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Glossy passing stats not enough to lift BYU

BYU quarterback John Beck looks for a receiver during the Cougars' 20-3 loss to Boston College Saturday in Provo.
BYU quarterback John Beck looks for a receiver during the Cougars' 20-3 loss to Boston College Saturday in Provo.
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — Borrowing a Biblical phrase, the BYU Cougars "came to pass" against Boston College in Saturday's 2005 season-opener at Edwards Stadium.

But the Good Book doesn't say much about "coming to run" or "coming to score," which is what the Cougars were unable to do in their 20-3 loss.

In the end, first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall was fighting for words, wide receiver Todd Watkins was biting his tongue, and other offensive cogs like quarterback John Beck and tight end Daniel Coats saw some silver linings.

Beck completed a career-high 41 passes out of 60 attempts for 330 yards and no interceptions, hooking up with nine different receivers, each of whom logged at least two receptions. Leading the way were H-back Nathan Meikle (nine catches) and running backs Fahu Tahi (eight) and Curtis Brown (six).

But as gaudy as those stats are, others were equally as glaring for BYU — 16 rushes for a meager eight yards, 4-of-16 conversion rate on third downs, and no points and no sustained drives that broke inside the BC 20-yard line.

In fact, the Cougars' only points came when a blocked BC punt gave BYU the ball 25 yards shy of the end zone. Three plays and eight yards later, the Cougars settled for a field goal.

Drives dried up because of myriad woes — an inability to convert on short-yardage opportunities, an untimely sack, a blocked field-goal attempt, mental miscues and plenty of punts.

Said Mendenhall of the Cougars' short-yardage inabilities: "I can't explain it, other than it didn't happen."

And, oh, the penalties. The Cougars were whistled 10 times for 85 yards, about double that of the visiting Eagles.

"They're just drive-killers — when a penalty comes down, it takes a piece out of you," said Coats. "The mood's down, you fight to get it back up, and the next thing you know, you're off the field."

Meanwhile, Watkins — who drew plenty of double coverage as the Eagles opted to take away the deep ball — managed only two catches for 19 yards, with a key 20-yarder erased by one of those Y. penalties. Expected to be a featured element of the Cougar offense in his senior season, he responded with a terse "no comment" afterwards when asked about his limited role among receivers.

But the BYU offense has gone from a vertical, big-strike attack to one can chip away. "It's a 'chain' offense — one that gets first down after first down," said Coats. "And when you get warmed up, then you give it a shot."

But when the Cougars shot Saturday, the result often was self-inflicted wounds.

"There's nothing wrong with taking what the defense gives you — but when you take what it gives you, you've got to execute," said Beck.

"Today, we did things that were great, and then we shot ourselves in the foot."