Big WAC battle? A game for all (or at least most of) the marbles? Fierce rivalry?
Forget it.In a season when the WAC is looking
like Blue-White and the Eight Dwarves, sixth-ranked BYU continutes to stomp league opponents in unprecedented style. This week's victim was No. 25 Wyoming, which fell 45-14 before a record War Memorial Coliseum crowd of 34,231 and a national TV audience.
The best anyone can say about the Cowboys is that they didn't let BYU reach its average WAC victory margin of 51-18.
The Cougars graciously continue to protest that these are tough games, but the numbers prove otherwise. Quarterback Ty Detmer threw for 484 yards while becoming BYU's all-time passing leader, a milestone he reached early in the third quarter when he hit tight end Chris Smith with a 22-yard pass. He also broke five NCAA records and passed Ben Bennett of Duke - and 7 other QB's - to move into fifth place on the all-time NCAA passing list. Detmer completed 35 of 50 passes (70 percent), with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions.
The wide receivers were Detmer's favorite targets in the first half, Andy Boyce making 6 catches for 99 yards and Micah Matsuzaki catching 3 for 61 yards. Tight end Chris Smith got most of Detmer's second-half attention, finishing the game with 8 catches for 111 yards.
When Detmer wasn't completing passes, BYU was running a draw-trap that Wyoming never did see coming. Fullback Mike Salido ended up with 96 yards on 10 carries, and fullback Peter Tuipulotu finished with 77 yards on 9 carries, and most of those yards were gained on the draw-trap.
"That's one area where we gambled a little bit and got caught," Cowboy coach Paul Roach admitted.
"I thought they (the Cowboys) would figure it out, but we just kept getting 10 yards at a time," Salido said.
Two things in particular stood out in this game: the Cougar's ability to win despite mistakes and their ability to convert on long-yardage downs. BYU commited three turnovers and a passel of penalties - 18-170 yards, to be exact, and you aren't supposed to be able to do that against good teams. Not if you want to be 8-1, anyway.
One drive illustrates how BYU was able to overcome long yardage situations. in the second quarter, the Cougars started a drive at the Wyoming 28. Detmer was sacked on the first play for a 7-yard loss, but on second-and-17 he hit Boyce for 12 yards. An illegal-procedure penalty put BYU in a third-and-ten situation, so Detmer found Matsuzaki for a 27-yard gain.
"Third and ten? That doesn't bother them," said Roach. "It's amazing the job they do with this so-called old-fashioned thing of lining up with split backs and sending everyone into the pass pattern."
Needless to say, Roach was impressed by Detmer and the Cougars. He even made a visit to the BYU locker room after the game to tell the victors how much he was impressed.
"We were not able to accomplish what we wanted to do going in," Roach said. "We wanted to keep Detmer in the pocket because we thought he'd do less damage in there having to throw over the heads of all of those big offensive linemen."
The Cowboys had hoped that their vaunted defensive line would get to Detmer enough to make a difference, but the five sacks they registered made little impact. WAC sack leader Mitch Donahue had three sacks and caused Detmer to fumble once, but he had only two other tackles. BYU had even practiced special blocking schemes to blunt the rush, but didn't need them.
The leading tacklers for the 'Pokes were defensive backs Brian Bowker and Paul Wallace , and any time the secondary is making all the stops, BYU's prayers have been answered.
Detmer was most effective passing when he rolled out, and all that running and throwing reminded Roach of another quarterback.
"You know who he reminds me of - and Detmer may have a better arm - is (former NFL quarterback) Fran Tarkenton," Roach said.
The cougar defense continues to improve, and impress, too. It limited Wyoming to 1 third-down conversion the entire game, out of 13 tries. It forced the Cowboys to punt 10 times, and it held them to 64 yards rushing and 189 yards total offense. It also out-sacked the 'Pokes, 6-5. Four of BYU's sacks came in the second half.
"We started doing a lot more blitzing and stunting in the second half," said defensive lineman Eddie Green. "We had them bumping into each other."
BYU gave every indication of making this another blowout in the first quarter, running up a 17-0 lead while Wyoming played decent defense but was incapable of moving the ball on offense.
The Cougars opened the game with a 12-play drive that ended in an Earl Kauffman 44-yard field goal. The teams swapped punts on the next three series, and then BYU found itself facing second-and-three at the Wyoming 30. Under a strong rush Detmer handed to Tuipuloto, who angled left through the middle then realized that the receivers had pulled the entire secondary left. Tuipuloto cut back right to an empty field and raced the 30 yards to the endzone.
Wyoming's next drive terminated when BYU safety Derwin Gray picked off a pass that had been tipped by a Wyoming receiver. BYU's first play after the interception was a 33-yard TD pass to Smith, but it was called back on a holding penalty. No matter; six plays later, on third-and-goal at the 13, Salido ran right for the touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
A few minutes into the second quarter, BYU made it 24-0 with a 3-play, 57-yard drive that featured two long passes - a 20-yarder to smith and a 27-yarder to Boyce for the TD. At that point Wyoming got its offense on track momentarily. On its first play after the BYU score, Wyoming QB Tom Corontzos hit Shawn Wiggins for a 51-yard gain to the BYU 29-yard line. On fourth-and-two at the 21, the Cowboys elected to go for it, Corontzos throwing a pass into the endzone. BYU cornerback Brian Mitchell was called for pass interference giving the Pokes first-and-goal at the six. On the next play Corontzos dropped back to pass but found the middle open and ran it in for the TD. Conrontzos then threw a successful 2-point conversion pass to make it 24-8. The next BYU possession ended when Detmer was intercepted by Marcoe Holmes, and on its next play Wyoming used a double reverse to spring tight end Gordy Wood for a 23-yard TD run. It was 24-14 and starting to look like the Cowboys would make it a game.
No such luck. BYU drove 72 yards on its next possession, the big play, a 41-yard run by Salido and Stacey Corley dove in from the one for the touchdown and a 31-14 lead.
The Cowboys failed to put any more points on the board and never even crossed into BYU territory in the second half. The Cougars, meanwhile, added touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to reach the final score.
The victory over a ranked team could help BYU in the polls especially considering that three teams ahead of them: Washington, Houston and Iowa lost. And while the Cougars frequently protested they don't watch the polls, don't believe it.
En route to the locker room after the game, Smith heard that No. 2 Washington had been upset by UCLA. "UCLA beat Washington,' he whooped. "We're moving up."
Roach conceded that BYU will probably be the WAC representative in the Holiday Bowl this season (one more victory clinches it for the Cougars), but he said he wished they didn't have to go.
"I'd love to see them go to the Fiesta Bowl or someplace like that and play a top team like Miami," Roach said. "I think they'd represent the WAC well."
As if they haven't already.
Ty Detmer - BYU's quarterback completed 35 of 50 passes (70 percent) for 484 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Penalties - BYU was penalized 11 times for 180 yards but still managed the lopsided score.
Rushing - Cougar backs added 195 yards on the ground.