After four weeks of the college football season, the crowd is thinning at the weekly Big Five Huddle luncheon. The coaches' speeches are getting shorter, the press is asking fewer questions, and there's just a lot less enthusiasm all around.
Sure, BYU is undefeated, but the rest of the in-state teams are struggling to stay at .500. One coach is concerned about a lack of offense, another is concerned about a shortage on defense, and the others are just concerned.Here's an early look at this week's games (Utah State has a bye):
BYU (4-0, 2-0) at Oregon (2-1, 0-1), 1:30 p.m. MDT, Channel 4 - BYU Coach LaVell Edwards says his team took a different tack in beating San Diego State last Saturday.
"Normally what you try to do is wear a defense down," Edwards said. `The other day what we did was wear down San Diego State's offense."
He was referring to the BYU offense's tendency to score quickly, which put the Cougar defense back on the field - where it spent much of the game.
Edwards said that at one point in the game he turned to Assistant Coach Robbie Bosco and said, referring to the offense, "We've got to get something going." Three plays later BYU had another touchdown, and Bosco asked Edwards, "Was that good enough?"
Regardless of last week's results, Edwards said he would prefer to see the offense on the field more. "Hopefully, what we'll do is get back to wearing out somebody's defense this week," he said.
The Cougars may need to do that, since they'll be facing a high-powered offense led by quarterback Bill Musgrave. This week's game has the potential to be every bit as high-scoring as last year's contest, won by BYU 45-41 in Cougar Stadium.
Wyoming (4-0, 1-0) at Utah (2-2, 0-1), 7 p.m. - The Utes' Ron McBride is the coach wondering where the offense went.
"Two phases of our football team are very good - our defense and our special teams," he said. "Our offense is not very good."
McBride said that last week's 19-7 loss to Hawaii was an example of lack of offense. "The game could have easily been a different game in the first quarter, if we had converted on a couple of key situations," he said. "We're not a good enough football team that we can make mistakes and cover for them."
This week the Utes face probably their toughest opponent yet, a Cowboy team that apparently has a defense and an offense, averaging 33 points a game while limiting opponents to 19 points. Wyoming limited Air Force's wishbone attack to 12 points and held Washington State's aerial assault to 13 points.
Wyoming Coach Paul Roach said his biggest concern facing Utah is finding a way to get past Ute inside linebackers Anthony Davis and Pita Tonga. "Those guys are something else," he said. "They're the best pair of inside linebackers I've seen in the league. You can't move the ball if you don't get some hats on those two guys."
Montana State (2-2, 1-1) at Weber State (2-2, 1-2), 6 p.m. - Like McBride, Weber State Coach Dave Arslanian was still sorrowing over what might have been. His team played Idaho last week and lost 37-27, and Arslanian says his team was just a few plays away from a win.
"There were ordinary plays within our grasp that could have turned that game around," he said. "We're just not a good enough football team to beat a contending team."
The coach was pleased with his offense, which continues to improve. And he gives much of the credit for that to sophomore quarterback Jamie Martin. "As Jamie gets better, our offense gets better," he said.
The big disappointment for the Wildcats has been the defense. "Against Idaho, we had a horrible game defensively," Arslanian said. "We're not anywhere close to where we thought we'd be defensively."
The Wildcats should face a stiff challenge in Montana State. The Bobcats added a legitimate passing attack this season and used it effectively in knocking off Idaho - the same team that beat Weber State - in the season opener. Montana State's only Big Sky loss was a six-point defeat at the hands of unbeaten Nevada.
Southern Utah (2-2, 0-0) at Santa Clara (3-1), 8 p.m. MDT - After opening the season with losses to Div. I-AA schools Weber State and Idaho State, Southern Utah has won two straight. This week the T-Birds open Western Football Conference play against Santa Clara, which has also won two straight.
"Santa Clara is a real sound football team and generally don't beat themselves," Southern Utah Coach Jack Bishop said. "We always play them tough, but we've had a bit of a hard time beating them."
Last Saturday, T-Bird quarterback Brad Matthews threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns despite missing part of the second half with a rib injury. "Brad had the game of a lifetime tonight and really had to adjust to some adversity," Bishop said.
This week Southern Utah will have to count on its defense, since Santa Clara leads the WFC in total offense and passing offense, in addition to fielding the leading rusher in the league and the top-rated passer.