so, due to some requests by people who don't want to pay money to join si in order to read my articles...here they are! :) and for those who don't like football (lis), just skip :)
BYU football has a long history of excellence. In 1984 the Cougars won a national championship, and have won 23 conference championships over the past fifty years. However, after Lavell Edwards retired as head coach, Cougar fans began to wonder if they would ever see another championship. But that has changed. In 2006 and 2007, the team won back-to-back Mountain West Conference Championships. The Cougars are undefeated in 22 conference games, and have made a turnaround that many fans never thought possible. The preseason AP poll shows BYU ranked 16 as of 16 August, the highest ranking in preseason since the Edwards era. Predictions have been made about BYU being a possible candidate for a BCS bowl game this season. Assuming no serious injuries or unforeseen struggles, the Cougars stand to be one of the upcoming leaders in NCAA football in 2008.
BYU v. Northern Iowa
BYU prepares for Northern Iowa in its season opener on August 30. In a press conference Coach Bronco Mendenhall stated that the Cougars are “eager to play,” although he will not overlook Northern Iowa, and expects the game to be challenging. He expressed that the Cougars are doing well injury-wise, and expects a great season. Mendenhall also released the depth chart for the game, which included freshman wide receiver O’Neill Chambers and senior wide receiver Reed White as kick returners and punt returners. Max Hall will be the starting quarterback, with junior Brenden Gaskins as his backup. BYU enters this game with the longest active winning streak in the nation at 10 straight games. Northern Iowa went 12-1 last year, and running back Corey Lewis ran for 1,513 yards during the season.
BYU Football’s slogan this season is “The Quest for Perfection.” But after Saturday’s game against Northern Iowa, the quest is far from over. While the Cougars did win by 24 points, the second half was difficult and BYU had four turnovers, one of which led to a touchdown for Northern Iowa, while another led to a field goal. Offensively, Max Hall completed 34 of 41 passes for 486 yards, but fans were curious as to why running back Fui Vakapuna wasn’t playing. Luckily he is not injured; he sat out because he did not practice last week due to schoolwork.
Several Cougars took hard hits, including Hall and receiver Michael Reed, but both returned to play soon after the hits. Offensive lineman Ray Feinga sprained his ankle, but also returned in the second half. Austin Collie, who was injured with a stress fracture all summer, had seven receptions for 80 yards.
BYU v. Washington
BYU tight end Dennis Pitta topped the national list in receiving with 11 receptions for 213 yards last Saturday against Northern Iowa. However, the Cougars can’t rest easy, because Washington is an excellent team who has Jake Locker as quarterback. In a press conference on Tuesday, BYU Head Coach Mendenhall praised Locker, saying “he certainly would be the fastest player on our team…which presents all kinds of problems.” The AP Poll 15-ranked Cougars have struggled on the road in the past, and several players are recovering from slight injuries. Defensive back David Tafuna has a sprained ankle, but plans to play, as do running back Harvey Unga (ankle) and quarterback Max Hall, who was shaken up after a hard hit on Saturday.
What was predicted to be a difficult game between BYU and Washington was certainly that for both teams. In the first possession, BYU quarterback Max Hall threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie for the first points of the game. Washington did not wait to respond; quarterback Jake Locker rushed 14 yards to tie the game at 7. Each quarter ended with a tied score, and Washington appeared to be set to tie again in the fourth quarter. At 3rd and goal, Locker ran 3 yards for a touchdown, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called, resulting in the point after touchdown being kicked at the 18 yard line instead of the 3 yard line. BYU blocked the point after attempt, leaving the final score 28-27. The Cougars hadn’t won a non-conference game on the road in the last nine attempts, so this victory was a welcome change, giving them a 2-0 start to the season.
Washington had several injured players over the course of the game, including safety Darin Harris, who was taken to the hospital with a head injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter. BYU linebacker Vic So’oto injured his foot in the first half and did not return to the game.
BYU v. UCLA
BYU prepares to take on UCLA on Saturday September 13, and this game will give insight into the season ahead for both teams. On September 7, the Cougars moved to spot 18 in the AP Poll, and UCLA was dropped from spot 23. Last season, the teams met twice: in the first regular season game, UCLA won 27-17, while the second meeting was in the Las Vegas Bowl, where BYU blocked a field goal in the final seconds of the game and won 17-16.
