PROVO — Everyone knows that BYU's Gary Crowton is an aggressive coach. But he may have taken aggressiveness to a whole new level against Stanford on Saturday.
His team clinging to a 14-12 lead with 4:21 remaining, Crowton chose to throw the football on first down from his own 20-yard line. That resulted in a John Beck pass that was tipped and intercepted. Three plays later, the Cardinal scored the game-winning touchdown.
Far and wide, Crowton has been second-guessed about that move ever since. Before Monday's practice, he defended, and explained, his decision.
Even though Crowton has a top-notch defense and one of the nation's best punters; and despite the fact his offense had been sputtering all day against Stanford's defense, he says he was looking to score, not to run down the clock, in that situation.
"What I'm trying to do is win that game not by two (points) but win that game by nine," he said. "It was a first down call. I talked to the coaches upstairs and I asked them what down they were blitzing the least amount of blitzes and that was on first down. That was the perfect time to call it. That was my decision. I believed (Beck) would do it. I think he's going to do it and I'm going to keep pushing him to get better.
"If you sit back and start playing afraid, we're never going to get where I want us to go. I want us to be real good, not just barely squeak by."
The way Crowton sees it, though, it's all part of the learning experience for his young offense.
"We can't be afraid to play hard. We can't be so conservative that we don't make mistakes and don't try to grow on offense. That's a fine line," Crowton said. "People ask me about that pass. Well, yeah, if I want to be the most conservative guy, I'll run it three downs, punt it and hope the defense holds. But that's not helping us grow. The only reason I called that play was I expected John Beck to make the play. I've seen him make the play. So if I had to do it over again, yeah, maybe he wasn't quite ready. But the next time, he'll be ready. You've got to go through some of that. I take the blame for it because he's a young kid. The fact of the matter is, if I had to do it again, I'd probably do the same thing."
Crowton pointed to an aggressive call he made late in the third quarter — a halfback pass from Lance Pendleton to Daniel Coats that turned into a 31-yard touchdown.
"That one worked, the other one didn't," he said. "(Beck) is a good enough quarterback where I can trust that he can throw the ball when we're up by two with five minutes left because if I don't give him confidence that I believe in what he's going to do, then it's going to be a long year. I've got to believe in these guys. You can second-guess me because it didn't work. What can I say? It didn't work."
While the Cougar offense struggled mightily last week, Crowton hopes that the return of senior center Scott Jackson will make a big difference this week when BYU hosts Air Force. "That will help us in the run game," Crowton said.
Crowton says he has confidence in his defense as well as his offense. "If the defense continues to play well, which they will, and the offense plays well, we're going to win the conference," Crowton said. "I want to win the conference. That's the whole thing."
In other words, maybe Crowton won't be as aggressive in conference games as he was against Stanford.