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Cougar ‘D’ makes a statement

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Wyoming's Wynel Seldon is tackled by BYU's Cameron Jensen during the Cougars' easy win over the Cowboys Thursday.

Wyoming’s Wynel Seldon is tackled by BYU’s Cameron Jensen during the Cougars’ easy win over the Cowboys Thursday.

Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — BYU game captain Cameron Jensen stood near the 50-yard line, jawing at his teammates and slapping helmets as the Cougars charged onto the field.

The senior linebacker had just been part of the coin toss, which BYU won. The Cougars chose to get the ball first, hoping to let their offense shine and dictate the tone against Wyoming, which brought the Mountain West Conference's No. 1 defense to Provo.

A lot had been made about that statistic in the days leading up this game, and judging from the way the Cougar defense played in Thursday's 55-7 embarrassment of the Cowboys, Jensen and Co. took it personal.

"There was a lot of talk about their ranked defense, but we believe, you know, we're the best defense in the conference, and we wanted to make that statement," Jensen said.

The Cougar defense attacked early and often, forcing Wyoming quarterback Karsten Sween into two interceptions and limiting the Cowboys to 246 total yards and a single touchdown.

In fact, if it weren't for a rare defensive lapse by the Cougars late in the game — Wyoming running back Devin Moore found his way through the defense and romped for a 71-yard touchdown with six and a half minutes remaining in the game — BYU would have had its second shutout of the year.

"I also think that maybe our defense was tired of hearing about what a great defense Wyoming had, and I think they might have wanted to prove that they belong as well and are contributing to the direction of this team and how it's playing," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.

It was Jensen who delivered the game's knockout punch, just nine minutes into the contest. Already trailing 14-0, Wyoming had a third-and-one at its own 30. Mendenhall called for a blitz, and Jensen met running back Wynel Seldon in the backfield for a 3-yard loss, bringing the crowd to its feet and sending the defense strutting back to the sideline with some swagger.

After the punt, the offense needed just two plays to drive 68 yards for the touchdown — a 33-yard strike from quarterback John Beck to Michael Reed, who made a stunning catch against double coverage.

"In practice, we always tell each other, 'Hey, we'll go score, you stop them, then we'll go score again,' " Beck said of the defense. "I think the great thing about our team right now is both sides of the football have confidence in each other."

Mendenhall attributed the much-improved defense to the leadership of his players this year, citing the fact that team leaders were already focusing on next week's game against New Mexico.

"When a team claims that ownership and that responsibility, it's a remarkable thing," he said. "I think our leadership within the team is the key factor there."

E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com