After the win against Washington last Saturday, the Cougars know that this will probably be one of the most difficult teams they will play until November. Mendenhall chooses to focus on the current game at hand. After the game at Washington, when asked about the possibility of a BCS game, he replied "I don't pay any attention to that stuff. Was this a huge step for us? No. Was it the next step? Yes."
BYU knows that the game against UCLA Saturday could potentially make or break the goal of a BCS bowl bid. In their last game, UCLA beat then-ranked 18 Tennessee in overtime. Saturday’s game will be the third meeting between BYU and UCLA in the last year, and because of the previous games, this meeting is something of a rivalry between the two. Adding to the rivalry is UCLA quarterback Ben Olson, who redshirted at BYU in 2002 before transferring to UCLA. However, Olson is out with a broken foot and will be replaced by quarterback Kevin Craft, who completed 18 of 25 passes in the second half against Tennessee for 193 yards.
BYU quarterback Max Hall completed 30 of 41 passes for 338 yards against Washington last Saturday. Running back Harvey Unga rushed 136 yards against the Huskies, and running back Fui Vakapuna appeared in his first game of the season with several great blocks and 15 yards. BYU enters this game with the longest win streak in the country at 12 games.
What was expected to be a difficult match-up quickly turned into BYU handing UCLA its worst defeat in more than 75 years. A quick first possession touchdown by Max Hall’s pass to Dennis Pitta was only the start. Hall threw for five more touchdowns in the second quarter, giving the Cougars a 42-0 lead at the half. Hall then threw one more touchdown pass in the third quarter, his passing yards reaching 271 and throwing 27-for-35, before resting for the remainder of the game. Backup quarterback Brenden Gaskins took his place for the last 1 ½ quarters, and threw 4-of-5 for 66 yards. The final score was 59-0.
Running back Harvey Unga also had a great game, adding 17 carries for 71 yards to BYU’s total of 521 yards, as well as 2 touchdowns. Wide receiver Austin Collie, whose performance wasn’t quite up to par against Washington, had 10 receptions for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns against UCLA. Wide receiver Michael Reed, tight end Dennis Pitta, and running back Wayne Latu all added touchdowns to BYU’s eight as well, and kicker Mitch Payne made a field goal toward the end of the fourth quarter. After the difficult game against Washington, particularly with the widely disputed ending call, the Cougars were ready to “make a statement,” explained Jan Jorgenson, who plays on the BYU defensive line. BYU will play its first Mountain West opponent next Saturday, Wyoming, at home, and will enter this game continuing the longest win streak in the country at 13 games.
BYU v. Wyoming
While the Cougars had a great performance against UCLA, and a four-spot jump in the AP Poll, Coach Mendenhall assures fans that these facts will not turn the Cougars into an overconfident or cocky team. In fact, “it is interesting to talk about, but it does not affect me or how I view our team,” he explained at a press conference on Tuesday. His players agree. Defensive lineman Jan Jorgenson expressed simply that if they focus too much on polls, BYU will begin to suffer on the field. BYU will take on its first Mountain West Conference opponent, Wyoming, on Saturday afternoon, but never expect a game to be an easy win.
Center Dallas Reynolds has plantar fasciitis in his left foot and missed practice, but Mendenhall does not expect him to miss any games. Wyoming is 0-1 in the MWC having lost to Air Force on September 6.
BYU has been lucky so far this season in terms of injuries, as the best players on the team have avoided serious injury and have all been healthy for each of their difficult games thus far. However, Coach Mendenhall reported on Wednesday that senior receiver Michael Reed has a meniscus tear in his right knee and will be undergoing surgery this week. He reportedly injured the knee during the game against UCLA, but will be out 2-4 weeks following the surgery. Reed has 16 catches so far this season, which places him in a tie for third place on the team.
The Cougars will take on Wyoming Saturday at 1:00 pm in BYU’s home stadium. Max Hall was nominated the USA Today Player of the Week this week, and there has been talk of his being a Heisman candidate as well. The Cougars enter this game ranked 14 in the AP Poll and 11 in the USA Today Poll. Wyoming is 2-1 and ranked 7th in the MWC standings.