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Coug offense wakes up, spears Frogs

Maybe it was a stirring half-time speech. Maybe it was a matter of hitting mid-season stride. Maybe it was the fact the opponent has the WAC's worst-rated pass defense. Maybe it was the emergence of a freshman quarterback.

Whatever the explanation, happy days are here again. The BYU offense finally looked, well, BYUesque - at least in the second half - as the Cougars administered a licking on a hapless TCU squad, 31-10, Saturday afternoon at Cougar Stadium."Football became fun again today," said receiver Ben Cahoon, who caught 10 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. "That was the difference. We had fun."

"It was awesome," said frosh QB Drew Miller. "We put points on the board, we put 'em up quick, and we moved the chains."

In other words, it was old-fashioned BYU football.

Still, the Cougars weren't enjoying themselves at the end of the second quarter. They were tied 3-3 with winless TCU.

Then came a second-half BYU blitzkrieg, as the once-comatose Cougar offense struck for three touchdowns in the third quarter to blow away the Horned Frogs. All told, the Cougars cashed in on four of its first five second-half possessions.

BYU's inability to score - which has been blamed on everything but El Nino - has been a familiar theme all year long. For much of the season, the Cougars have been Raiders of the Lost End Zone. They've needed Rand-McNally to find the goal line.

Coming into the TCU contest, the BYU offense had scored just one touchdown in the previous eight quarters. What's more, BYU had scored seven points all year in the third quarter before scoring three TDs in the third period alone on Saturday.

So how to explain the third quarter scoring spree? Did coach LaVell Edwards enroll in a Win One For The Gipper halftime speech class this past week? Not exactly. "I just told them we've been screwing it up coming out in the third quarter for so long," explained Edwards. "But I told them that last week, too."

"We knew we had to stay positive. We knew we had to capitalize," said Miller, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 180 yards, three TDs and no interceptions on the day.

Miller entered the game in the second quarter, replacing ineffective starter Paul Shoemaker, who went 5 of 13 for 56 yards. Neither QB was able to generate points, other than a 42-yard Ethan Pochman field goal. Little seemed to click for BYU in the first half, as the Cougars mustered just 96 yards and their ordinarily sure-handed receivers dropped several passes.

"We weren't making plays," said Cahoon. "We decided we needed to step it up in the second half. We knew we could move the ball. It was only a matter of time before we would score."

On the final series before the half, Shoemaker was reinserted into the game and subsequently suffered a strained right knee and a sprained right ankle and did not return (he is expected to be back next week).

With Miller at the controls to start the third period, the Cougars took the second half kickoff and promptly drove 61 yards on six plays, a drive keyed by a 36-yard run by Dustin Johnson and capped by a two-yard scoring run by Brian McKenzie.

BYU followed up with three sparkling TD drives on its next four series, including two touchdown passes to junior wideout Aaron Roderick and one to Cahoon. On Roderick's first TD, Miller split two defenders and drilled the junior between the numbers on a 10-yard pass.

Later, Cahoon caught a floater from Miller for a nine-yard score. "He put it right on the money," said Cahoon. "He called an audible, giving me a hand signal. And I licked my chops." Finally, with 6:37 left in the game, Miller hooked up again to Roderick on a 12-yard TD toss to put BYU up 31-3.

"It's a big relief," said Cahoon about his team breaking out offensively. "It gives us confidence to build on. We can be proud of the way we played in the second half."

Also relieved is the BYU defense, which on almost a weekly basis has had to bail out a listless offense. "If the defense is on the field a lot, it usually means the offense is struggling," said defensive tackle Issiah Magalei. "When the offense can score, it makes a big difference. It takes a lot of pressure off us."

Magalei shined for the Cougar D, recording a sack and pair of tackles for loss. He also caused a fumble and had a pass deflection. Meanwhile, BYU held TCU to 102 second-half yards, most of which came late in the game on a drive that resulted in the Horned Frogs' only touchdown, with 41 seconds left.

The Cougar defense came through in the first half with big plays when it needed them. BYU recovered a pair of TCU fumbles, including one at the one-yard line when LaDainian Tomlinson coughed up the ball trying to fly over the goal line early in the second quarter. A photographer's photo showed that Tomlinson may have scored, but the turnover, pounced on by BYU safety Jason Walker, stood.

Amazingly enough, the Horned Frogs very easily could have had the lead at the half. "We were missing on tackles and were not into it as much as we could have been," said Edwards of his team's first-half performance. "Our concentration wasn't as crisp at first."

But the Cougars, who improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the WAC, hope their second-half showing is a sign of things to come in the second half of the season, as they vie for another WAC title. "We made it a must to score points," said Miller. "The defense has done an unbelievable job this year. The offense hasn't been putting up points like we should. We did today."