Archive for year 2006

BYU Fans Irate Over MWC Deal with CSTV

The Mountain West Conference turned down ESPN for a more lucrative broadcast deal with CSTV that has raised the ire of BYU fans from around the country. The CSTV deal also entailed the creation of a new television network known as “The mtn.,” which MWC officials promised would be carried nationally by the beginning of the 2006 college football season. The MWC’s broadcast package of games for BYU have the Cougars scheduled to air over a combination of CSTV, Versus (formerly OLN) and the mtn., in addition to last week’s appearance on TBS versus Arizona and next week’s non-conference contest vs. Boston College on ESPN2.

Unfortunately, the mtn. network has not been able to reach a deal with DISH or DirecTV, or any cable companies outside of Utah, Colorado, Idaho and New Mexico. So, when BYU’s first home game of the year against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane was aired on the mtn network Saturday afternoon, the only Cougar fans on the entire planet that were able to watch a live broadcast of the game were those with cable subscriptions in the four aforementioned states. BYU defeated Tulsa, the defending C-USA champions, 49-24.

Thousands of fans who subscribe to other cable carriers or DISH and DirecTV were left with the only option of listening to the game thru KSL.com’s Internet streamcast of Salt Lake City’s KSL radio game coverage. The fans’ outcry became so intense prior to the game that BYU’s athletic department communications had to post a Q&A on their Web site on Friday urging fans to contact their satellite or cable providers and request them to carry the mtn.

Adding insult to injury, CSTV did not even offer the game over the Internet as a video option on their All Access XXL subscription package, and a replay of the game that was scheduled to air on satellite channel BYU-TV Saturday evening was cancelled just hours before the telecast. A disclaimer note on byutv.org’s programming schedule page stated “Due to a change in broadcast rights, BYU Television will be unable to bring you highlights from the Tulsa versus BYU football game played Sept. 9.”

Two popular BYU fan discussion boards, Cougarboard.com and Cougarfan.com, were buzzing with rage toward CSTV and MWC commissioner Craig Thompson as well as Brigham Young University athletic director, Tom Holmoe. The majority of posts on the two discussion board sites expressed sentiments of feeling cheated, and proclaiming they are being used as pawns in the negotiations between CSTV and cable as well as satellite providers to carry the mtn.

Some Cougarboard members even discussed ways to share the mtn broadcasts via Slingshot and streaming video uploads, prompting the board’s grand guru known as “El Jefe” to post a warning about copyright violations using these technologies. El Jefe’s post banned further discussion of content sharing and indicated that board members who violated the ban would be subject to “lengthy penalty.”

Fan discussions also lamented dramatically lessened exposure on sports news programs that typically used to carry highlights of their games including ESPN Sportscenter.

BYU football games are scheduled to be carried on the mtn four more times this season, but next week Cougar fans can rest easy as their team plays a road game at Boston College that will be carried on ESPN2.

The Mountain West Conference referred calls to CSTV and Comcast regarding their ongoing negotiations with satellite and cable companies to carry the mtn. network. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES – No argument about Numero Uno…for now. The young Buckeye defense played a marvelous game of bend-but-don’t-break against the Longhorns, with linebacker James Laurinaitis leading the way. Laurinaitis forced Billy Pittman’s fumble near the goal line late in the first half which led to a touchdown and then intercepted Colt McCoy’s first pass of the second half which led to a Buckeye field goal. WR Anthony Gonzalez had an All-American first half with seven grabs, 122 yards and a TD. If you saw the game, you know that several of his catches were in heavy traffic and he sustained some big hits after the catch…Ted Ginn, Jr. did his job, scoring once and distracting the Texas defense throughout the game…Troy Smith silenced all doubters and played mistake free. Still, the two names that stand out in the win are Laurinaitis and Gonzalez. Ohio State’s schedule provides a pretty favorable path to the National Title Game…biggest challenges should come on the road at Iowa and Michigan State and the regular season closer at home versus Michigan.

NO. 2 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH – Notre Dame could easily be on a path toward a return showdown with Ohio State in Tempe — this time with the national title at stake. The Irish still have some pretty big hurdles on their schedule with Michigan invading South Bend this week. Penn State proved to be a cakewalk of sorts for the Irish. JoePa’s troops were surprisingly unprepared for the game. Brady Quinn posted Heisman-like numbers, but he just doesn’t have that “it” factor that separates former trophy winners like Bush, Leinart and Palmer from the pack…perhaps if the Irish are 12-0 in December, we can say that Quinn finally has “it.” After last year’s whipping by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, it’s strange to see Notre Dame nipping at the Buckeyes’ heels in the polls this early in the year. A No. 2 ranking makes the target on Charlie’s boys that much larger…can ND survive 10 more tests with such a noticeable target on their backs?

