Estimated read time: 14-15 minutes
PROVO, Utah (Oct. 27, 2002) -- Having played five of its past six games on the road, BYU will return to Edwards Stadium for a three-game home stand. The Cougars will first play host to San Diego State on Saturday, Nov. 2, beginning at 1 p.m. (MT). BYU will enter Saturday's contest having lost five of its last six games, including a 37-10 loss at Colorado State last weekend. The Aztecs, however, after losing their first five games of the season, have reeled off three straight victories, including a 31-21 victory over UNLV on Saturday.
Saturday's game will be broadcast live to a regional television audience on ESPN+Plus. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. (MT). Gary Bender will call the action, with former Washington Husky standout, J.C. Pearson, lending expert analysis. Beth Mowins will report from the sidelines. Fans can also tune to KSL 1160-AM with Greg Wrubell calling the action and Marc Lyons lending expert analysis. Bill Riley will report from the sidelines.
Following Saturday's game against San Diego State, the Cougars will play host to Wyoming on Saturday, Nov. 9. Game time is slated for 4 p.m. (MT).
After starting the season with five straight losses, San Diego State has posted three straight victories, including wins over Utah, Wyoming and UNLV. The Aztecs enter this weekend's contest tied with Colorado State for first place in the MWC with a 3-0 league record. The SDSU high-powered offense will look to its career receptions leader, J.R. Tolver, to pace the offense. Tolver led the Aztecs to a 31-21 win over UNLV with 9 receptions for 151 yards on Saturday, increasing his career total to 3,003 yards
BYU vs. SAN DIEGO STATE
Saturday's game will mark the 27th meeting between BYU and San Diego State. The Cougars own a 19-6-1 record in the series, dating back to the 1947 season. Since joining the MWC, BYU is 2-1 against the Aztecs, with the Cougars' only loss in MWC play coming during the 2000 season in Cougar Stadium. BYU has posted an 11-2 record against San Diego State when playing in Provo. A 45-38 SDSU victory in 1992 marked the Aztecs' first-ever win over BYU in Provo, ending the Cougars' eight-game win streak in Provo. Including that 1992 victory, the Aztecs have posted a 3-2 against the Cougars when playing in Provo since 1992. When playing SDSU in Provo, the Cougars average 32.9 points per game, while the Aztecs have averaged 14.9 points per contest. BYU has posted three different shutouts against San Diego State, including two different shutouts in Provo.
A LOOK BACK (BYU 59, SDSU 21)
With the high-powered BYU offense struggling early on, the Cougars' defense and special teams unit gave the offense the boost it needed to propel the team to a 59-21 victory over San Diego State. After the two teams traded punts to start the game, the BYU defense held again on the Aztecs' second drive, forcing a 23-yard field goal attempt. Linebacker Justin Ena blocked Tommy Kirovski's kick, while defensive end Ryan Denney scooped up the ball and sprinted 82 yards for the Cougars' first score of the night. After the Aztecs rattled off 14 straight points, Matt Payne kicked a 34-yard field goal to make the score 14-10. With just over five minutes remaining in the first half, Luke Staley busted loose for a 63-yard touchdown run. Then, the defense struck again. Isaac Kelley hauled in one of BYU's three interceptions on the night, returning it 60 yards for the Cougars' first defensive TD of the season. The Cougars took a 24-14 lead into the break. In the second half, BYU scored on its first three possessions to open up a 38-21 lead by the end of the third quarter. At the start of the fourth quarter, the defense struck again. Denney forced a Sheriff fumble, which was recovered by Jeff Cowart at the Aztecs' 4-yard line. On the next play, Brandon Doman found tight end Gabriel Reid in the endzone for the touchdown. Six minutes later, Staley scored his third touchdown of the night, trotting in for an 8-yard score. Later in the fourth quarter, with second- and third-team players on the field, backup quarterback Charlie Peterson found receiver Toby Christensen on a 68-yard touchdown reception to give BYU the 59-21 victory.
