BYU "warmed-up" for next week's matchup with Wyoming in frigid Laramie with a 54-7 blowout of Air Force here Saturday.
The pre-game talk was of snow and low temperatures causing problems for the BYU pass offense, but the Cougars didn't let it bother them.They claimed to enjoy it.
"These kinds of games are a fun part of football," said Y. quarterback Ty Detmer. "I kind of look forward to them."
Tight end Chris Smith said the Cougars were glad to see snow falling when they arrived in Colorado Springs Friday.
"We were excited about it," Smith said. "We like playing in snow, and we like playing in cold. It was a fun day."
Fun for everyone but the Falcons and the 26,000 fans who braved icy roads and a wind-chill factor that lowered the temperature to zero to see if their team could upset the 9th-ranked Cougars. But by halftime, with the score just 17-0 in BYU's favor, the fans already began to leave the stadium.
BYU's lead may not have been that big, but it was clear how this one was going to end. The Cougars had completely shut down the Falcons' wishbone attack, actually outgaining Air Force on the ground in the first half. The Falcons ended up with more yards rushing than BYU by game's end, but 84 of their 263 yards came in the fourth quarter against the BYU backups.
Field conditions, which were supposed to favor the run-oriented Falcons, seemed to hurt Air Force more. The Cougars shut down the Falcons' fullback dive, forcing Air Force to run wide. The frozen field made turning the corner tough, however, and the wishbone stalled.
The Cougar offense, meanwhile, ran (mostly straight ahead) and passed equally well, averaging 4.7 yards per carry on the ground, passing for 429 yards and racking up 602 yards in total offense.
Detmer, who was supposed to be a question mark because he was playing in snow for the first time in his life, completed 30 of 43 passes (69.8 percent) for 397 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in three quarters of play. At one stretch in the first and second quarters, Detmer completed 14 straight passes. Throughout the game the BYU offensive line easily held off the Falcon pass rush, giving Detmer ridiculous amounts of time to throw. And receivers plenty of time to get open.
Detmer said the Cougars' running success gained him more passing time.
"I expected them to stunt and blitz a little bit more, but I think we made them nervous with the running," Detmer said.
With all that time to operate, tight end Chris Smith and wide receiver Andy Boyce had a particularly easy time finding holes in the Falcon zone. Smith was all alone in the middle of the Air Force defense for much of the first half, and when the Falcons started looking for him in the third period, Boyce found himself all alone on the corners. The result was Boyce finishing with 10 catches for 127 yards and Smith making seven catches for 115 yards.
Detmer's pass efficiency for the day was 170.3, lifting him to 158.9 for the season.
Both teams played cautiously at the start, testing the frozen turf and each other's defenses. BYU's offense played against the wind in the first quarter, but that didn't stop Detmer from completing 10 of 14 passes. But BYU's two drives in the quarter ended in a missed 41-yard field goal and a fumble by Mike Salido that was recovered by Air Force.
The Falcons, meanwhile, were having problems of their own, netting 36 yards rushing on two possessions.
The first quarter ended without a score, something that hasn't happened in a BYU game all season.
In the second quarter, BYU embarked on one of its fast-break scoring blitzes, generating points on seven straight possessions through the end of the third quarter.
The onslaught started three minutes into the second period, when Detmer rolled right at the Air Force seven-yard line, then looked back across the field to where Andy Boyce and Peter Tuipulotu were covered by - each other. Detmer threw it, Boyce caught it. "I told Pete, 'Next time, if you want it, don't get so far into the end zone'," Detmer said.
Four plays later, BYU had the ball back, and Detmer engineered a 60-yard drive in eight plays that ended in a two-yard TD run by Peter Tuipulotu. BYU 14, Air Force 0.
The Falcons then mounted a serious drive that might have made this a game if it had ended in a touchdown, but all the Air Force got out of it was a field-goal attempt into the wind that was wide left.
The final BYU drive of the half ended in a 36-yard Earl Kauffman field goal, largely because there was no time left on the clock to try a couple more plays and score a TD.
As the second half started the snow was falling less and the field appeared in better shape. The Falcons ripped off a 20-yard run on their first play of the half, but two plays later Y. linebacker Scott Giles hit Air Force quarterback Rob Perez, causing a fumble that BYU's Pete Harston recovered. On the next play, Detmer threw 36 yards to Boyce in the end zone (and the extra point was missed) to make it 23-0.
On the Falcons' next possession, Giles blasted through again and grabbed Perez by the jersey as the QB tried to throw. The pass floated, and Y. cornerback Tony Crutchfield ran it 37 yards for a TD. It marked the third straight week a BYU defensive back has run an interception back for a TD, and it made the score 30-0.
The Cougars reached 37-0 three minutes later on a Stacey Corley dive, followed by the Falcons' only scoring drive - a two-play, 80-yard effort that might have been chalked up to indifference on the part of the BYU defense.
The Cougars added another touchdown and field goal in the third quarter to give them a 30-point quarter and a 47-7 lead. BYU tacked on one more score, a seven-yard TD run by third-string fullback Scott Charlton.
The victory, combined with Colorado State's 17-8 win over Wyoming, means BYU can pretty much wrap up the WAC title with a win next week in Laramie, where the Cougars are expecting even colder weather.
"I'm sure Laramie will be 10 times worse than this," Detmer said.
As hot as BYU is, though, it may not matter.