NO. 3 AUBURN TIGERS – Mississippi State effectively shut down star Auburn RB Kenny Irons on Saturday, holding him to 69 yards on 21 carries, the first time in eight games that the All-America candidate hadn’t gained over 100. No problem — QB Brandon Cox simply stepped up, hitting 18-of-27 passes for 249 yards and completing scoring hookups with TE Gabe McKenzie and wideout Rodgeriqus Smith, and Auburn romped, 34-0…”They were of the mind that they were going to make the quarterback beat them, and I think the quarterback did that,” said Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges. “It’s nice to know if they do stop our running game — and people are obsessed with stopping our running game — we have some answers.” This week, of course, the Tigers host LSU in a contest with not only conference but national championship implications. The key matchup will be Auburn’s offensive line — perhaps the best in the SEC — against a ferocious Tiger defense.

NO. 4 USC TROJANS – Pete Carroll can thank A.D. Mike Garrett for scheduling a bye week between the season opener on the road at Arkansas and this week’s home opener versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers. It can only help when breaking in a new QB on offense. Nebraska would have had a much better chance — if any — escaping with a win in Los Angeles had USC played the week before. The Trojans are now well-rested and have had ample time to prepare for any offensive or defensive twist Bill Callahan thinks he can throw at USC. On the flip side, watch for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and QB/Asst. head coach Steve Sarkisian to add some new wrinkles in the Trojan arsenal now that John David Booty has a successful start under his belt. Nebraska will most likely topple out of the Top 25 after this week’s visit to the Coliseum.

NO. 5 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS – Everybody won in the Mountaineers’ 52-3 demolition of Eastern Washington on Saturday. The visitors got a nice payday, the fans got to celebrate, and every West Virginia squad member who was ambulatory got to play. Not only was Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez able to take a longer-than-a-minute look at backup QBs Jarrett Brown, Nate Sowers and Markell Harrison, but all of them scored. Star WVU running back Steve Slaton averaged 13 yards a carry in the first half, and the only reason that average wasn’t higher was that he kept getting stopped by the end zone — Slaton was untouched on scoring runs of 49 and 17 yards. This week: Maryland at home.

NO. 6 LSU TIGERS – Blitzing relentlessly, the Tigers sacked highly touted University of Arizona sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama three times and intercepted him twice during a 45-3 rout of the Wildcats in Baton Rouge. The first pick was hauled back 41 yards for an LSU touchdown by Jonathan Zenon, his second score of the season. At the end of the third quarter, the visiting Wildcats had 54 total yards. LaRon Landry, Zenon’s cousin and secondary mate, had an interception and a sack, the latter knocking Tuitama out of the game with a possible concussion. “We just weren’t ready for this,” said Arizona coach Mike Stoops after the Tigers extended their streak of not allowing an offensive touchdown to 14 quarters. The Tigers know if they continue the streak this week at Auburn, JaMarcus Russell and the offense will take care of the rest.

NO. 7 FLORIDA GATORS – So much for the old adage about playing them one at a time. While Urban Meyer’s Florida team was punching out Central Florida, 42-0, on Saturday, Meyer already had Tennessee on his mind — the Gator linemen were using silent snap counts the entire game against CFU in preparation for the racket on Rocky Top next Saturday. The victory marked a personal best for QB Chris Leak, who threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns (two to Andre Caldwell). Freshman WR Percy Harvin was the leading receiver with four catches for 99 yards, and classmate Tim Tebow (Leak’s backup) was the leading rusher with 62 yards. Meanwhile, Florida’s surly defense limited George O’Leary’s visitors to 21 rushing yards.

No. 8 TEXAS LONGHORNS – After taking a 17-point whooping at home from the revenge-minded Ohio State squad, Texas can thank its lucky charms that it only fell six slots in the AP poll. It leaves Mack Brown & Co. plenty of wiggle room to journey back into contention for a rematch in the Tempe title game, if (and that’s a big IF) the Longhorns don’t stumble again and everyone else in between Texas and the top falter somewhere along the way this season. Texas’ loss and the mild hand-slap it received dropped the team to eighth in the polls…which just goes to show teams that start the season ranked highly can lose early and still make it to the championship tilt at the end of the season. If the loss to Ohio State occurred in late October or November, it would have virtually assured the Longhorns they’d be playing in a BCS consolation bowl. QB Colt McCoy couldn’t handle the pressure the Buckeyes brought Saturday night, but can you imagine how good this kid will be in the next 2-3 years with dozens of starts under his belt? Pity Rice and its fans this weekend when the Longhorns come to town…

NO. 9 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES – Apparently, the Seminoles invited a Trojan horse — actually, a number of Trojan horses — into Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. Unheralded Troy State, from the Sun Belt Conference, took a 17-10 lead on FSU in the fourth quarter on a touchdown set up by Chris Davis’ muffed punt. But a 15-yard scoring pass from Drew Weatherford to a redeemed Davis tied it, and Joe Surratt’s short run (set up by Buster Davis’ first career interception) with 1:56 remaining won it. Most worrisome for veteran FSU coach Bobby Bowden was the fact that his team once again failed to mount a credible running game, with just 53 combined yards from Antone Smith and Lorenzo Booker. “It was like a nightmare,” moaned Bowden afterward. The Seminoles will entertain Tommy Bowden’s banged-up Clemson team this Saturday.

