In the aftermath of BYU's puzzling, thoroughly inept performance in Thursday night's 24-14 season-opening loss to Wyoming, the most pressing question (and there are many) is the future of quarterback Sean Covey.

And while BYU officials indicated Friday afternoon that Covey had been cleared to practice and that he would start against Texas next Thursday, the concussion he suffered late in the second quarter, forcing him to miss the rest of the game, has caused some alarm, largely because, according to Coach LaVell Edwards, he has a history of such problems. Even though Covey regained his memory and said he was ready to play in the second half, BYU coaches and doctors were taking no chances. They were concerned enough about Covey's health that they refused to play him even when his freshman backup, Ty Detmer, was committing five consecutive turnovers in the second half, even when it became apparent that Covey, and only Covey, could pull out a win.Said Edwards, "This is the third time in the last four games that this has happened - against Utah last year, and then a slight one in Melbourne (against Colorado State) and then this one. It's a very disturbing trend."

Covey, though content to abide by the decision of coaches and doctors, disputed any so-called trend. He says his injury against CSU was to the neck, not the head. As for Thursday's concussion, Covey said, "It's a fluke. I don't think it will happen again." Besides the two recent incidents against Utah and Wyoming, Covey said the only other concussion he has had came during his junior year in high school.

In the meantime, the Cougars have other problems to tackle. Against the Cowboys they were inadequate in nearly every phase of the game: kicking (three missed field goals in as many tries), throwing (five interceptions, 14 completions in 38 attempts), catching and holding onto the ball (two lost fumbles, seven dropped passes), blocking (nine sacks), offense (213 yards, 90 in the first half).

"I was surprised," said Edwards. "I thought we would perform better . . . I was very disappointed in our kicking game. I thought it would be one of our strong points. We missed three makeable field goals that could have made a difference."

Only the defense, which, with its inexperience, had seemed the most vulnerable, appeared to find itself. After allowing 21 points in the first half, the Cougars allowed three in the second half despite being pinned deep in their own territory by five turnovers. In all, they allowed the Cowboys a so-so 300 yards total offense.

"I felt good about our defense," said Edwards. "If Sean had been healthy, it would have made a difference."

Thursday's loss meant the Cougars will start where they left off last season _ chasing Wyoming for the Western Athletic Conference championship. They probably must survive the remainder of their WAC schedule unbeaten to have a chance of claiming the championship.

"I really think we'll be all right," said Edwards. "We haven't exactly set the world on fire in opening games anyway."

Indeed, the Cougars have lost three of their last six season-opening games and (to Baylor, Pittsburgh and Wyoming) recovered to have good seasons. But there isn't much time for the Cougars to pull their act together. They face Texas Thursday night in Provo. Texas is ranked in the Top 20 by many polls and will be looking to avenge a 22-17 loss to BYU last year in Austin.