STILL BOWL HOPING
Thanks in part to a 12-game schedule, the Cougars must win 6 games in order to qualify for a post-season bowl bid. BYU has won three games this season, and needs to win just three of its final four games. Including Saturday's game, the Cougars will play San Diego State, Wyoming and New Mexico at home, and will travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes in the season finale.
COUGS SUFFER THIRD STRAIGHT LOSS
Looking for its first Mountain West Conference win of the season, BYU came up short on Thursday, falling to league co-leader Colorado State, 37-10. While the Rams recorded over 490 yards of total offense, the inexperienced Cougars were held to just 213 total offensive yards. In only his second career start, quarterback Matt Berry connected on 17-of-26 passes for 148 yards, and rushed for the Cougars' only touchdown of the game. Berry was 7-of-7 at the half and connected on 13-of-15 through the third quarter. Marcus Whalen, the Cougars' leading rusher, carried the ball 18 times for 77 yards, including a 39-yard run that helped set up the touchdown in the second quarter. CSU quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt threw for just 97 yards, but rushed for 69 yards and one touchdown, breaking a Colorado State record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season at. CSU running back Cecil Sapp had his way with the Cougars, rushing for 164 yards on 25 carries, including a 63-yard run that took him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. The 63-yard run that took Sapp over the top ended in a fumble recovered by BYU, stripped by Aaron Francisco and recovered by Bill Wright. CSU started the scoring less than four minutes into the first quarter with a 31-yard field goal from Jeff Babcock. Two plays later, the Rams recovered a fumble deep in BYU territory and had another chance to put some numbers up on the board. Sapp rushed twice for seven yards each, running in the touchdown with 9:04 left in the first quarter. Babcock made the point-after to give the Rams a 10-0 lead. The Rams didn't stop there. A bad snap for the Cougars caused another turnover, and the Rams took a 10-play drive, ending in a 3-yard run by Van Pelt to give the Rams a 17-0 lead. Berry earned the Cougars' only touchdown of the game early in the second quarter on a one-yard quarterback sneak, his first-career rushing touchdown. The score capped a ten-play drive highlighted by Whalen's 39-yard run. Matt Payne made the point-after, taking the score to 17-7 in favor of the Rams. Late in the second quarter, Matt Payne brought the Cougars within 10 on a 25-yard field goal. That would be it for BYU, as Colorado State went on to score 20 un-answered points, including a 21-yard touchdown run by Rahsaan Sanders, another 7-yard run for Sapp and 2 more Jeff Babcock field goals.
BERRY SHOWING IMPROVEMENT
Following Matt Berry's first-ever career start (vs. UNLV), BYU head coach Gary Crowton announced his redshirt freshman would start again (against Colorado State.) Despite two turnovers on the Cougars' first three possessions, Berry got off to a respectable pace, connecting on 7 of his first 7 attempts for 82 yards. He did not throw an incompletion until the 9:34 mark of the third quarter. In the second half, he was 10-of-19 for 66 yards, finishing the night with a 65.4 completion percentage. In the second quarter, Berry led the Cougars on an 84-yard drive and capped it off with a one-yard run -- his first career rushing touchdown. Against UNLV, Berry recorded 186 of the Cougars' 275 passing yards, connecting on 14-of-27 (.519) attempts. Berry became the first redshirt freshman to start at quarterback since Ty Detmer back in 1988. Berry is also the first starting quarterback to wear jersey no. 8 since Steve Young. Berry saw his first varsity action earlier this season at Air Force, completing 6-of-8 attempts for 95 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gabe Reid. The UNLV game marked the first start for Berry since his final high school game in November, 1998. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound, native of Redmond, Wash., replaces junior Bret Engemann as the starting quarterback. Engemann, who led BYU to back-to-back wins against Syracuse and Hawaii to start the season, as well as an impressive come-from-behind win at Utah State, suffered a sprained lower back against UNLV and is doubtful for the San Diego State game. Berry gained valuable experience during the JV season, completing 12-of-23 attempts for 144 yards against top-ranked Dixie State College, including a touchdown pass to Kish Beverley. Against Snow College, Berry led the Cougar offense on an 80-yard drive, finishing with a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andy Hadfield.
