PROVO So what got into the previously moribund BYU Cougars on Saturday? Whatever it was, they are hoping to bottle it for use in Friday's game against archrival Utah.
In the locker room before the Cougars thumped New Mexico, 37-13, in coach LaVell Edwards' last home game, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley inspired the Cougars with a simple speech. He reminded them of the historical significance of the occasion and urged them with the following words: "Don't muff it."
That memorable phrase will probably resonate around Cougar practices this week as BYU prepares for the Utes in a nationally televised contest that will mark Edwards' career finale. Certainly, the Cougars will be fired up to play Utah. Just the same, Edwards may call on President Hinckley again for assistance. "I'm going to hunt him down and ask him to make another speech next Friday," Edwards said with a smile. "I think we could use that."
With new starting quarterback Brandon Doman at the controls, the once-sluggish Cougar offense was pleasantly unrecognizable against the Lobos. In the third quarter, a reporter asked athletic director Val Hale if President Hinckley stayed to watch the game. "Yes. Who do you think is calling the plays?" Hale joked.
Only a couple of weeks earlier, Colorado State waxed the Cougars, 45-21, and it seemed BYU was in definite need of some divine intervention.
On Saturday, Edwards was genuinely surprised by President Hinckley's pre-game announcement that the school's Board of Trustees had decided to change the name of Cougar Stadium to LaVell Edwards Stadium. "I thought you had to be dead (to have such an honor)," Edwards said. "During that game at Colorado State, maybe they thought I was."
Edwards' Cougars came back to life on Saturday. Led by Doman, who made his first career start, the BYU offense enjoyed a strong showing. Edwards said the bye helped. "That extra week helped us to get ready for (New Mexico's) blitz and the different things they do because they are a very good defensive team," he explained.
BYU's players, especially the seniors, felt an onslaught of emotions after the victory.
"It's sad because it's LaVell's last game and because it's my last game here," said senior receiver Ben Horton. "I'm regretful that we didn't do better this year. Tonight we played like we could have all year. This was the real BYU team that should have showed up in every single game. We executed, we made the plays we needed to. What bothers me is that we're an extraordinarily good team this year, but things didn't work out the way we wanted. But we put it together tonight when we really needed to."
"We have really passionate seniors on this team," said senior placekicker Owen Pochman, "and we knew we couldn't lose today."The Cougars are looking to carry that same feeling into Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday.