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Defenders searching for answers

Somebody hide the bed sheets, razors and pills. BYU's defense might need to be watched and monitored. It could hurt itself. It hurt Stanford Saturday, but not enough to overshadow a toothless Cougar offense trying to break in a new quarterback.

In Stanford's 18-14 win over BYU, the Cougar defense took center stage. The defenders held Stanford to 56 yards passing — lowest in Stanford history. They almost killed Cardinal quarterback Trent Edwards, sacking him 5 times and intercepting him twice.

Unfortunately for these defenders, there wasn't enough help from their brethren.

"We should have won this game," said Cougar receiver Rod Wilkerson.

Give that student his degree.

"We're not clicking on offense," Wilkerson said. "We need to get some things figured out. We're just killing ourselves. I dropped a pass early in the game. We've had missed assignments like not picking up blitzes or whatever. We did it to ourselves tonight."

Leading Stanford 14-12 with 4:21 left in the game, BYU's offense coughed up the football on a first-down pass from its own 20. That mistake — a John Beck interception and perhaps quirky play call — set up the Cardinal winning touchdown. The offense then shot blanks when it counted on a last-second touchdown drive that had a first and 10 at Stanford's 10 but went backward from there.

It was a familiar reverse move seen all night in LaVell Edwards Stadium from the offense: Go backwards. Leading 14-9 with 14 minutes in the game, the offense shot out of the gate with a 15-yard penalty when a lineman clubbed a Stanford lineman. A few seconds later, it was third and 39.

Ugh.

The Cougar defenders did just about everything to Stanford but score. And the way this game turned out, with two opposing freshman quarterbacks trying to earn their driver's licenses, a Cougar defensive score would have been nifty.

"It's frustrating," Cougar middle linebacker Mike Tanner said. But in a gallant speech straight out of King Arthur's round table, where nobody gets left out on blame or credit, Tanner entered absorb mode.

"We're trying so hard," he said. "We're running around. There are turnovers that happen, but you can't let that affect you as a defense. You still need to go out and make things happen and give the ball back to our offense. We had a couple of breakdowns, and that's where we need to focus."

BYU limited Stanford to 200 yards, 31 of that on a halfback pass. Edwards completed 10 of 23 passes for, gulp, 25 yards, zero touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Tanner wanted a Stanford shutout, and BYU's defense didn't deliver it — even if the Cougar offense was Stanford's best friend.

"We need to be the kind of defense that allows no points and can't rely on the offense to always score points," Tanner said. "We need to take it on our shoulders to not allow any points at all. If a team doesn't score points, they don't win."

Now there's a new thought. Can you do that to Air Force, Bronco Mendendhall? 'Cause if the offense doesn't get a jump-start in seven days, that may be the order of the day next Saturday in Provo.

"People can say were a good defense, but we're not great yet," Tanner said.

He's being modest — make him wait for his degree.

The loss to Stanford was a setback for the Cougars, who were favored over one of the Pac-10's worst road teams in recent seasons.

"Yeah, it sets you back emotionally, but you can't let it set you back as far as progress because if you do it will be a long season," Tanner said. " We're only four games into it now. Emotionally, it's hard. We go out there and pretty much dominate the whole game, and if you lose those kinds of games it's hard.

"We have a great team ahead of us, and that's Air Force. Right now we've got to get our minds right and get our mistakes fixed. I'm quite anxious to see how Bronco Mendenhall defenses them. I've been here three years under coach Ken Schmidt, and I'm used to how he's done it, now I really want to see how we prepare for Air Force. "

On offense or defense?

"It's a tough loss," senior defensive back Chad Barney said. "Each and every one of us wants to win. But there are a lot of mistakes we as a defense have to correct. They came out with a lot of formations we hadn't seen. We need to get things corrected and become the dominating defense we want to be and learn from this."

At 2-2, that could be a chore if somebody in a Cougar uniform doesn't find some more points. In the meantime, hide all the sharp objects at BYU defensive meetings on Monday.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com