NO. 10 GEORGIA BULLDOGS – Longtime Georgia defensive coordinator Erik Russell died on Friday, and the Bulldog defense did him proud a day later, twice stopping South Carolina inside the five-yard line and handing Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier his first shutout in 193 games as a college coach, 18-0. The team’s quarterback controversy was also resolved, at least temporarily, when senior starter Joe Tereshinski hurt his ankle and freshman heir apparent Matthews Stafford was pressed into service. Stafford completed 8-of-17 passes for 171 yards and made a couple of big runs, but also threw three interceptions. The Bulldogs get a mild break from SEC action when UAB comes to Athens this weekend.

NO. 11 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES – Mike Hart continues to look solid (19 rushes, 116 yards, three TDs) after Michigan’s easy 41-17 romp over the MAC’s Central Michigan, while Chad Henne fails to impress once again (11-for-19, 113 yards). After two lackluster wins over seriously mismatched opponents, it’s really difficult to see the Wolverines marching into South Bend and securing a victory this week. The only way it will happen is if Michigan’s defense stifles the Irish attack and Chad Henne delivers the type of elite performance fans have been expecting from him since his stellar freshman season two years ago.

NO. 12 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS – For one game, at least, the absence of star running back Michael Bush seemed to energize the Cardinals more than demoralize them. Bush was lost for the season last week with a broken leg suffered in the Kentucky game, but reserves George Stripling and Sergio Spencer each ran for two touchdowns and Kolby Smith added another as U of L destroyed Temple, 62-0. In addition, QB Brian Brohm threw for over 300 yards, wideout Mario Urrutia had five catches for 110 yards, and the Louisville defense was tough when it had to be (“I told my teammates, ‘Dominate who you’re supposed to dominate,'” crowed LB Nate Harris afterward). Coach Bobby Petrino just hopes his team saved some of that emotion for this Saturday, when No. 17 Miami comes to town…it’s a must-win game for both schools, if they want a piece of the BCS bowl pie in January

NO. 13 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS – The timing couldn’t be worse. With offensive-minded Florida to deal with this weekend, Tennessee has to overcome the loss of two key defensive starters — DT Jason Harrell and DB Inky Johnson. Moreover, the Vols almost lost to Air Force last Saturday, barely surviving with a 31-30 victory after Xavier Mitchell stuffed Chad Hall on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:35 remaining. Suddenly, the season-opening upset of Cal seems like ancient history. Johnson was knocked unconscious and taken away by ambulance after banging helmets with Air Force’s Justin Handley, an injury later said to involve his right shoulder. Harrell ripped his left bicep. Both will miss the Florida game, and may be out for the season. And as if that weren’t bad enough, RB Arian Foster sprained an ankle. As for the UT defense, it was collectively bleeding, surrendering 408 yards in total Air Force yardage.

NO. 14 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES – Generally speaking, Tech will beat you with defense – “Ore” else. Saturday’s 35-10 dispatching of North Carolina was a mixture of both, with Brenden Hill scoring on a 69-yard interception return, Josh Morgan blocking a punt to preface another score, and Branden Ore rushing for 111 yards and three touchdowns. The Hokies host Duke this weekend, which should leave them 3-0 and 2-0 in ACC play. Further down the road, the concern is at quarterback, where newcomer Sean Glennon was rather underwhelming (10-of-17 passing for 66 yards) against the Tar Heels. Late in the game, redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker came in and gained 41 yards (to Greg Boone) with his only aerial touchdown.

NO. 15 OKLAHOMA SOONERS – Adrian Peterson got to take off his Superman cape for awhile on Saturday, as the junior running back had plenty of help in OU’s 37-20 home victory over Washington. New QB Paul Thompson hit 21-of-33 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and Malcolm Kelly caught 121 yards worth of passes and scored twice. It was Bob Stoops’ 36th birthday, which made it even better. Next week won’t be so easy, however, as OU travels West to take on one of the PAC-10’s upper echelon, 18th-ranked Oregon. Thompson continues to develop as the replacement for Rhett Bomar, and Peterson still managed 165 rushing yards, impressive enough for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.

NO. 16 IOWA HAWKEYES – On the surface, being dragged into double overtime by a Syracuse team on a 10-game losing streak would seem to be a disaster for Kirk Ferentz’ Hawkeyes (hence the chants of “Overrated!” reverberating off the Carrier Dome’s plastic roof, even though Iowa pulled out a 20-13 victory). In reality, however, Ferentz had to feel good about the adversity his team overcame. First, star QB Drew Tate couldn’t take the field because of a pulled abdominal muscle, leaving seldom-used Jason Manson as the starter. Later, Iowa had three reviewed plays go against it, placekicker Kyle Schlicher had a field goal blocked, and Syracuse got eight chances to cover two yards in the second overtime (thanks to a pass interference penalty on Iowa). But the Hawkeye defense, led by DE Kenny Iwebema (who made four tackles on the final goal-line stand) held firm. Tate’s status is still uncertain for Saturday’s game at home with Iowa State — not encouraging, since Manson was intercepted four times.

