PROVO — As usual, BYU quarterback Max Hall is quick to praise his big guys up front.

Few people can appreciate the unsung work performed by offensive linemen like a quarterback. And after the Cougars' 28-27 victory over Washington last Saturday, Hall was happy with the O-line.

"I was barely touched the whole game," Hall said. "They're awesome."

Not only did the offensive line give Hall time to throw the ball — he passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns — the line also opened holes for running back Harvey Unga, who rushed for 136 yards on 23 carries.

"As a unit, (the O-line) did really well," said senior right guard Travis Bright. "We didn't give up any sacks. Dallas (Reynolds), being the center and directing the protection did an excellent job of reading the defense and some of the cues of where the blitz might be coming. We're doing good as far as meshing and helping Max and the rest of the offense to do their jobs."

BYU has not allowed a sack in two games. Northern Iowa was able to get past freshman left tackle Matt Reynolds and register a blindside hit on Hall. On the play, Hall fumbled in the end zone, resulting in a Panther touchdown. Statistically, though, that did not count as a sack.

Dallas Reynolds said calling the blitzes was a challenge in Seattle because of the noisy crowd at Husky Stadium. "It was loud, so it was hard to get everyone on the same page. For the most part, we were. We were able to pick up (the blitzes)."

Against Washington, the O-line helped the offense enjoy a big day on the ground and through the air, en route to 475 yards of total offense.

"As long as we come out with the victory, we're happy. It's always fun when Max has a good game or Harvey," Reynolds said. "It's fun to be able to have those guys. We feel like we played well. (Washington) has a tough defense. The Pac-10 has tough players. We played hard and we're happy with what happened."

The only noticeable O-line breakdown was a couple of low snaps early in the game by Reynolds, who was moved from left tackle to center during fall camp.

"I'm still learning and trying to get that center position down," Reynolds said. "I was struggling a little bit at the beginning and the other players were giving me confidence. I felt like I was doing better in the end."

"We'll work on that," Bright said of the low snaps. "It's Dallas' second game (as a starting center). It's something we're working on."

While Unga turned in a strong effort running the ball against the Huskies — aside from a costly fumble in the end zone — he gained only 16 yards on 17 carries against this week's opponent, UCLA, in last December's Las Vegas Bowl.

Bright, who broke his leg in that game, said he and his teammates have learned from that experience.

"We're a different team from last year. We're more sound and we execute at a little bit higher level than last year because we have more experience under our belts."

PITTA NO. 1: For the second week in a row, BYU tight end Dennis Pitta leads the nation in receiving yardage with 361 yards. He is No. 2 in receptions with 21.

"It's not my honor at all," Pitta said. "I give the credit to Max and the offensive line and the rest of the offense. You can't say it's my deal. You have to credit everyone on our team."

Coach Bronco Mendenhall agrees.

"Dennis has worked very hard from last season to this season. But I think he's being the benefactor of a good quarterback, a good running back another good tight end, and good receivers and a good offensive line," he said. "He just simply has become the most visible. I'm not sure how long it will last. At some point, with his numbers and his catches, something will be done to take him away. My guess is when that happens, we'll be talking about someone else and what's he's done the following week. I'm not sure who that will be, but I think that's coming."

Pitta expects opposing defenses to focus on him in the coming weeks in an attempt to shut him down. "I anticipate that, certainly," he said. "I'm sure teams will double-team me. But we have too many weapons on this team. It's really, pick your poison. If we don't throw to one guy, we'll throw to another."

After the Washington game, Mendenhall compared Pitta to former Cougar tight end Jonny Harline. "I'm starting to view him similarly in crucial situations like Jonny Harline. It seems like in critical situations, he has that size and range and speed where he's between a tight end and receiver. It's a hard matchup for an opponent."

EXTRA POINTS: BYU punter C.J. Santiago punted twice — both in the first half — for an average of only 27.5 yards per attempt ... The Cougars lead the country in third-down conversion percentage at 79.2 percent (19 out of 24) ... BYU is eying its eighth consecutive sellout for Saturday's game against UCLA. That marks the longest streak of consecutive sellouts since the 1991-92 seasons.


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com