By Creighton McEwen
The Cougar offense showed few signs of improvement while the much-improved defense could only do so much during BYU”s loss to Stanford on Saturday, Sept. 20 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU proved for the second time this season that it takes more than winning the statistical game to defeat the opponent. If only the results were determined by total yards gained and number of first downs, the Cougars would be 4-0 right now instead of 2-2.
But much to the chagrin of BYU fans, the team that scores more points wins, and that”s what Stanford did.
In a battle of freshman quarterbacks, BYU”s John Beck clearly won. Beck completed 22 of 45 passes for 279 yards and one touchdown. Stanford”s Trent Edwards completed 10 of 23 attempts for just 25 yards. Both threw two interceptions. If only it were a game of one-on-one, the outcome would have been different.
But the game wasn”t won there either. The real statistics that counted in this game were BYU”s negative five total rushing yards, five turnovers, the Cardinal”s 14 points off of those turnovers and the final score 18-14.
“I want to make no excuses of our youth and our injuries,” said Cougar head coach Gary Crowton. “We are who we are, and if we turn around making excuses, that”s not making our team better.”
For the sixth straight game the Cougars failed to rush for a touchdown. Stanford”s rush defense proved to be worthy of a number-one ranking nationally.
After rushing for 169 yards against New Mexico, the Cardinal held junior Rey Brathwaite to 29 yards off of 12 carries. Junior Marcus Whalen returned to the lineup, rushing the ball three times for eight yards. Beck was also sacked five times.
“I know we”re trying,” Crowton said. “I know we”re working hard. We”ve got to find the answers on offense to open things up.”
Beck overthrew open receivers on the sidelines throughout the entire game. While sophomore quarterback Matt Berry for some reason couldn”t reach the receivers with his throws, Beck is now putting too much on his.
“I guess I was just a little excited being out there,” Beck said. “I wasn”t even trying to throw them that far, and they were just shooting out there.”
After converting on fourth-and-three with a seven-yard pass to freshman Daniel Coats, Beck then threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior Toby Christensen for his only touchdown pass of the game. With four and a half minutes left in the first quarter BYU led 7-0.
On BYU”s very next possession, after the Cougar defense forced Stanford to punt, a snap was fumbled at BYU”s own 27-yard line. The Cardinals needed only two plays to get into the end zone. After blocking the extra-point attempt, BYU still led 7-6.
Except for a turnover by both teams, the second quarter was uneventful. Both teams failed to score as defenses dominated.
On Stanford”s second possession in the second half the Cardinal reached into their hat and pulled out a trick play. Edwards completed a backwards pass to senior Luke Powell, who in turn completed a 31-yard pass to freshman Mark Bradford. They failed to move the ball any further and scored a field goal on the drive, making the score 9-7 with Stanford leading.
At the end of the third quarter, BYU returned the favor and completed the same trick play, only better and for a touchdown. Before the play, Beck hurt his arm after completing a 56-yard pass to junior Rod Wilkerson. Junior Todd Mortensen entered the game for one play and threw the backwards pass to sophomore receiver/safety/quarterback Lance Pendleton. Pendleton then threw the ball 31 yards to Coats for the touchdown.
BYU led the game 14-9 until another Stanford field goal made the score 14-12 with less than nine minutes to go in the game.
With less than five minutes remaining and BYU holding onto the lead, Crowton called for a pass play on first down. Beck”s pass was tipped and intercepted, giving Stanford the ball at BYU”s own 25-yard line.
“We weren”t running the ball very well,” Crowton said. “I called the pass play, and as I called it, I thought maybe we should run it.”
Nineteen seconds later, Edwards ran the ball in for the last score of the game. The two-point conversion failed, making the final score 18-14.
The Cougars” last attempt was unsuccessful, as they took the ball down the field at the end of the game, but failed to score. Beck was sacked twice in the final four plays.
BYU now looks forward to Air Force on Saturday. Offensive improvements need to be made at all positions, especially quarterback, Crowton said.
“[Beck”s] got to learn how to step up in the pocket with the rushers come from the outside,” he said. “I think Beck”s going to be an outstanding player.”