NO. 17 MIAMI HURRICANES – What kind of team does Larry Coker have this year? At this point, it’s hard to tell, at least on offense. The Hurricanes rushed for two yards in the opener with Florida State (a 13-10 loss) and then pounded out 339 in a 51-10 rout of Florida A&M in which they also put up 31 first downs. The Rattlers were simply outmatched. One long-term bright spot was the play of RB Tyrone Moss, returning to the UM lineup after a knee injury and a suspension, and QB Kyle Wright looked sharp in limited action. So which Hurricanes will show up in Louisville on Saturday? Stay tuned…Coker’s still on the hot seat…

NO. 18 OREGON DUCKS – Mike Belotti became Oregon’s all-time leader in coaching wins after the Ducks survived a tenacious Fresno State Bulldogs team on the road Saturday night. Belotti’s been getting credit for a fake field goal call that resulted in the game-winning touchdown with less than five minutes remaining, but that type of call has all the marks of coming from offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, a well-known risk taker no matter where his offense lines up on the field…The game might not have been so close had Duck RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle injury) played more…he only had one carry for three yards. He will be needed this week. Oregon hosts Oklahoma on Saturday and its focus must be on stopping Adrian Peterson. A.P. has 267 yards rushing against the Ducks in a regular-season win at Oklahoma in 2004 and last year’s Holiday Bowl. Oregon should be helped by its home crowd this time around.

NO. 19 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS – The Cornhuskers used outclassed Nicholls State as a sparring partner on Saturday, tuning up for Saturday’s road test at Southern Cal with a 56-7 rout that was a good argument for a college football “slaughter rule.” The visiting Colonels never completed a pass and didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter. On the Husker side, Zac Taylor completed 23-of-27 passes (it would have been 24-of-26 had Marlon Lucky not dropped one) for 229 yards and four touchdowns. As for Lucky, he rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown and would undoubtedly be lying if he said he wasn’t looking ahead to USC. The NU I-back is from Hollywood.

NO. 20 TCU HORNED FROGS – You gotta love it when you can play a Double-A patsy at home and still move up three spots in the polls…QB Jeff Ballard returned to the starting lineup and looked sharp, going 18-of-23 for 190 yards and two TDs. The fact that UC-Davis racked up 211 yards passing should have Texas Tech licking its chops. The Raiders will look to at least double that output this week vs. the Frogs. TCU’s home game against its former Southwest Conference rival will determine which team remains in the Top 25 next week, and whether or not the Frogs are a legitimate threat to secure a BCS bowl bid this year. The BYU Cougars will be anxious to watch the film of this game since they run a similar offense to Tech and will be visiting Fort Worth in three weeks for a pivotal MWC clash with TCU.

NO. 21 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS – Cal answered the challenge and rebounded from last week’s woeful loss at Tennessee with a resounding victory over a determined Minnesota Golden Gophers squad, 42-17. Minnesota kept the game close through the first half, but the Bears’ defense shut out the Gophers in the final two frames…Jeff Tedford seems to have straightened out his QB situation for the season. Bears QB Nate Longshore asserted his claim to the starting role with a stellar performance (22-of-31, 300 yards and four TD tosses). DeSean Jackson was his favorite target, with three of those touchdown grabs (seven catches overall for 114 yards). Cal gets a huge home game breather this week vs. Double-A Portland State before it has to face the ASU aerial attack on Sept. 23.

NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS – ASU had an easy time of it with the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday, thanks to the ‘Pack’s severely overmatched secondary. Sun Devil QB Rudy Carpenter sliced and diced Nevada for five TD passes (17-of-26, 333 yards) while the Wolfpack was busy coughing up the ball at a 33 percent clip (four turnovers in 12 possessions). Several years ago when ASU scheduled the Colorado Buffaloes, this week’s game in Boulder looked like a super inter-conference matchup…instead, the Sun Devils will be visiting a winless Colorado squad that will need a miracle to hang with ASU’s aerial attack. Granted, the Buffs will be hungry for the win, but they will be playing with a severely damaged team psyche after opening their season with back-to-back losses to Double-A Montana State and in-state rival Colorado State. ASU needs to display a killer instinct and put Colorado away early like it did against Nevada.

NO. 23 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES – BC used the most exciting play in football (a scoring kickoff return, 96 yards, by true freshman Jeff Smith) to help take Clemson into overtime, then won on the most mundane play — an extra point. RBC’s Ryan Ohliger made his PAT in the second extra period after Jolonn Dunbar had blocked Jad Dean’s attempt moments earlier. Clemson QB Will Proctor had the numbers (25-of-30, 343 yards), but BC’s Matt Ryan had the victory, lifting the previously unranked Eagles into the top 25 as ACC rival Clemson fell out. One negative was that LB Brian Toal, perhaps BC’s best defensive player (and also a short-yardage running back), left the game with a sore shoulder. The Eagles face Brigham Young at home on Saturday.

