BYU football shows signs of improvement

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    By Robert Weiler

    It”s been seen before, and it will be seen again.

    One kick eliminates the memory of 59 minutes of first downs, sacks, penalties and play calls.

    Yet while that one kick will forever remain the last scene of the four-act drama, it will only be a difficult moment of a promising 11-part series.

    Matt Payne”s missed field goal at the end of the game Friday night against Boise State was a missed opportunity to turn the Cougars” season around, but the rest of the game was a sign of life in all three phases of BYU football.

    After a half a quarter of blows, BYU stepped it up in every aspect of the game. Two plays after Payne leveled punt returner Chris Carr and a Boise State penalty pushed the Broncos deep in their own territory, Aaron Francisco kept the momentum on the Cougars” side, stripping the ball from Lawrence Bady and putting the BYU offense in prime position. BYU resurrected its ground game, and four rushing plays later, the Cougars were right back in the game when Curtis Brown scored from two yards out.

    The Cougar O looked like the Cougars of 2001 in the second quarter, driving down the field and putting points on the board. Then in the second half, the offense turned into the Cougars of yesteryear, throwing the ball deep on every opportunity and coming up big enough times to take a 27-22 lead.

    BYU quarterback John Beck had a breakout game, passing for 390 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Four of Beck”s completions went for 30 or more yards to three different receivers.

    On the other side of the ball, BYU”s hustling defense held the nation”s seventh-best offense to half of its average point total per game, sacking Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky six times. They also put the Broncos in situations they haven”t faced this year, such as forcing the Broncos into a handful of second and third and longs.

    The Cougar defense forced Boise State into field goal attempts three times, and gave Payne the chance to win the game with a big sack to thwart a two-point conversion.

    And then there was the special teams, which was a one-man show Friday night.

    Payne didn”t get a chance to boom any kickoffs, lofting all four (including the free kick after the safety) short and away from Carr. He averaged 44 yards per punt, was perfect on extra points, and made two of three field goals.

    Regardless of how the game ended, no matter if BYU could save its non-conference season or not, even if Gary Crowton couldn”t beat a ranked opponent and despite the fact that the game was being played on the famed Smurf Turf, the play of the game occurred in the second quarter when Payne put the hurt on Carr. He even did it two more times to the surprise of the 30,000 Bronco fans in attendance.

    Payne will not soon be forgotten in Boise. BYU football is not dead.

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