By Ryan Hope
The BYU Cougar football team returns home from a four-game road trip to face UNLV Saturday.
It”s a much needed homecoming for the Cougars who went 1-3 in their recent road trip.
“It feels good to be home,” head coach Gary Crowton said. “I don”t make any excuses for the losses we made on the road. But hopefully, we can get some advantage playing back at home.”
The Cougars enter the game 3-3 overall and 0-1 in Mountain West Conference play.
BYU was embarrassed 52-9 against Air Force last week, which prompted Crowton to make some changes on offense.
Redshirt freshman Matt Berry will start at quarterback for the Cougars against UNLV.
Berry played briefly in last week”s game and has also seen action in the Cougar JV games.
The last time Berry started a game was in November of 1998 as a high school senior.
“He”s done some good things but I”m sure he”s going to make some errors,” Crowton said. “Hopefully he”ll make some good plays too.”
Berry replaces junior Bret Engemann who has suffered through an inconsistent year.
“I don”t blame Engemann at all for the things that haven”t gone well,” Crowton said. “Sometimes he”s been inconsistent but sometimes everyone else has too.”
Crowton said that the quarterback position is not the only position that needs improvement. Crowton wants his young receivers to play more consistent and help Berry.
“The receivers are a good group,” Crowton said. “With our youthfulness, we show a lot of promise and excitement at times, but we also see some errors at key times as well.”
Seniors Reno Mahe and Andrew Ord, junior Toby Christensen, and sophomore David Christensen will see a lot of passes coming their way against UNLV, Crowton said.
Air Force exploited the Cougar defense as BYU gave up 386 rushing yards.
“The defense was easily embarrassed last week,” freshman defensive tackle Daniel Marquardt said. “The defense has something to prove against UNLV.”
Junior middle linebacker Paul Walkenhorst is questionable for Saturday”s game due to a concussion suffered against Air Force. If Walkenhorst can”t play, junior Mike Tanner will take his place.
UNLV comes into the game facing a lot of the same challenges the Cougars are going through.
Senior quarterback Jason Thomas has had an inconsistent year passing the ball for the Rebels, and will split time with sophomore Kurt Nantkes Saturday.
Senior Joe Haro is the Rebels” leading rusher coming in with 391 yards on the ground, but Crowton expects to see a lot of sophomore Dominique Dorsey.
“Dorsey hasn”t played as much, but I”m sure he”ll play more against us because he had such a good game against us last year,” Crowton said.
Dorsey rushed for 77 yards on 14 carries against the Cougars last season.
The Rebels” leading receivers are junior Michael Johnson, 23 receptions for 259 yards and sophomore Earvin Johnson, 17 receptions for 304 yards.
“They have a lot of good players on their team,” Crowton said. “I felt like last year, defensively, they were one of the toughest teams we faced.”
UNLV sophomore linebacker Adam Seward leads the Mountain West Conference with 10.2 tackles per game.
Senior linebacker Tyrone Tucker and sophomore safety Jamaal Brimmer are other top defensive performers for the Rebels.
Game time is set for 5:00 p.m. and will be broadcast live on KSL channel 5.