NO. 24 TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS – On a day filled with overtime games, Mike Leach’s team may have pulled off the strangest victory. First, Tech QB Graham Harrell hit Robert Johnson with an apparent 20-yard touchdown pass in the extra period with UTEP. The Tech players, assuming the game was over, broke into celebration. But the TD was nullified by a holding call, and the officials tacked on a celebration penalty, as well, moving Tech back to the 43. Two plays later, Alex Trlica, who had missed two field goals in the fourth quarter, banged a kick off the left upright and over the crossbar for a 38-35 victory in a game that featured a combined 978 yards of total offense. Harrell completed 40-of-52 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns; UTEP’s Jordan Palmer amassed 334 passing yards and three touchdowns. Tech now travels to TCU, which has the nation’s longest current winning streak at 12.

NO. 25 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS – Now that we know the Nittany Lions are clearly in a rebuilding mode this year, what can fans expect for the rest of the season? Look for 2-3 more losses and a mid-tier bowl game invitation versus a third or fourth place SEC or ACC opponent. The Ohio State road game in two weeks is not going to be pretty…look for a spanking like the one the Irish just administered, except for the fact the Buckeyes’ thrashing will be revenge motivated. In the meantime, PSU fans can expect a solid win at home this week over Youngstown State. Backup QB Darryl Clark looked impressive in the loss at Notre Dame, even if he was going up against second-stringers. JoePa should seriously consider finding room for this playmaker in the starting lineup as a slash-type position player. He’s a serious triple-threat athlete who would instantly create more options in the offense and help take some of the pressure off QB Anthony Morelli.

Fourth and inches …

►Okay, so I picked the Texas Longhorns by three last week…it seemed like a fairly logical call…Texas was defending its home turf and the youthful Ohio State Buckeyes’ defense looked like Swiss cheese against Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe the previous week in the Horseshoe. Like all championship-caliber teams, Ohio State managed to raise its level of play to the challenge at hand. Nothing could have been better for the young Bucks’ defense than to have emerged victorious against a solid team like Texas on the road…consider them battle-hardened and ready to march toward the national championship…only three tough conference games remain on their schedule…at Iowa, at Michigan State and the Rivalry game, at home versus Michigan…I would have added Penn State, but after seeing how Notre Dame demolished JoePa’s rebuilding effort-in-progress, do you really think the revenge-minded Buckeyes will take any less pity on the Nittany Lions in two weeks?

►More Buckeye-Longhorn observations…Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez are the best receiving duo in college football right now. You can’t afford to run single coverage on either player and they are both masterful at finding the seams in zone packages. They both have sticky hands and hang onto the ball in traffic. Pick your poison. Texas did…and Hernandez responded with a monster first half (seven receptions, 122 yards, one TD). Would suspended cornerback Tarell Brown have made a difference? We’ll never know, and that’s pretty sad…one of the responsibilities of a scholarship athlete is to think “team first” and steer clear of any trouble. Every NCAA athlete is supposed to acknowledge in writing that they have reviewed a lengthy list of banned substances, and I’m pretty sure cannabis sativa is one of them. 9mm handguns fall under another list of restrictions your average athletic director will frown upon, not to mention your friendly local law enforcement officers…You have to figure that Brown and Tyrell Gatewood’s actions (and especially the timing of those actions–the week of THE big game) must have affected the Longhorn team psyche to some extent…it’s easy to imagine the seeds of doubt beginning to take root at the news of their arrest…resulting in a paranoia that rapidly spread across the Texas sideline as soon as Teddy Ginn’s supersonic flight patterns were observed at ground level during pregame warm-ups.

►Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans will certainly bring up Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija as the best receiving twosome in college football, but perhaps that argument should remain dormant until there’s a rematch of last year’s Fiesta Bowl in the 2007 Tostitos National Championship in Tempe…yes, AP’s current No. 1 and No. 2 could very well be on a collision course for another duel in the desert come Jan. 8.

►BYU Cougar fans throughout the country are livid, and rightly so, after being stiffed by CSTV and Comcast Sports last week…the Cougars put on a powerful offensive show in calming C-USA’s reigning champs, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 49-24, but outside of the LaVell Edwards Stadium crowd, only a small fraction of BYU fans in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming were able to actually see the game on “the mtn.” network, a channel devoted to Mountain West Conference sports coverage that CSTV and Comcast quickly created for the conference after Comcast was brought on board in July as a partner. CSTV/Comcast were not able to deliver on their promise to the MWC to have the DISH and DirecTV satellite companies on board in time for the game, let alone scores of other cable companies in the MWC member institutions’ footprint. For reasons unknown at that time, BYU fans were not allowed to view the Tulsa game on CSTV’s paid subscription package “All Access XXL.” So, thousands of fans then tuned into KSL Radio’s Internet streamcast on ksl.com, with the assurance of seasons past that they would be able to watch the game as a replay that evening on BYU-TV, a university channel that is available on DISH, DirecTV and many cable companies. To their dismay, Cougar fans then learned that evening that the replay of the Tulsa game was being pulled off BYU-TV’s schedule, due to a vaguely stated “broadcast rights” issue.

The three obvious questions BYU fans have been asking since Saturday…Why didn’t CSTV provide the Tulsa game on their All Access XXL Internet subscription package? Why was the replay of the Tulsa game cancelled from the BYU-TV channel schedule Saturday night?…and, finally: When will the mtn. network be available on the satellite company programming packages?

