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Cougs mystified about offense

On the long plane ride home from Houston late Saturday night, BYU fullback Dustin Johnson relived every play of the Cougars' 27-14 defeat to Rice in his head. "I didn't sleep a wink," he said.

Until the Cougars figure out a way to revamp their lagging offense, such bouts with insomnia will likely continue.

"It was disappointing," said Johnson about the weekend's debacle. "Most of us on the team are in shock. It was a horrible performance. I'm not used to losing. I hate it. I'm sick to my stomach."

In the aftermath of BYU's worst offensive outing in recent memory, and the loss of starter Kevin Feterik for the next four weeks, the Cougars will go with Paul Shoemaker this Saturday against Hawaii.

How bad were the Cougars at Rice? Of BYU's 240 yards of total offense, 110 came on its two first-half touchdown plays, a 70-yard pass from Feterik to Aaron Roderick and a 40-yard run by Brian McKenzie.

Further, the Cougars failed to capitalize on a pair of fourth-quarter Rice turnovers, including a fumble recovery by Issiah Magalei at the Owl 21 with 9:39 left in the game.

All told, BYU gained a woeful nine yards, and had one completion, in the final two quarters against a defense that had been surrendering an average of 7.2 yards per play this season.

Johnson, who was the Mountain Division offensive player of the week for amassing 145 yards against Utah State, caught two passes and rushed once for eight yards against the Owls. He said the team's failures at Rice can't be pinned on any one player - it truly was a team effort.

"Not one guy felt good about his performance," said Johnson. "We made foolish mistakes. I blame it on the way we approached the game. We didn't have any intensity. We had missed blocking assignments, we ran wrong routes. It was a disaster."

Not that this is anything new. The Cougars have suffered offensive struggles throughout the 1997 season. The offensive line is giving up an average of four sacks per contest. The Cougars are averaging a mere 21 points a game and have scored just seven third-quarter points this season. BYU has also turned the ball over 12 times.

The Cougars possess the weapons to put points on the scoreboard. Johnson, McKenzie and receivers Roderick and Ben Cahoon have big-play abilities. They've combined for 1,542 all-purpose yardage this season. But when BYU needed a big-play against Rice, those guys seemed to disappear.

Johnson insists the Cougars can turn things around. "We've got to make changes. We need to make plays and take care of the little things," he said. "Hopefully, we can learn from this and win the rest of our WAC games. We're still in it. It depends on how much we want to win."