HOME WIN STREAK ENDS
A 24-3 loss against UNLV on Oct. 19 ended the Cougars' 10-game home winning streak. That streak dated back to Oct. 26, 2000 (vs. Wyoming). Since Cougar Stadium was renamed LaVell Edwards Stadium on Nov. 18, 2001, the Cougars had never lost a game in Provo, posting a 9-0 record before Saturday's loss. The streak marked the longest home win streak for the Cougars since winning 17 straight from Oct. 7, 1989 to Nov. 23, 1991. With a perfect 6-0 record in Provo last season, the Cougars have recorded 12 undefeated home seasons since the 1967 campaign. In fact, since the stadium was expanded to 65,000, the Cougars have posted eight different seasons without losing a game in Provo. The 2001 perfect home season marked the first since 1998. In 2002, BYU is 2-1 at Edwards Stadium.
THE STREAK IS STILL ALIVE ... 346 GAMES AND COUNTING
With Matt Berry's 1-yard run in the second quarter (at Colorado State), BYU extended its NCAA record streak to 346 games without being shutout. BYU was last shutout during the 1975 season (Sept. 27, 1975 vs. Arizona State.) The Cougars don't have a single person on their 2002 roster that was alive the last time BYU was shut out.
After starting the season with back-to-back wins, BYU has managed to win just one of its last six games to post a 3-5 record on the year. With Thursday's loss at Colorado State, the Cougars dropped two games below the .500 mark. The Cougars' current winning percentage marks the first time BYU has posted a sub-.500 record over the first eight games since posting a 3-5 record during the 2000 season. Ironically, the Cougars finished the season by winning three of their last five games to finish 6-6 on the season. BYU's sub-.500 record marks only the second time since the 1975 season the Cougars have not posted a winning record through the first eight games.
Thursday's loss at Colorado State marked the Cougars third straight loss of the season. The Cougars' current streak marks the longest single-season losing streak since dropping games against Wyoming, Utah and Marshall to end the 2001 season. Not including bowl games, BYU's current streak is the longest single-, regular-season losing streak since dropping four straight during the 1993 season. Ironically, the Cougars' four-game losing streak (in 1993) came to an end with a 45-44 win over San Diego State.
SLOW LEAGUE START
For the first time since the 1973 season -- LaVell Edward's second season as head coach -- the Cougars are off to an 0-3 start in league play. That season BYU ended with a 5-6 overall record -- the Cougars only losing season in the past 28 years. In 1973, BYU lost at Colorado State (21-13), at Arizona State (52-12) and at Wyoming (41-21). Ironically, the Cougars won their fourth league game, defeating New Mexico 56-21. BYU finished tied for fourth with a 3-4 league record. The Cougars have not lost four straight league games since the 1968 season. That season, BYU finished 2-8, 1-5 in the WAC.
WHO WANTS TO PLAY ON SATURDAY ANYWAY
Eight games into the 2002 season, Saturday's game against San Diego State will mark only the fourth time BYU has played on a Saturday this season. The Cougars are 0-4 when playing on Saturday this season. BYU has lost at Nevada, at Georgia Tech, at Air Force and against UNLV -- all on Saturday. The Cougars are 1-1 on Thursdays, and 2-0 on Fridays.