I spoke with official PR reps from CSTV and Comcast, and the simple answer to the first two questions is that if BYU fans had been provided access to the Tulsa game last Saturday, it would have affected ongoing negotiations with DISH and DirecTV. As for the third question, an official statement to BYU fans (and any MWC fan, for that matter) comes from Comcast’s Tim Fitzpatrick:

“We have already reached agreements with 10 cable companies serving viewers in five states but our goal is to make the mtn. as widely available as possible, and we are continuing to negotiate with additional providers, including the satellite companies. We share the disappointment of fans who can’t yet see their favorite teams, and we encourage fans to also make their voices heard by contacting their provider.”

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe sent out a puzzling email to Cougar fans on Tuesday that raised more questions than it answered, asking for patience with the negotiation process, and referencing that it took five years for BYU-TV to grow as a satellite and cable channel. Here’s an excerpt from his letter:

“Five years ago BYU-TV launched with very little distribution. Now it is in more than 40 million homes and growing every month. It did not happen overnight. The same can be said for CSTV and even ESPN.”

The obvious translation of the two above statements: Be patient and wait…your patience will be rewarded over the life of the seven-year contract, even if you have to suffer this year…we need you to sacrifice during the negotiations; therefore, don’t get upset when you will not be permitted to see the games on the CSTV All Access XXL package or BYU-TV replays…

I also contacted official PR reps for DISH and DirecTV and they both declined to comment, saying that they cannot comment on programming that they don’t carry. In response to my question as to whether or not the 2006 football season schedule might end up a wash for MWC fans who are depending on the satellite deals to be secured, the MWC official I spoke with offered that there will be plenty of basketball games and other sports offered on the mtn. in the coming months…not very comforting words to Cougar fans for the time being…

There are four more BYU football games scheduled to air on the mtn. network, the next date being Sept. 23. The other remaining games on BYU’s schedule are slated to be available on CSTV and Versus (formerly OLN). Temporary relief for Cougar fans this week: BYU’s road game at Boston College will be carried on ESPN2 and ESPN GamePlan.

►You’ve heard of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, right? Could there possibly be a “Fourth and inches…” jinx? Hopefully not, but…just after we raved about the Toledo Rockets program and their recent triple overtime thriller with the Iowa State Cyclones, Tom Amstutz’s troops marched north, turned the ball over four times, and surrendered control of the MAC’s Western Division to the Western Michigan Broncos. Standout Rockets senior tight end Chris Hopkins was “held” to four receptions, good for 100 bucks and a cool 25-yard per catch average. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Chicago native now has 17 receptions, 239 yards and three TDs after two games. Western Michigan’s star of the game was senior linebacker Ameer Ismail (12 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery). This could be WMU’s year to take the MAC’s West Division title…they are sitting pretty with home field advantage against Northern Illinois, the preseason favorite to win the conference.

►A few years back, when the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Colorado Buffaloes agreed on scheduling each other, it looked like an intriguing Big 12/Pac-10 matchup. Instead, ASU’s high flying aerial circus comes to Boulder undefeated this week, while the Buffs are licking their wounds from two straight losses. Sorry, Colorado fans, but it looks like it will be three in a row after this weekend…at least new head coach Dan Hawkins is keeping a level-headed perspective on the situation: “Too many times I think you have the euphoria that lingers or you have the disappointment that lingers and that’s not how you get up and get on in life; and that’s not how you get up and get on in football. Win, lose or draw you put it away and you move on…you don’t change because you lose and you don’t change because you win; you have a certain way of operating and a certain standard and that’s what you stick to.”

►Too bad the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ squad that will invade the Los Angeles Coliseum this Saturday is not cut from the same pattern as the Husker teams of the mid-1990s. Now that would be one humdinger of a gridiron battle to see: Tom Osborne’s finest clashing with the present-day USC Trojans. Alas, this pass-happy version of Nebraska football is a far cry from those glory days. USC will be without three starters due to injuries, but don’t be surprised if the Trojans spank Bill Callahan’s squad right out of the Top 25 rankings with a tsunami force attack on both sides of the ball. You really don’t want to face a Pete Carroll team that’s had two weeks prep time to discover your weaknesses and figure out how to exploit them. But, that’s why they play the game, folks…anything can happen on any given day. Is USC worthy of a top five ranking? Is Nebraska a fifth-tier Top 25 team? This game will reveal the true nature of both teams…

►Outside of the SEC, where the top programs happen to knock each other out of national title consideration every week as the season progresses (for instance, LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers and Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers this week), perhaps no two teams have a more difficult path to the National Title Game than USC and Notre Dame. The Trojans have a three-game stretch where they face the Oregon Ducks, Cal Bears and Notre Dame, topped off by their big season-ending rivalry game with the UCLA Bruins. The Irish have already survived a tough Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets assault, the always dangerous Nittany Lions and now the Michigan Wolverines this week. Beyond this week: an away date on the Michigan State Spartans’ turf, as well as the pesky Air Force Falcons on the road, not to mention their regular-season finale at USC…that game could be for a shot at all the marbles if both teams can remain undefeated until Nov. 25.

