By Devon Black
Game-by-game, touchdown-by-touchdown, the long lost BYU swagger of old days seems to be returning to Provo.
Against San Diego State on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006, the Cougars put up a performance that must have made the old-timers proud. The offense scored at will and the outcome was decided early.
In front of crowd of 60,804 the Cougars built a 40-3 halftime lead and coasted in the second half on their way to a 47-17 victory.
For the first time since the 2001 season, BYU is 2-0 in conference play, 3-0 at home and put up 40 points in one half.
John Beck threw four touchdowns and finished with an efficiency rating of 245.9, the best rating a Cougar quarterback has put up in 10 years.
All together, it was the kind of performance Cougar fans have been longing to see since the team has fallen away from its championship days.
“That was the best half of football I”ve seen us play to this point,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “It was an exceptional win for the program. Returning to what it once was here in those afternoons that were like this before – it”s nice to be part of that. I feel like sometimes that tradition was outside of us. I like how motivated (the players) are to return to what it once was.”
BYU”s offense scored touchdowns on five of its six possessions in the first half, and the defense added a touchdown of its own. Beck completed 16 of 21 passes for 267 yards and sat out the fourth quarter along with most of the other starters.
“We”re just getting that swagger back,” running back Curtis Brown said. “We go into each game knowing we”re going to win. We know we”re the best team in this conference. We just have to play like it. From an offensive perspective that confidence is there. That swagger we”ve been talking about for the last couple of years, it”s finally here.”
San Diego State, hit hard by injuries and winless on the season, looked like a desperate team caught in the headlights of BYU”s offensive freight train.
The Aztecs pulled some tricks out of their hat early and tried a surprise onsides kick on the opening kickoff. Garrett Palmer bounced the kick about 20 yards downfield where a teammate leaped over BYU”s Andrew Stacey to recover the ball. But, Stacey had called for a fair catch and BYU got possession along with the fair catch interference penalty.
Seven plays later, Fui Vakapuna bowled over the Aztecs defense on a 14-yard touchdown run and the rout was on.
SDSU answered with a 48-yard field goal in its next possession but, in the blink of an eye, BYU was up 20-3 after a 29-yard touchdown catch by Zac Collie and a four-yard scoring run by Curtis Brown.
After Jonny Harline”s eight-yard TD catch in the corner of the end zone made it 26-3 in the second quarter, things went from bad to worse for San Diego State. Red shirt freshman quarterback Kevin Craft threw an interception downfield to Dustin Gabriel who reversed field and sprinted in from 38 yards out to put BYU up by 30.
Beck”s four-yard swing pass to Brown with 3:03 left before halftime put the finishing touches on the two-quarter blowout.
“When we came out today I felt the offense ran on all cylinders,” Beck said. “I feel like this offense can do so much. We have so many talented guys and so many skilled linemen up front.”
BYU”s final score was an 18-yard pass from Beck to Tonga in the third quarter. The Cougars could have scored more but fumbled the ball away at the goal line later in the quarter and then called off the dogs in the final 15 minutes.
San Diego State managed some consolation points on a pair of one-yard runs by Brandon Bornes and Tyler Campbell in the third quarter.
“We”re in quest of our first conference championship in quite some time and it”s all out there for us,” Mendenhall said. “Our coaching staff will remain consistent and that way we”ll be able to stay the course and play better football ahead of us.”
The Cougars now have a full week to rest before playing at home against another struggling conference opponent in UNLV on Oct. 21.