POINT PRODUCTION DOWN
Entering last Thursday's game with a 24.4 points-per-game average, the Cougars scored just 10 points against Colorado State, dropping their per-game scoring average to 22.6. Against UNLV, the Cougars managed just 3 points, marking the lowest single-game point total since recording just 3 points against Florida State in the 2000 season-opener. Over the last three games, the Cougars are averaging just 7.3 points per game. Since losing to Air Force, the Cougars have been outscored 113-22 (37.6 - 7.3.) After opening the season with a 42-point effort, the Cougars' point production has continued to fall. Since the season-opener, BYU has scored 35 points twice (vs. Hawaii, vs. Utah State), 28 (at Nevada), 19 (at Georgia Tech), 10 points at Colorado State, 9 points at Air Force and a season-low 3 points against UNLV. At home the Cougars are averaging 26.7 points per game, while on the road, BYU has averaged 20.2 points per contest. Thursday's 10-point effort marked the fewest points scored against Colorado State since BYU managed just 9 points against the Rams back in 1970. Scoring only 3 points against UNLV marked the lowest point total in a game in Provo since being shutout in 1971 (vs. New Mexico).
PENALTY SITUATION IMPROVING
For only the second time this season, the Cougars were flagged for less than seven times in a game. BYU was penalized just twice for 12 yards at Colorado State, marking the fewest penalties in a game this season. Prior to Thursday's game, the Cougars' season-low was 3 penalties (at Air Force). In the first three games of the season, the Cougars were flagged a league-leading 37 times for 325 yards, including a season-high 13 times for 140 yards at Nevada.On the season, the Cougars are averaging 8.63 penalties per game for an average 66.0 yards per contest. BYU opponents are being flagged just 5.13 times for 45.4 yards per contest. BYU been penalized 29 more times than its opponents, averaging 3.6 more penalties per contest.
NOT SO FAST
Against Colorado State, BYU failed to score in the first quarter, marking the sixth time in eight games the Cougars did not score in the first quarter of play. Matt Payne's 35-yard field goal with 11:40 remaining in the first quarter at Air Force marked the first first-quarter points scored by the Cougars since posting seven first-quarter points in the season-opener against Syracuse. Through eight games, BYU has scored just 10 points in the first quarter of play. In fact, the Cougars have been outscored 64-10 during first-quarter action. Prior to Payne's field goal, the Cougars had not scored in the first quarter since recording a 6-yard touchdown pass from Bret Engemann to Andrew Ord with 8:14 remaining in the first quarter against Syracuse. Prior to the Air Force contest, the Cougars had 16 different first-quarter possessions, and had crossed midfield only six different times. Over that four-game span, BYU's average first-quarter field possession was its own 46 yard line. Over the past seven games, including Thursday's game at CSU, the Cougars have entered the Red Zone only once during the first quarter. Following is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of BYU's scoring:
After losing four straight road games, dating back to the Cougars' loss at Hawaii last season, BYU defeated Utah State in Logan on Friday, Oct. 4 to record its first road win since upending Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., on Dec. 1, 2001. The Oct. 24 loss at Colorado State marked the Cougars' fourth road loss of the season. The Cougars are 8-6 overall on the road during the Gary Crowton era, and 4-2 against MWC opponents on the road. Thursday's game at Colorado state marked the fifth road game over a six week span. The Cougars will not take to the road again until Nov. 23, when they travel Utah.
INTERCEPTION STREAK COMES TO AN END
The BYU defense failed to record an interception against Air Force, marking the first time in 20 games the Cougars did not pick off an opposing quarterback. The Cougars have now gone three straight games without an interception. The streak of 20 straight games dated back to the Cougars' 34-27 win over Utah on Nov. 24, 2000. During that stretch, BYU recorded 36 interceptions, averaging 1.8 interceptions per game. The Cougars posted six games of three or more interceptions, including a streak-high four interceptions against Hawaii earlier this season. During the 2002 season, BYU has produced two or more interceptions in four of seven games. On the season, nine different players have recorded at least one interception, including cornerback Brandon Heaney who has a team high three interceptions. Linebacker Levi Madarieta and cornerback Kip Nielsen each have two picks.