►Hats off to the Akron Zips for their gutsy 20-17 road win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack. With just over a minute remaining, the Zips were down 17-14 and had the ball at their own 33-yard line. QB Luke Getsy completed 2-of-3 passes for 42 yards, and then scrambled twice, picking up another 24 yards. Three and a half ticks were on the clock and the ball rested on the one-yard line. Instead of kicking a game-tying field goal, head coach J.D. Brookhart decided to go for it and RB Dennis Kennedy powered the pigskin across the goal line for the upset victory.

►Will the Miami Hurricanes possibly survive this week’s road trip to square off with the Louisville Cardinals? It’s a question that wouldn’t have made much sense a few years ago, but after Louisville’s close call at Miami last year, you have to wonder…the game has enormous implications for both teams. The Cards cannot afford to lose, if they hope to keep their national title hopes alive. They are not the type of program that can carry one loss around on their backs like Texas or Auburn and still be considered championship contenders at the end of the season by the pollsters…The ‘Canes cannot afford to lose, either. Not if they want to keep their head coach around beyond this season. Can you picture Miami sitting at 1-2 after this week? It doesn’t seem possible, and yet if Louisville does win, it won’t be considered much of an upset…

►Stats Padder Games of the Week: The South Carolina Gamecocks host and roast Wofford…Virginia Tech Hokies humiliate the bumbling Duke Blue Devils, and Texas stampedes the Rice Owls.

►Best Games of the Week : LSU at Auburn, Florida at Tennessee; Michigan at Notre Dame; Nebraska at USC; Clemson Tigers at Florida State Seminoles; Miami Hurricanes at Louisville Cardinals; Oklahoma Sooners at Oregon; BYU at Boston College Golden Eagles; Texas Tech Red Raiders at TCU Horned Frogs.

►Upset specials of the week: The Wyoming Cowboys just missed pulling off a big upset at Virginia last week, falling 13-12 on a missed extra point. If the Cowpoke fans can rustle up some of their infamous welcome wagons and really whoop it up inside War Memorial Stadium, they just might corral the high flying Boise State Broncos this week…Frank Solich’s Ohio Bobcats are rapidly gaining a winning edge type of confidence…that will be a shock to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights who presumed they would be hosting one of the MAC’s weaker teams…

Q&A: QB Paul Peterson on Boston College and BYU

Paul Peterson is currently serving as an offensive intern for the Brigham Young University Cougars football program. During his college playing days, Paul compiled a 12-2 career record as Boston College’s starting quarterback and was the first QB in BC football history to begin his career 6-0. He led the Golden Eagles to two consecutive bowl game victories over Colorado State and North Carolina. He was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week twice, the MVP of the Continental Tire Bowl, and BC’s team MVP his senior year. He was also a J.C. Grid-Wire All-America Quarterback at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah before attending Boston College. His oldest brother Charlie is a former BYU quarterback.

CG365: What are your thoughts and feelings as you contemplate returning with the BYU football squad to Boston College and the site of many great football memories for you?

PP:  I’m excited. I have a lot of friends out there that I’m anxious to see and the coaches who I played for are still there and I’m excited to see them. On the other side of the ball, I’m part of a new team now, so I want to see BYU have a lot of success and come home with a victory.

CG365:  Tell us a little about your studies at Boston College. What did you major in?

PP:  I majored in business. You know, coming from a junior college, there was a little bit of a curve in adapting, but I had a great academic experience there and the faculty was great.  It’s just an awesome school.

CG365:  Did you find yourself to be quite the anomaly on campus as a returned LDS missionary at a private Catholic university?

PP: You know, the Boston College environment is very tolerant of other religions. There are Muslims and Jewish people, many different faiths are represented—the biggest thing was being married. I was the only married guy on the team, and I think I was the only married guy in the whole undergraduate school, so everyone thought that was kind of different.

CG365:  You probably feel pretty comfortable around the BYU team now, right?

PP:  Oh definitely, definitely. The guys are in the same situation and I can relate to them a bit better.

CG365:  Can you share a thought or two of what was running through your mind as you and your wife were driving in your car from Utah to the East Coast the summer you transferred to Boston College?

PP:  We didn’t know what to expect.  We didn’t know what the culture would be like back East…We didn’t really understand how it would be…we were just excited for the new adventure.  We both had an awesome experience.  My wife, Meghan, was able to find a job on campus and get her school paid for and we both graduated.  I think she misses Boston.  She made some good friends out there as well.

CG365:  Do you miss the culture of a historic and dynamic city like Boston?

PP:  Yeah, it has a cool feel. It takes people a while to warm up to you, but once they do, you’re friends for life. We had such a great experience there. Besides Boston College, you’ve got Boston U., Harvard, MIT, Emerson, Berkley College of Music—it’s just a mecca for education.  There’s a lot of students, so there’s a lot of activities geared toward students … Boston just has its own unique atmosphere that’s different from any other place in the United States.

CG365:  Is your wife going to be able to go back there for the game?

PP:  Well, we have a 2-month old baby, so the timing isn’t quite right for her to make the trip back East this time.

