FORT COLLINS, Colo. — In its final trip here as a member of the Mountain West Conference, BYU left a lasting impression.
Freshman Jake Heaps and senior Luke Ashworth played like one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in school history, as the two connected for four first-half touchdowns en route to a dominating 49-10 victory over Colorado State on Saturday.
Instead of "defending the Fort," as they like to say here in Fort Collins, the Rams put up little resistance. The Cougars overran, and passed through, Hughes Stadium almost unimpeded.
BYU rolled up a season-high 526 yards total offense and built upon last week's easy 52-7 win over UNLV. And this time, the Cougars did it away from home, marking their first road victory in a calendar year.
What's more, this is the first time the Cougars (5-5, 4-2) haven't had a losing record since mid-September. Since starting 1-4, BYU has turned things around in symmetrical fashion, posting a 4-1 mark.
"Our team continues to improve and take steps forward. … We executed at a very high level and it's a gratifying win," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I wasn't sure how much improvement we made versus UNLV, and where our team was, but this gives me a better idea that maybe we took a little bigger jump than I thought we might have."
Heaps, who completed 15-of-20 passes for 242 yards, said he was not surprised by the lopsided victory.
"We felt like we had the momentum building. It's happening at the right time for us. We've been working hard and we know what we're capable of. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it. This isn't a shock to me. We could have been doing this since Week 1. But it's taken us a little while to get there."
Earlier this week, one of Colorado State's defensive coaches said he didn't see any Cougar receivers like Austin Collie, who torched the Rams when he was at BYU and is now a star in the National Football League. He wasn't counting on Ashworth turning in a career day.
"I think he could change that statement now," Heaps said of Ashworth's four touchdowns, which set a record for most touchdowns scored in a half in BYU history. "We have talent out here. It's unfortunate that it's taken us this long to kind of get clicking and get going.
"But we've always had this talent. It's been a lot of fun to see us grow and develop together. Through the adversity we've been through, it's been a lot of fun to see us have success. We're peaking at the right time right now."
Of Ashworth, Heaps said, "Luke played a phenomenal game. It was just unreal. He's been practicing hard. This is his last year and he's giving everything he's got to the team."
BYU received the opening kickoff and promptly marched to midfield before wide receiver Cody Hoffman caught a pass, ran downfield and fumbled. CSU recovered the ball.
But the Cougar defense forced a Ram punt, putting the ball back in the hands of Heaps and the offense. BYU scored four plays later on a 62-yard flea-flicker from Heaps to Ashworth to give the Cougars a 7-0 advantage.
"(The fumble) didn't seem to faze the team much," Mendenhall said. "I think the resiliency is growing as they continue through the season. It's hard to remember the beginning of the season. There's been so much work that's been put in to reach where we are now."
"It never shook our offense, it never shook our team," Heaps said of the early fumble. "It was one of those things like, 'Well, let's get the ball back and get this thing going.' "
While the offense poured on the points, including three more Heaps-to-Ashworth touchdowns of 7, 36 and 8 yards, the defense shut down the Rams' offense, allowing only one late touchdown. Overall, the defense forced four turnovers, including a 44-yard fumble return by linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
By halftime, BYU was staked to a 35-0 lead.
"We have passion. We're playing for something that's good for our program and good for the people to see," said Van Noy. "I think we're only going up from here. We can only get better. Our defense is pulling through and our offense is clicking now. We're a team to be reckoned with now."
BYU cornerback Brian Logan was surprised by how well his team played.
"(The Rams) have better athletes than UNLV," he said. "We thought it was going to be a battle. But our offense just gave it to them."
BYU converted its first nine third-down attempts and ended up going 12-for-13 on third downs.
"That's how you've got to play great football — convert on third downs," Heaps said. "That's a huge part of the game."
Ashworth credited the play-calling, and the offensive line, for BYU's success.
"The (offensive line) gave Jake all the time in the world to make great throws, and I was fortunate to be on the other end of it," Ashworth said. "It was great play-calling. We had confidence that those plays would work out because they worked in practice all week."
BYU plays its final MWC home game Saturday, against New Mexico.