With its 13-10 upset of 14th-ranked Arizona State, the BYU football team gladly rid itself of numerous proverbial back-riding monkeys.
The primate reference may be appropriate, since the Cougars soundly outplayed host ASU in front of a Sun Devil Stadium crowd of 62,376 Saturday night, despite seeming to monkey around with fumbles and missed and blocked field goals.Those monkeys no longer getting a free ride on BYU's back include: 1. an inability to win in Tempe since 1965; 2. an oh-fer winless record against the Pac-10 in nine previous games; 3. questions about the Cougar running game after a 2-yard net total in the season opener; 4. a recent absence in the national rankings; 5. quarterback controversies; 6. the need to fare well against top-notch nonconference competition to maintain colllege-football respect . . . and so on.
BYU's game-winner was Owen Pochman's 32-yard field goal with 4:39 left in the game - the only scoring play of the second half. Ironically, it came on a day when Pochman and most of the rest of the Cougars' special-team play was suspect at best. Other mishaps and miscues included a 15-yard punt and a total of four botched handlings of Sun Devil punts - one of which was fumbled away, setting up ASU's sole touchdown.
No matter. BYU has a week to work on its recent weaknesses. For now, they'll savor the victory. "In all of my years of coaching, I haven't been more proud of a group," said BYU coach LaVell Edwards, who downplayed the rare Pac-10 win and his first-ever Tempe triumph with statements such as, "I don't get hung up on that type of thing" and "We could have won down here a couple of years ago."
First things first: The Cougar quarterback question seems to be answered as BYU (1-1 overall) goes into Western Athletic Conference play next week at Southern Methodist. Kevin Feterik, who came in to relieve Paul Shoemaker in the second half of BYU's 42-20 season-opening loss to Washington, completed 17-of-30 passes for 328 yards. "He did a nice job and showed a lot of poise," said Edwards.
And Feterik has found a favorite target: Ben Cahoon hauled in eight passes - including several trademark acrobatic snags - for 209 yards.
The BYU defense halted Arizona State's much-ballyhooed rushing attack after the Sun Devils' tailback tandem of Michael Martin and J.R. Redmond both rushed for 100-plus yards against then-No. 13 Miami last week. This time, ASU (now 2-1) couldn't break triple digits as a team (92 yards total), and the Sun Devils couldn't pick away at the young, inexperienced Cougar secondary.
"I'm very pleased with the run defense," said Edwards. "Coming into the season, we thought our rundefense would be a force. We wanted to force them into throwing the ball more than they wanted to, and we accomplished that."
The Cougar defense held ASU quarterback Ryan Kealy to 12-of-29 passing for 153 yards.
BYU's scoring possession midway in the fourth quarter started deep in the Cougars' own territory, on the nine-yard line. Tailbacks Brian McKenzie (who finished with 112 yards on 23 carries) and Wil Snowden picked up all the positive yardage as BYU reached the 20. But a third-down holding call pushed the Cougars to the ASU 33 before a scrambling Feterik zipped a 19-yard pass to Cahoon to give Pochman his 32-yarder instead of a more difficult kick from back near midfield.
The Cougars closed off the Sun Devils offense in their final two possessions. An Andrew Nash pass deflection and a sack by freshman DB Roderick Foreman helped to halt the first drive, while the defensive pressure kept Kealy with only one completion and four misses in the final drive.
After the two teams played to a 10-10 draw through the first half, BYU threatened to score at the start and end of the third period.
In the Cougars' first second-half series, BYU marched convincingly down the field, keyed by a 39-yard snag of a Feterik pass by Cahoon. McKenzie was called on five straight times as BYU got within two yards of a touchdown, but McKenzie was hit by Damien Richardson and fumbled to Stephen Trejo.
In the closing moments of the third, Feterik found - who else? - Cahoon for a 44-yard pass to start a possession, and later the two connected on an 18-yarder as the Cougars rambled down to the Sun Devil 12. But the drive stalled, and Pochman was blocked on his 31-yard field-goal attempt.
For BYU, the first half was anything but special for the Cougars' special teams, which were the victims of several critical blunders.
The most costly came on a fumble by receiver/return specialist Aaron Roderick, who dropped the ball on BYU's own 13-yard line. It was a costly error, considering that the Cougar defense had held the Devils in the previous possession, which was stymied by a Rob Morris sack of Kealy, with Kealy's fumble recovered by a teammate.
It appeared on TV replays that BYU's Tony Fields had fallen on the ball to retain possession, scooping in the ball as he was sprawled on the field. The officials, however, didn't rule possession until players had wrestled in a rugby-like scrum for an extended time, finally pulling players off and awarding ASU the ball.
Following the recovery of Roderick's muff by Andre Smith, ASU needed only four plays - aided in part by a Cougar personal foul - to score its sole touchdown of the first half, a 1-yard plunge by Martin. Robert Nycz's PAT kick made it 10-7 ASU with 10 minutes before intermission.
The other miscues on special teams in the opening quarters: missed field goals of 42 and 48 yards by Pochman on the Cougars first two possessions of the game, and a 15-yard punt late in the second by J.D. Hartsfield.
However, Arizona State was able to capitalize on only the first missed opportunity, a 44-yard field goal by Nycz midway in the first quarter, and it was the sole scoring in the period as ASU led 3-0.
Feterik led BYU on a 10-play, 80-yard drive at the end of the quarter, highlighted by a leap-and-lean-back catch by Cahoon for 22 yards. The Cougars appeared headed for a score four plays later from the ASU 38 as Feterik tossed down the middle to Kalani Sitake, but he dropped the underthrown pass as he backpedaled across the goal line.
But the Cougars, themselves helped by an ASU personal foul, scored several plays later on the first play of the second quarter on a 6-yard burst by McKenzie behind the blocking of left-side linemen John Tait and Joe Wong. Pochman's PAT put BYU in front 7-3 as the second period got under way.
After ASU took the lead on Martin's TD, Pochman later knotted the score at 10-all with a 45-yard field goal with 4:32 left in the game. Neither team really threatened the rest of half, although Roderick flirted with another bobble on a fair catch of a punt.