Christmas came to Cougar Stadium Saturday for BYU receivers Andy Boyce, Matt Bellini and Chris Smith.
Playing the part of Santa Claus were various San Diego State defensive backs.They gave Cougar receivers what they wanted - man-to-man coverage.
"You can't do that to BYU," Smith said. Or, at least if you do, it's bombs away.
The long pass returned to the Cougar arsenal because of BYU's ability to beat the Aztec defensive scheme - Ty Detmer had six completions go for more than 30 yards and a number between 20 and 30 in BYU's 62-34 victory over the Aztecs. That wasn't happening the first three weeks of the season. "The other teams (UTEP, Miami, Washington State) were playing zone and dropping everybody deep," Detmer said.
Give the Aztec coaching staff an "A" for courage for deciding to go the man-to-man route, thereby freeing up more people to rush Detmer, but give them something less than that for strategy.
The Cougar receivers, Detmer said, are too good to control that way plus the offensive line was giving him plenty of time to find them.
And find them he did. Boyce had seven catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Bellini moved into second place on BYU's all-time receiving list with nine catches for 119 yards and Smith made big play after big play while hauling in six Detmer tosses for 162 yards.
They all helped themselves with some acrobatic catches. Smith put the game away with a leaping grab between two defenders at the San Diego State 7-yard line on a third-and-13 from the San Diego 42. BYU was ahead 48-34 with close to 10 minutes to play. Three plays later Detmer, getting a lot of time to look over the field, found Boyce with a 12-yard throw to the back of the end zone to finally give BYU a comfortable margin of 55-34.
"They've got some great moves and run great routes. Our guys will turn you around. I'd hate to play defense against our receivers," Detmer said.
Interestingly, because of BYU's quick-strike offense - "They're as close to unstoppable as you can get," stated Associate WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd - BYU's own defense as well as the opponents' defense has problems. As in no rest.
On the Cougar call-in show after the game Coach LaVell Edwards remarked that he was hoping the Cougars wouldn't score so fast in the second quarter so that the defense could get some rest.
Here was the situation. San Diego State, after executing a nice onside kick after a touchdown early in the second quarter, marched in for another ball-control score, to make it 21-14 for BYU with five minutes remaining in the quarter. The Aztecs had had the ball for 10 straight minutes while pounding and throwing the ball downfield for those two drives.
The BYU defense obviously was tired, but its offensive mates scored so quickly it was as if there was a turnover and they'd had to quickly return to the field.
What the offense did was go 80 yards in three plays in 34 seconds. Some breather. Starting at the 20 Detmer found Smith free on the right side with the tight end then reversing to the other side for 35 yards. He then laid out a ball like it was a feather to a streaking Micah Matsuzaki for 28 yards down the left sideline to put the ball at the Aztec 17. And then he promptly hit Boyce with a strike in the end zone. A score and back out on the field for the beleauguered defense, which was unable to keep the Aztecs from mounting another ball-control drive for a score.
"I'd hate to play defense for our team. They're out there 40 minutes out of 60 minutes (actually, 38:48 Saturday)," Detmer said.
Perhaps the only thing worse, is playing for the opponents' defense.
"We have such a great offense. Ty can go to anybody. I was just hoping the defense would hold them in the second half because I knew we'd score. That's how much confidence we have in our offense," Boyce said.
The statistics in the first four games - 30, 28, 50 and 62 points - seem to reflect his comment.