Like most everyone else who braved the hot, humid weather at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa Saturday, LaVell Edwards sported a damp shirt after BYU's 38-31 loss to Alabama.

The coach, however, wasn't sweating the details."I was proud of the effort. We'll get better with practice," Edwards said. "This wasn't a score I would have predicted last week. It's just opening night. We'll be better next time."

The Cougars will have to be - especially with 14th-ranked Arizona State coming to town. The Sun Devils dropped a heartbreaking 42-38 decision to Washington (BYU's opponent Sept. 19) Saturday and are still smarting over a 13-10 setback to BYU a year ago.

Not exactly good news for Cougars, who have lost four of their past five games dating back to last season.

Even so, no one is pushing the panic button. Starting quarterback Kevin Feterik, who completed 19 of 30 passes for 182 yards against the Crimson Tide, said BYU has some things to build upon.

The Cougars, after all, did erase a 24-7 deficit by reeling off 17 straight points over the second and third quarters.

"I thought we'd gotten into a really good rhythm by then," Fet-er-ik said. "It took a while to get into sync but we were getting what we wanted by the fourth quarter."

And BYU did so with little help from its running backs. The weather caused cramping that pretty much sidelined starters Ronney Jenkins and Kalani Sitake. The pair combined for 17 yards on eight carries. Will Snowden led the Cougars with a team-high 27 yards rushing in the opener.

Freshman Junior Mahe, who was second with 25, made an impact in his debut. He scored a touchdown and matched Margin Hooks for team-high receiving honors with four catches.

Before an interception and fumble in the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter cost BYU the game, the Cougars' offense had righted itself after a horrible beginning. After 15 minutes of play, BYU had minus-2 yards of total offense and had ran just nine plays. Alabama, meanwhile, scored on four of its first five possessions while converting on eight consecutive third-down situations. A field goal with 10:21 remaining in the first half capped the outburst.

"It was just rotten," BYU middle linebacker Rob Morris said. "It reminded me of the Washington game (a 42-20 loss at Cougar Stadium) last year."

Penalties and turnovers, added to the Cougars' leading defender who finished with 10 tackles and a pair of quarterback sacks, will kill you.

"I'll have to watch the film, but it never felt like we were physically dominated," defensive end Byron Frisch said. "Once we (got used to everything) I felt like we could've, should've beat them."

Frisch returned an Alabama fumble 39 yards for BYU's first defensive touchdown since November of 1996. The play, which came just 10 seconds into the second quarter, extended BYU's on-going NCAA record streak of games without being shutout to 287.

"I was in the right place at the right time," Frisch said. "Derik Stevenson made the play happen, and I just kind of lucked into finding it."

With the toughest part of their schedule ahead, BYU would no doubt appreciate more such for-tune.

"We kind of let this one get away from us," Edwards said before the team left Alabama. "We had a chance."

BYU NOTES: Practice resumed Monday . . . Former West High star Jeff Holtry, who will redshirt this season after transferring from Michigan, was expected to workout with his new teammates for the first time. The linebacker began attending classes at BYU while the Cougars were in Alabama . . . Saturday's game with ASU kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.