PROVO — SOME SAY long layoffs are a bad thing. Too much time to think, too many chances to get complacent and too many opportunities to get sidetracked.

Then there are the BYU Cougars. They came back from an idle period fresh as ever, routing Colorado State, 35-16, Saturday. Don't let the score fool you. It wasn't that close.

Long live vacations.

Long live PTO.

If they'd known it was this refreshing, they'd have left a note on the door last week that said, "Gone fishin'." Maybe squeezed in a trip to Disneyland or a visit to Mount Rushmore.

Who needs rhythm when you've got enthusiasm?

"I think we were real sharp today," said quarterback Max Hall. "Everything just clicked for us."

Thus, the Cougars (6-2, 4-0) stayed where they were before all the interruptions — in first place. Last week's game at San Diego State was postponed due to fires, forcing them to take a two-week layoff. They also had a bye in early October. Going into Saturday's game, the Cougs hadn't played a Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision)

opponent in 21 days. It could be argued they hadn't played a Division I opponent in five weeks, considering their Oct. 13 game was against hapless UNLV. After that came an Oct. 20 win over I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) Eastern Washington.

All of which seems to prove that a rest really can be as good as a change. And that long layoffs don't necessarily make for rusty joints.

"They were eager to play after the long layoff," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Realistically, the Cougars probably should have been worried. Layoffs aren't always good, even in football, where healing from injuries is a major issue. Heaven knows, the eight-day layoff by the Colorado Rockies didn't help their World Series aspirations. Although basketball and baseball are played several times a week, football layoffs can be a problem, too — especially when other teams are still playing.

It's hard to keep that snarl for weeks on end.

Asked if he would recommend such layoffs, Mendenhall said, "I would choose to avoid it. It's difficult. It's like the start of a new season. In some ways I had similar feelings to when we played Arizona (in the season opener)."

The Cougars are now bowl eligible, which mainly means they'll likely end up alongside half the teams in America — in someone's postseason game. It's still hard to pinpoint how good they actually are. They haven't defeated any ranked teams. Going into Saturday, their opponents had a combined 30-27 record (31-34 counting CSU), though it should be noted that five of their previous seven opponents did have winning marks.

Yet Saturday's did show one thing: Mendenhall knows how to throw the "on" switch. Don't laugh. A lot of coaches have lost jobs over that issue.

If not at their dominating best, the Cougars were more than good enough. They called the meeting to order at the start. CSU moved to the BYU 10 on first possession but failed to score. On BYU's first play, Max Hall passed to Harvey Unga for a 53-yard gain that set up a touchdown.

Suddenly, all the apprehensions were gone. BYU was quickly up 28-3.

"I thought we'd be OK from the beginning," said Hall. "We had a great week of practice."

Granted, nobody was complaining. Hall said he celebrated his birthday last week by getting away with his wife to Park City for a couple of days.

"Everyone got some personal time in, but we also got a chance to get in some extra work," he said.

That's how it's supposed to work at any job, isn't it? After the vacation, you get back to work and hit the ground running.


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