If the BYU football team earned grades for its play, it would be a cinch to make the honor roll.
It has had five superior scores on six Saturday exams, and its well-above-average mark on the Miami test tends to outweigh its subpar performance in the Oregon final. It is ranked high among the Top 25 in the nation, and quarterback Ty Detmer has a good shot at being the country's valedictorian.Broken down by subject, here's how the Cougars' mid-term report card looks:
This sometimes overlooked unit is vital to the BYU offense. When the line gives Detmer time to throw, the offense will move. In BYU's one loss, to Oregon, mistakes by linemen were a critical factor in the dismal first half. This year's line has allowed Detmer to be sacked 16 times, but that's not an extraordinarily high figure considering BYU has run 286 pass plays. It's a better than average group in pass-blocking and run-blocking, and they compensate for a lack of depth by practicing players at all positions. And this unit possesses one intangible that lifts it a notch - unity. "This is a more closely knit group than others I've coached," line Coach Roger French said.
A solid unit. They are experienced, they run good routes and they run the ball well after the catch. Tight end Chris Smith has been bothered by nagging injuries and had knee surgery about three weeks ago, but he's still on a pace to at least equal last year's 60 catches and 1,000-plus yards. Andy Boyce opened the season with some big games, and when defensive attention shifted to him, Brent Nyberg came on strong. They have good depth in deep threat Micah Matsuzaki and Nati Valdez. They have been criticized for being slow, but they get open. As a unit they have dropped a few more balls than BYU receivers ordinarily drop.
Averaging 5.5 yards per carry as strong complement to passing attack. Fullbacks Peter Tuipulotu and Mike Salido have been outstanding, averaging 6.6 and 6.8 yards per carry, respectively. Matt Bellini, the "passing" halfback, is the team's top receiver. Stacey Corley is the "running" halfback. Entering the season Corley was expected to be the speedy tailback type BYU has lacked, but he has seemed tentative at times. Before the Colorado State game his average was just 3.4 yards per carry. Good depth in halfback Eric Mortensen and fullback Scott Charlton.
What more can be said about Detmer? He passes, he scrambles, and most of all, he leads. He throws an occasional bad pass, but so does Joe Montana.
A dominating group. Rich Kaufusi at right tackle is second on the Cougs' defensive-points list. If you combined the points of nose guards Mark Smith and Rick Wilson, and left tackles Pete Harston and Eddie Green, those two "units" would rank fifth and sixth on the defensive-points list. Obviously, great depth, although it would hurt to lose Kaufusi. On a pace to get more sacks than last year's line but could still improve pass rush. Not as big as some BYU lines have been, but quickness lets them do more stunts and movement. Ruthless against the run.
Hurt by loss of outside linebacker Jared Leavitt, although his replacement, Scott Giles, performed well against Colorado State. Fast, physical Alema Fitisemanu at other outside linebacker position has been defensive-points list leader most of season. Inside linebacker Coach Claude Bassett says Rocky Biegel is having season comparable to former BYU linebacker Bob Davis' junior year, his best. Other inside linebacker, Shad Hansen, is a sophomore and BYU's youngest starter, at 19. He's also last on the defensive-points list and makes occasional pass-coverage mistakes. Bassett said Davis and Biegel are "the best I've ever coached at being where they are supposed to be. They are rarely fooled." Depth at inside linebacker is good; another injury at outside linebacker would be trouble.
Hardest unit to evaluate. Gave up a lot of yards in first five games, against teams that emphasize the pass, and intercepted just three passes. CSU, a running team, figured BYU was vulnerable through the air and got intercepted five times. Knocking a lot more passes away from receivers than did last year's squad. Good speed keeps them from getting burned deep; most long pass plays against them are usually result of missed tackles. Very deep with Derwin Gray and Ervin Lee coming off bench, and nagging injuries to Norm Dixon and Tony Crutchfield have tested that depth. Always in spotlight because BYU game plan is to force other teams to pass.
Earl Kauffman has been terrific. He's made five of seven field goals, his only two misses coming from beyond 50 yards. He's averaging 45.7 yards per punt, and has a net average (punt minus return) of 42.3. That's five yards better than opponents have averaged. His kickoffs are rarely returned. He's missed three extra points, but two of those were blocked.
They've blocked well, they've tackled well, and they have rarely gotten penalized. Special teams Coach Tom Ramage calls it "one of our better special teams for several years." They have allowed just 6.1 yards per average punt return. Had big blocked punt in San Diego State game. Two guys to watch: Brad Clark and Tau Harrington, frequently the first guys downfield on kickoffs.
Graded on a curve, and compared to the 104 other Div. I-A teams in the country, BYU is easily in the top 10 percent. It has been good in most phases of the game, and great in others. Its one flaw seems to be occasional lapses in intensity. But it gets high marks for attitude and work habits. Anyway you look at it, this is an "A" team.