got stopped, but there were some times where we were making plays and keeping ourselves on the field. When I look back at last year's game there were a few times where we had some missed plays here and there with a turnover, and that's what kind of hurt us in that first half.
"Look at the second half. We had a pretty good second half getting key third downs. I think going into this year, we just have to keep doing what we're good at. We haven't turned the ball over a lot this year, and I know we're one of the tops in the nation with that, and we're one of the tops in third down conversions. So we'll take all the things that we are good at and put them into this game."