Humbled BYU hosts Colorado State
AP Sports Writer
PROVO, Utah – BYU has already endured a season’s worth of highs and lows just a month into the schedule.
A humbling 54-28 loss to Florida State last week in Provo changed the 19th-ranked Cougars’ hopes from the BCS, possibly even a national championship, to winning the Mountain West Conference title.
The lopsided loss at home overshadowed what BYU did by upsetting then third-ranked Oklahoma in the season opener. The Cougars open conference play Saturday against Colorado State, hoping to stem the disappointment from a week before.
“On the long horizon I’d love to win a national championship, but this is a work in progress toward that,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Despite the bleak feeling in LaVell Edwards Stadium as fans left long before the game ended last week, the season is not over. The Cougars (2-1) still have nine games remaining and can win a third Mountain West title in the last four years.
Colorado State (3-0) and TCU are the only MWC teams without a loss. The Rams nearly upset the Cougars last year in Fort Collins, but quarterback Max Hall saved BYU with a 76-yard drive and touchdown with 22 seconds remaining for a 45-42 win.
Hall tried to save the Cougars last week after Florida State continued to pull ahead, but threw three interceptions, including one that was returned 63 yards for a touchdown that really unraveled BYU.
“We all know we don’t play nearly as well when we press and move away from our identity,” Mendenhall said. “That’s something we can continue to work on.”
BYU finished with five turnovers and allowed Florida State to rush for 313 yards. The Seminoles also converted on third down 12 of 15 times.
The Cougars had just held Tulane to three points and 162 yards of offense the week before and allowed Oklahoma to score only a touchdown and two field goals.
“I hope we can stay a very confident defense – a defense that’s going to get after it and work hard,” defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. “Hopefully that game doesn’t take away from what we’ve done already and for what we have the potential to do.”
BYU has beaten Colorado State five straight times and haven’t lost a conference game at home since 2005.
The Cougars had an 18-game home winning streak up until the debacle against Florida State, which Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild said was a surprise.
“Florida State was impressive,” Fairchild said. “But over the years, as we all know, Provo has been a very tough place to go in and play well in.”
Fairchild is in his second season as coach and has the Rams off to their best start since opening the 1994 season 7-0.
Colorado State is also on a six-game winning streak, the Rams’ longest since winning six straight and the Mountain West title in 2002.
The streak almost came to an end two weeks ago against lower-division Weber State in Fort Collins. The Wildcats fumbled a snap and the Rams recovered at their own 10-yard line with 42 seconds remaining, preventing Weber State from a field goal attempt that would have won it.
Colorado State improved significantly last week, forcing five turnovers in a 35-20 win over Nevada. The Rams also went from 0-for-8 on third down against Weber State to converting 7 of 13 chances last week.
“We are going to win a game like this,” Fairchild said. “I hope it’s Saturday, but we will win a game like this around here. I can see very clearly that we are going to get back to where we need to be and the way to do that is just get better every day.”