The Brigham Young Cougars are good.
There’s just no better way to say it than that. The Cougars aren’t just leading the Mountain West Conference; they own it.
Through nine weeks of college football, the Cougars currently rank first in the MWC in the following: points per game (40.8), points allowed per game (13.8), turnover margin (plus-10) and passing yards per game (278). They’re also second in rushing yards per game with 171.2, trailing only the Air Force Falcons who pass less than an old lady in a Buick.
“They do what they do,” said CSU defensive coordinator Steve Stanard. “And they do it really well.”
In particular, one of the Cougars who definitely does it well is senior quarterback John Beck. Beck has been one of the best offensive producers in the country this season, completing 70.9 percent of his passes for a league-leading 2,068 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 230 attempts this season, he’s also thrown only three interceptions.
“We’ve been watching him on tape and it seems like he’s only improved,” said CSU Head Coach Sonny Lubick. “That kid must be a hard worker; he’s throwing the ball with confidence and they have a running game to go along with it.”
The run game Lubick is referring to is mainly senior running back Curtis Brown. If anything is as impressive as the 13 300-yard passing games that Beck has thrown in, it’s the 11 100-yard rushing games Brown has accumulated during his career.
“You have to stop the run or they have you where they want you,” Stanard said.
And if the ball doesn’t go to Brown initially, that doesn’t mean it won’t find its way into his hands through the air. He leads the team in receptions with 38.
“Beck spreads the ball around and he makes good decisions,” Stanard said. “He dunks the ball off to the backs a lot. That’s his safety valve.”
Beck figures to attack an injured CSU secondary that has had to scramble to find replacements for numerous injured players. Safety Mike Pagnotta practiced a little this week, but with his injured knee, he is doubtful for Saturday’s game.
“I hate to take a chance and play him,” Lubick said. “Especially with a kid like Mike who gives you all he can. I don’t want to risk him tweaking it.”
On offense, the Rams have to figure out how to put away a team, as they allowed Air Force to erase a 17-point halftime deficit two weeks ago and the New Mexico Lobos to hang around long enough for a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter last weekend.
They’ll have to get it done against a team led by a dominating linebacker corps and a solid defensive line led by senior Hala Paongo.
“We know they’re a big team,” said running back Nnamdi Ohaeri. “Size doesn’t matter. We all have shoulder pads, leg pads, helmets on. Big, tall, small, skinny people play football. I’m not worried about it.”
While the offense may have become a concern for fans, the players are still running the same game plan they have all year and focusing on the basics of football in hopes of getting back on track after losing three consecutive conference games.
“It’s just another game; other people are nervous, but we’re not,” said Ohaeri.
Nervous or not, the Rams, with a 1-3 conference record, know how important a win would be – and how devastating another loss could be – to their season.
“We’re on a three-game slide here,” said Ohaeri. “We need to get back on the winning track.
Football beat writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.