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This week, defense takes center stage

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The Cougars put up 24 points on Colorado State's defense, ranked second in the Mountain West and 15th in the nation coming into Saturday's 24-3 victory. Next, they face the nation's No. 6 defense when Wyoming invades Provo on Thursday.

It was BYU's defense, however, that proved to be the difference against CSU, consistently stopping a sputtering Ram offense from beginning to end as the Cougars' high-flying offense had to play four full quarters for the first time since the TCU game in mid-September.

There isn't a Cougar who didn't think there were points left on the field on Saturday night. But in the same breath, they had plenty of praise for BYU's own defense. which dominated in Hughes Stadium.

"No question, we should have scored more points," senior quarterback John Beck said. "But my hat's off to our defense. They were simply outstanding all night long."

The 151 yards by Colorado State were the fewest by the Rams since gaining 139 on TCU in the 2002 Liberty Bowl. The Rams were averaging 74 yards rushing a game and gained just 26 on the Cougars.

"I do believe, from a defensive standpoint, we played pretty hard," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "That only takes you so far."

The Cougars still converted eight of 13 third downs, but Beck did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time since the season-opener at Arizona. And he was intercepted in the end zone in the first quarter.

"He's a good quarterback," Lubick said. "They could really protect him. They scored just before the half. I was thinking we're playing pretty well, playing hard. But I could tell we were not going to move the ball consistently. When it's all said and done, it's hard to throw against those defensive guys."

The Rams, losers of four straight, came into the game allowing 275 yards a game. The Cougars gained 402 and were conservative in the second half, with the exception of a 52-yard bomb to freshman receiver McKay Jacobson (three catches for 105 yards).

"They are the best team in the league," Lubick said. "This team (BYU) is nice and strong. They harassed our quarterback. It looked like he was being harassed. They came with some blitzes. That gets you out of rhythm. Our front (four) is undersized. They got to him (Beck). We did have decent coverage."

BYU quarterback coach Brandon Doman said the Rams have played good defense all season and their man press coverage had its moments stopping the Cougar offense.

"But we started getting the ball to Jonny Harline (six catches for 59 yards) and he's a tough guy to cover," Doman said. "We will need to play better in weeks to come because we will face some very good defenses like this."

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com