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BYU turns focus to final stretch

PROVO — From snow to sun.

In a scene right out of a Christmas movie, snow fell steadily in the fourth quarter of BYU's 42-7 non-conference thumping of Eastern Washington on Saturday, creating blizzard conditions and blanketing the field with a layer of the cold white stuff at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

This week, the competition is expected to heat up as the Cougars prepare to return to Mountain West Conference play with a trip to the balmy climes of Southern California for a matchup with San Diego State.

While BYU players and coaches were happy to earn a win (their fourth straight overall), even against an Eastern Washington team that is a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision — more commonly known as Division I-AA — the Cougars also know they have plenty of work to do if they are going to defend their conference championship.

BYU (5-2 overall, 3-0 in the MWC), the only undefeated team in MWC play, is focused on improving.

"Our team in general needs to sharpen up going into this last stretch of league play so we can really start playing like a championship team instead of a flash here or a quarter here or a couple downs here of playing good football," said senior safety Quinn Gooch. "We need to be more consistent throughout the game, from start to finish."

"We're undefeated in conference, but what I know has to happen is we have to improve our level of play," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Our coaches and players know that. Our entire team needs to improve. If our goal is to win the conference, everyone has to improve."

The biggest concern at this point is the offensive execution. Quarterback Max Hall completed 15 of 30 passes for 156 yards, an interception and a touchdown. Hall acknowledged he didn't play as well as he would have liked. But he remains optimistic about the future of the offense.

"The exciting thing is, we haven't played our best game yet," Hall said.

BYU running back Harvey Unga rushed 21 times for 146 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 57 yards and another touchdown.

As for the rest of the offense, though, Mendenhall expects to see more production. Three of BYU's touchdowns were scored by, or set up by, the defense and special teams.

"I didn't think our offense executed like they were capable of," Mendenhall said.

He added that the Eastern Washington game will serve as a motivator for the upcoming week. "This gives us a great chance to maybe add a new sense of urgency as we go down to San Diego State and resume conference play," Mendenhall said.

The Aztecs (2-5, 1-2) fell at home last Saturday to New Mexico, 20-17. The Cougars have won 11 consecutive MWC games and nine straight MWC road games. The last time BYU lost on the road in conference play was at SDSU in October 2005. The Aztecs whipped BYU, 31-10.