Ever try catching tricky fly balls with the web missing from your glove?
That's the way the BYU football team must have felt in the second half - particularly the third quarter - Thursday night against San Diego State.The "web" of the Cougar defense, starting linebackers Shad Hansen and Todd Herget, had to leave the game in the first half with injuries - Hansen with a concussion and Herget with an ankle sprain. They didn't return. Unfortunately for BYU, Marshall Faulk did.
While BYU was trying to adjust to compensate for the loss of half of its starting linebacker corps, Faulk was holding his own personal third-quarter track meet. The only one who could have caught him at Cougarville was the world's second-fastest human - Frank Fredericks. And even if BYU's Olympic silver medalist had somehow managed to exchange track shoes for cleats and play Thursday, it's doubtful he could have knocked Faulk to the ground even if he had reached him - not many others were able to.
In that third quarter San Diego's Grand Marshall enabled the Aztecs to gain control of the contest, rushing for 165 yards on just eight carries while scoring two touchdowns, including a 65-yard burst where he sped past numerous defenders. That enabled San Diego State to hang on to its 45-38 victory.
Edwards and defensive coordinator Ken Schmidt knew the Cougars were not going to be able to stop Faulk. What they wanted to do was to prevent him from making big plays - the runs of 30 yards and more that change the course of a game.
And for a half, despite trailing 24-17, the Cougars were successful in controlling Faulk. He had 88 yards but it took 17 carries and his longest run was 15 yards. Statistics-wise, he was the second-best back on the field in the first half, No. 1 being BYU's Kalin Hall, who had 112 yards on nine carries including a Faulk-like breakaway run of 67 yards.
But then they played the second half. And Faulk became No. 1 and then some.
Give Faulk and San Diego State credit for knowing a vulnerable spot when they run through one.
"If they (our opponents) are going to take away our outside, we're going to pound them inside. They (Cougars) were going to make sure he was not going to get to the corner tonight, but they were soft in the middle," Aztec coach Al Luginbill said.
"There isn't anybody that plays the middle like Shad Hansen," said Edwards. And while it didn't seem to make any difference who played or what kind of a defense was used against Faulk's backup, Wayne Pittman, who was held to just 17 yards on nine carries, Faulk exploited BYU's weak spots.
But the Cougars regrouped in the fourth quarter, limiting Faulk to 46 yards and the Aztecs to less than that, 39, as David Lowery failed to complete a pass and Pittman lost yardage on his runs.
"We hung in . . . we battled back," Schmidt said. "I'm proud of Ted (Dawson, Hansen's replacement) for the way he played in the fourth quarter."
Nose guard Lenny Gomes led the Cougars in tackles with 10, including two tackles for losses. Dawson, linebacker Nathan Hall, strong safety Brad Clark and cornerback Vic Tarleton all had seven tackles. Weak safety Derwin Gray added an interception and a tackle for a loss among his five tackles.