PROVO — For BYU wide receiver Todd Watkins, first came the catches, then the contributions and finally the comments.
A week after a frustrating 20-3 loss to Boston College in which the standout senior managed only two receptions for a paltry 19 yards, Watkins joined the BYU offense to break out in the Cougars' 45-10 victory Saturday over Eastern Illinois.
Against the I-AA Panthers, Watkins hauled in seven throws — nearly a third of quarterback John Beck's 26 completions — and snagged a pair of passes in makeshift plays for Cougar touchdowns.
On a play early in the second quarter, Beck had more time than receivers open and started to scramble. As he did, he spotted Watkins sprinting down the left sideline and heaved a 31-yard pass that Watkins leaped to snare as he tumbled over the goal line.
"That's to our advantage," said Watkins. "When John has time, and with his athletic abilities, it's like our 'scramble drill' — just get open."
Later in the second, Beck threw across the middle to receiver Zac Collie in the end zone, but the ball bounced off a shoulder pad and up in the air. Watkins broke off his back-end slant pattern when he saw the ricochet.
"I didn't think of anything except going for the ball," said Watkins, who caught the ball for his second TD of the quarter — this one a 6-yarder.
He finished with 93 receiving yards and a long reception of 31 yards. He missed on a couple of soaring near-completions, got clobbered on one attempt going high over the middle and was sent head-over-heels sprawling just out of bounds on another.
"I just saw the clouds and the sun and the sky," he said about being forced into a flipping free-fall before landing square on his back.
Besides the successes, he was as quick to point out miscues — a holding penalty that wiped out a substantial Cougar gain and a few plays where "me and John just didn't connect."
In hindsight, he admits his terse "no comments" a week earlier about the lack of consistent offensive execution and scoring against Boston College probably weren't the most appropriate response.
But he also acknowledges that his receiving successes best come when the offense is clicking as a unit — good ground games by the running backs and successful short-yardage throws always help open up the opportunities for a deep threat like Watkins.
"It's a team effort, not just an individual one," he said.
And while saying involving Watkins against EIU was "a clear intent," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall added "we don't work to get players involved at the player's request."
Rather, he charges his coaching staff to involve all top-quality players, "and Todd Watkins is a good player."
Watkins welcomes the upcoming bye week — "especially after doing as many flips as I was doing," but adds that facing a tough TCU opponent in two weeks "would prove more realistically where we're at as a team."