Only three weeks ago, BYU's football team seemed headed for something special this season. The Cougars were 7-1, riding a seven-game winning streak and holding down a national ranking. But suddenly, with two games to go, the Cougars' season has gone sour. They've lost two of their last three games - one to poor old San Diego State, the other to resurging Utah - and, what's more, things aren't bound to improve any time soon.
The 8-3 Cougars, who are 2-3 on the road this year, travel to Miami to meet the powerful Miami Hurricane in their regular-season finale on Dec. 3, then meet Colorado in the Freedom Bowl on Dec. 29.Edwards knows what the Cougars are up against. "Miami is going to be pressing for No. 1," he says. "All I know about Colorado is that they're big and strong."
In the meantime, the Cougars have work to do. Their weaknesses were clearly evident during Saturday's 57-28 loss to Utah - their third-worst defeat of the decade. They committed eight turnovers, not to mention several untimely penalties, lost several players to injuries, failed to protect the quarterback and were, in general, outplayed and outhustled by the Utes. All of which is a fair description of BYU's other two losses this season, as well.
Reflecting on the Utah defeat, Edwards says, "It was just one of those bad days. We had all those turnovers. And (defensive linemen) Tim Clark and Tim Knight were injured and hardly played. All of a sudden, injuries have caught up with us, and they've hit us where we're vulner-able."
And where they're vulnerable is in the thin defensive front seven. On Sunday, linebacker Bob Davis, the team's defensive leader, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery for an injury he suffered against Utah. BYU officials expect that he will be ready for the Miami game. Knight (ankle) and Clark (knee) continue to be bothered by lingering injuries, and Edward says, "We'll just have to see how they are. If they're ready, they'll play."
The Cougars suffered a number of other injuries against Utah Saturday. Reserve defensive tackle Chad Moffat underwent knee surgery Sunday and is out for the season. Reserve defensive back Courtney Rogers broke a wrist, but may try to play with a cast. Reserve running back Michael Brooks will have a knee injury scoped this week.
Edwards thinks the injuries are the primary reason why BYU's defense, once one of the nation's best, has faded in recent games (they've allowed 500-plus yards in their last two outings). He has given his team the week off, which should help the injury situation.
The offense, which has produced 500 yards the last two games,continues to move the ball, but turnovers are an increasing problem. To date, the Cougars have thrown 15 interceptions and lost 21 fumbles, compared to their opponents' totals of 22 and 10, respectively.
"We moved the ball all day against Utah - we only punted twice - but they made touchdowns and we made turnovers," says Edwards.
Given the caliber of their next two opponents, plus their play of late, the Cougars face the realistic prospect of an 8-5 season. That would stand as a good record anywhere else, but it wouldn't sit well with the Cougars. They already have been forced to deal with a third-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference - their lowest place since 1975.
But the Cougars aren't ready to panic, yet. Asked if he plans to make any changes, in the lineup or otherwise, Edwards says, "Not for now."