A week after the Cougars' all-out, emotional victory over Wyoming, BYU Head Coach LaVell Edwards worries and wonders: "We have to make sure that after putting
so much into the Wyoming game that we don't let down against Colorado State."The Cougars, 4-1 overall and 2-0 in league play, one of only three remaining teams with a realistic shot at the Western Athletic Conference championship, face a deceptively good Colorado State team today at noon.
"The guys put a lot into the Wyoming game," says Edwards. "I'm concerned that once they accomplished that that they can turn around and get right back up to play again. We've been talking to the team about that. It becomes crucial for us this weekend. CSU is playing exceptionally hard . . . they always play well against us."
Edwards has other reasons to worry. The Rams, 2-3-1, are being rebuilt by first-year coach Earle Bruce, who's no stranger to Edwards.
"I'm 0 and 4 against the guy," says Edwards.
Bruce beat Edwards and the Cougars twice as a head coach at Iowa State, and then twice more as head coach at Ohio State, the last time a 10-7 struggle in the 1985 Citrus Bowl. In his short stay at CSU, Bruce already has turned the Rams' traditional pass attack into a successful run attack and, although he has yet to transform the defense, the Rams have played well this year, even with a difficult schedule.
"They're a typical Earle Bruce-coached team," says Edwards.
The Rams lost to nationally ranked Tennessee by just three points, 17-14. They played nationally ranked Colorado tough before things got out of hand at the end of the game and they lost 45-20. They beat Cal State-Fullerton 42-14, tied a good Eastern Michigan team 35-35, lost to Air Force 46-21 and beat New Mexico 34-20.
BYU knows what to expect today. "They trap you, they trap you, they trap you," assistant coach Tom Ramage told his defensive linemen this week, referring to CSU's favorite play.
"They run the ball right up the gut," says defensive tackle Rich Kaufusi.
"You're not going to see a lot of dazzle," says linebacker coach Claude Bassett. "Knowing Earle Bruce, I'd venture to say that as the game wears on he'll try to control the line of scrimmage from tackle to tackle."
The Rams, using I-back and split-back formations, average 225 yards a game rushing - 16th best in the country - most of it on the legs of junior running backs Tony Alford and Todd Yert. On the other hand, BYU, anchored by linebackers Bob Davis and Chad Robinson, lead the WAC in rushing defense and total defense.
"They moved the ball against (unbeaten) Colorado better than anybody has," says Edwards.
While the Rams move the ball they can't stop it from moving either. They rank 94th in the country in total defense, allowing an average of 433 yards a game. The Rams will be severely tested by BYU, which ranks second nationally in pass offense (381.6 yards a game), fourth in total offense (519.0), and 11th in scoring (33.8 points per game). Quarterback Ty Detmer leads the nation in pass efficiency.
"They do a lot of things on defense, and they like to blitz a lot," says Edwards.
The Rams also prefer man-to-man defense, which should help the Cougars in their efforts to get the ball to halfback Matt Bellini and tight end Chris Smith. BYU's last two opponents have double-teamed Smith and Bellini, while playing tight, bump-and-run man coverage on the wideouts; hence, the recent trend of big-play passes to the wideouts and the silence of Smith and Bellini, who have caught only a handful of passes the past two games.
The Cougars appear to be improving weekly, as evidenced by their 36-20 win over two-time defending WAC champ Wyoming last week.
The Cougars will face CSU's running game today without inside linebacker Rocky Biegel, who has been benched by a knee injury. Sophomore Dave Porter and freshman Shad Hansen will alternate at Biegel's position. The rest of the lineup will remain the same.
For the Cougars, today's game will be one more step in their quest for the WAC title - and a chance for Edwards to begin to even an old score.