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The bad news for the BYU football team late Saturday night was that it blew a prime opportunity to beat a Pac-10 team on the road. The good news was that the Cougars' heartbreaking 29-21 loss to Arizona State doesn't hurt their WAC title hopes.

BYU may be only 2-3 overall, but at 2-1 in conference play the Cougs are in the thick of the WAC title chase. Only Air Force, at 4-1, has a better WAC record than the Cougars.But if the Cougs are to make a serious run for the league championship they'll have to cut down on their mistakes - most notably penalties, turnovers and quarterback sacks.

"(Losing to ASU) was a major disappointment," Cougar coach LaVell Edwards said. "We played well enough to win, but we made so many mistakes. We obviously shot ourselves in the foot too many times . . . . But it was a non-league game. It was important to win, but it wasn't as crucial as if it would have been a conference game."

The Cougars turned the ball over four times - two fumbles, two interceptions. The Sun Devils capitalized quickly on three of the Cougar turnovers by scoring touchdowns. The fumbles set up ASU touchdown "drives" of 23 yards in the first quarter and one yard in the fourth, while the Sun Devils' final score came on a 31-yard interception return in the waning seconds.

Even with the turnovers, though, the Cougars could have won the game had it not been for penalties. BYU was flagged 10 times for 109 yards. The Cougars had eight 15-yard personal foul penalties, although two were offset by ASU personal fouls on the same play.

Perhaps the most costly penalty for the Cougars wasn't a 15-yarder, but a five-yard illegal shift in the second quarter. With BYU leading 14-13, quarterback Steve Sarkisian hit Mike Johnston for an apparent 53-yard score. The play was nullified, however, due to the illegal shift.

The other game-changing penalty was a roughing the kicker call in the fourth quarter with BYU clinging to a 21-19 lead. ASU had a fourth-and-16 situation at their own 15 when punter Lance Anderson took a flop with a couple of Cougar rushers nearby. It was disputed whether one of the Cougs actually touched Anderson or not. Regardless, the automatic first down kept the drive alive for the Sun Devils to eventually kick the go-ahead field goal with 5:27 to play.

"I thought Lance (Anderson) did get hit, but we do send him to theater school," joked ASU coach Bruce Snyder of the roughing the kicker penalty.

The Cougar running game gained 97 yards, more than three times their season average of 30. BYU also threw for 282 yards and two scores, but pass protection is still a major concern. ASU entered the game with just five sacks for the season in six games, fewest in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils sacked Sarkisian five times in Saturday's game alone.

Now the Cougars hit the meat of their WAC schedule with five of their final six games against league foes beginning Saturday at home against Wyoming.

"It's going to be easy for us to be motivated knowing we have a big conference game next week," Sarkisian said. "Obviously it's difficult to lose a game like this one. But our goal is to win the WAC championship and our goal is still intact, so we've just got to come back and play hard next week."