After a fast start, Chris Smith, BYU's speedy, sure-handed tight end, had been conspicuously silent in recent games. Opponents had limited him to just five catches and no touchdowns in the last two games by giving him the double-team treatment. So maybe it wasn't surprising that Colorado State treated Smith like a forgotten man when BYU came to Fort Collins Saturday afternoon.
The Rams elected to defend Smith with single-man, tight bump-and-run coverage, and, well, here's what Smith thinks about that: "No way. If a defender has to cover me that way, he's dead." Well, beaten anyway.All Smith did was haul in a career-high nine passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns to help BYU defeat Colorado State 45-16 Saturday in Hughes Stadium.
"The better team won the game," said CSU Coach Earle Bruce. "Their tight end was excellent."
Not that the Rams didn't try to do something about Smith, particularly as it became apparent that he was ruining any hopes for an upset. "They were holding him all day," said quarterback Ty Detmer. "You can't cover him one-on-one."
Not when he's 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. Smith caught passes for gains of 26, 11, 4, 11, 20, 12, 16, 1 and 48 yards (he also, argh, dropped another 20-yarder).
"I said at the start of the year that one of the plusses we'd have this fall would be the emergence of Chris Smith," said BYU Coach LaVell Edwards. "He has speed and hands that we haven't had at tight end since Trevor Molini's sophomore year (1985)."
Smith was the show Saturday, but not all of it. Jason Chaffetz, a Colorado native, kicked four field goals in as many tries, Detmer had another 300-yard day (so what else is new?), and Bob Davis controlled the trenches. All of which was enough to give the Cougs a 5-1 record (3-0 in Western Athletic Conference play), as they reach the midway point in their season.
"I like where we are," says Edwards.
All week long, Edwards and his coaching staff had worried that the Cougars would be emotionally spent after their big victory over defending WAC champion Wyoming last Saturday, particularly since CSU (2-4-1) was tempting to overlook. Edwards' worries were somewhat confirmed when the Rams closed a 19-0 gap to 19-10 at the half. "We were a little flat in the second quarter," said defensive tackle Rich Kaufusi.
During halftime, offensive coordinator Roger French wrote on the locker room chalkboard, "Emotion. Play with it. We came here to win . . . Take control in the third quarter."
The Cougars did just that, thanks to one big play. After trading touchdowns with the Rams, the Cougars' lead was cut to 25-16 with 6:52 left in the third quarter. And then this: On third-and-four at midifield, Detmer dropped back and, under blitz pressure, unloaded a pass prematurely to Smith - or to where he thought Smith would end up. Smith, still running upfield, hadn't yet made his cut.
"They were covering me one-on-one again and the guy was holding me as I went out," said Smith. "I didn't see Ty throw the ball. As I turned out, the ball was in the air and I reached out and caught it." Smith outsprinted two defenders 30 yards to the goal line to complete a 48-yard touchdown play.
"That was a big play," said Edwards.
It was just one of a number of big plays Detmer had a hand in Saturday. The sophomore quarterback completed 20 of 38 passes for 338 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions and ran for another TD before giving way to Sean Covey in the final seven minutes. Roll the highlight film, please:
- On third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, the first play of the second quarter, Detmer fakes a handoff, sucking the entire defense inside, then rolls left. Let's see, run or pass? He lobs a soft pass to Smith for the TD and a 10-0 lead.
- With BYU leading 13-0 in the second quarter, Detmer rolls left looking upfield but runs into traffic. He steps out of one tackle and doubles back to the right, picks up a block from Mohammed Elewonibi, turns upfield, cuts back inside behind a block by Robert Stephens and steps into the end zone. He ran maybe 50 yards east and west, but officially it's an 8-yard TD play.
- On third-and-goal from the 7, with BYU leading 19-10 in the third quarter, CSU's Gary Thompson sacks Detmer, and raises his arms in celebration - except, oops, Detmer doesn't have the ball. Where did it go? Wideout Jeff Frandsen has it - in the end zone. Just as he was falling to the ground, Detmer had unloaded a pass to Frandsen, who was standing alone in the corner of the end zone, with his hands in the air.
"I just stood there and waited," said Frandsen. "It took forever. I was surprised he got the pass off."
For the record, Detmer, the leading passer in the nation, already has thrown for 2,218 yards this year - with half the season remaining. In seven career starts, he has never thrown for less than 320 yards.
The Rams never had a chance. They hurt themselves with eight penalties, not to mention four turnovers, all of which played a part in giving BYU good field position most of the day (nine of the Cougars' 10 scoring drives covered 61 yards or less).
BYU's Eric Bergeson and Brian Mitchell made their third and fourth interceptions of the season, respectively. Davis, BYU's hard-nosed inside linebacker, had 14 tackles (8 unassisted), which played a part in limiting CSU to 222 yards total offense.
After several questionable calls by the officials in the second quarter, the Rams got mad. No one more than Bruce, who ripped off his suit coat - the off-green suit that was given to him by Edwards several years ago as a gift for speaking in Provo - and paced the sidelines furiously, pumping his arms and yelling at his players. The Rams responded by scoring on their next two possessions - on a 1-yard run by quarterback Mike Gimenez and a 41-yard field goal by Mike Brown. But they could score only once more the remainder of the day, on a 3-yard bootleg by Gimenez.
The Cougars seemed to overwhelm the Rams at times. When Detmer wasn't filling the air with passes, the Cougars, who rolled up 574 yards, were pounding out 193 yards on the ground with Fred Whittingham (81 yards, 13 carries) and sophomore Peter Tuipulotu (44 yards, five carries).
It could have been worse for CSU. The Cougars fumbled at the Ram 3-yard line, and they were 0 for 4 on two-point conversion attempts. They would be better off next time to leave the PATs to Chaffetz, who connected on field goals of 44, 24, 47 (the longest of his career) and 35 yards.
Even BYU's reserves were effective. Covey - remember him? - completed 3 of 3 passes for 43 yards, including a 32-yard TD pass to reserve Eric Mortenson. "It felt good to get in there again," said Covey.
The outcome, no doubt, felt good for Edwards, who beat Bruce for the first time in five tries. "Now I don't have to read about that anymore," he said.