CG365:  Are you hearing any smack talk coming from your old teammates about this week’s game with BYU?

PP: BC’s really the type of team—I don’t think anybody really likes to talk smack over there. I remember every game, the head coach [Tom O’Brien] he would say, “Let’s be about it, not talk about it.”

CG365: Would you say the BYU team has the same type of discipline under Bronco?

PP: Oh exactly.  I think they are very similar in the way they lead their teams with their leadership qualities.

CG365:  What do you recall about when you first got your break to take over at quarterback for BC?

PP:  It was awesome.  When I came in—when I first started—we were like 5 and 5, so we were just trying to make that push to be bowl eligible.  So, to be able to go to a bowl game that year, we were way excited about that.  To play a good team like Colorado State in San Francisco was a fun time.  Being a Division 1 quarterback, that first [junior] year I was still trying to figure it out. Midway through, maybe I started figuring it out a little better and they could see that.  It was fun playing. There’s nothing better than a bowl game and coming out on top.

CG365:  What about your senior year when you were already the established starter?

PP:  The next year was going well until I got injured the second to the last game of the regular season at Temple.  I broke my hand so I had to sit out the Syracuse game and we ended up losing.  We would have played in the Fiesta Bowl if we’d have won that.  But I came back for the bowl game with that broken hand still, and we came out on top of that game, too, against North Carolina.

CG365:  Didn’t you end up breaking your leg in the second half of that game?

PP:  I did—the first part of the fourth quarter. My hand was getting a little weak throughout the game and I had fumbled … when I went to scoop up my fumble, a guy caught me from behind and snapped my leg.

CG365:  Ouch.  I remember seeing photographs of you being wheeled off the field and you were flashing a victory sign to the fans—

PP: No, I think I was pumping my fist.  But, I was watching on the Jumbotron and we had just executed the fake field goal to score a touchdown. I was pretty sure we we’re going to come out on top, after that.

CG365:  Having played at Boston College and knowing the system there, do you think they will take BYU lightly?

PP:  No. The head coach over there, he prepares those guys pretty well.  I don’t think they take any game lightly.

CG365:  Okay, BC played a really tough, double-overtime game last week.

PP:  Yeah, that was a grinder—and good for BC to come out on top of that.

CG365: So, when you’ve played in a highly emotional, physical game like that against a conference foe—you gotta win that game?

PP: Yeah.

CG365:  Is it hard to get back “up” the next week?

PP:  I don’t think so. Well, not for me anyway. When I was playing, I was excited to play every game. It didn’t matter who the opponent was. I don’t think you can take anyone lightly.You’ve seen the Division 1 teams losing to these 1-AA teams who are ready to play, so I don’t think you can really take anyone lightly, and BC definitely won’t be taking BYU lightly after our great victory over Tulsa last week.

CG365:  What was it like being a quarterback at Boston College—did you feel like you were playing in the shadow of Doug Flutie back there?

PP:  There were a lot of comparisons with Flutie, and I was always worried that he’d get offended because I wasn’t half the quarterback that he was … but, I mean, he’s a living legend for BC … I was just really excited to be able to play and be a part of that team, coming from where I’d came from, and the chances that I didn’t have before, to be able to have that chance to play … I was ecstatic just to be the starting quarterback, and to be compared to him was a huge compliment.

CG365: Did you ever meet Flutie?

PP:  Yeah I did, a bunch of times. Actually, he would come during the summertime and we got to throw and work out a couple times together. He’s a great guy.

CG365:  What did you learn from him in those workouts?

PP:  I asked him some questions regarding the similar height disadvantage that we shared, particularly about a couple strategic things he would do to try and take advantage of pass plays, or situations, or finding certain reads, when really, you can’t see and you’ve got 6’8” tackles in your way.

CG365:  I was reading where Steve Young said he had to learn to have faith where his receivers were going to be when he couldn’t see them, and just let the ball fly—

PP:  Exactly.  You’ve got all those repetitions and practice and stuff, so you know where your guy’s gonna be…you just gotta make the right decision…it’s not that difficult.  You definitely have to move around a little bit if you don’t know what’s going on behind the other side of the line and try to find the lanes where you can throw.

CG365:  Are you interested in coaching as a career?

PP:  Yes, definitely. That’s why I’m here.  I’m trying to get into coaching.

CG365:  Would you want to go back to BC to coach?

PP:  Oh, I’d go back there to coach in a second.

CG365:  How do you feel your business degree will help you in coaching?

PP:  (laughs).  I don’t know if it will. No, seriously, I took a lot of management classes and I think that’s what you are as a coach, you’re trying to manage your players in the positions that you’re coaching to be successful and have the same output. The main goal is wins, and in business it’s similar, where you’re trying to win business, earn money, be successful. I think there’s that type of connection I can make with my background.

RF365:  Okay. What’s your favorite non-football memory at Boston College?

PP:  There might be more than one! The basketball team had won about 21 games in a row and was playing Pittsburgh at home, so it was a big game.

CG365:  This is your senior year?

PP:  Right, my senior year, after the bowl game I had just gotten off crutches, and I’m hobbling onto the basketball court. Coach O’Brien presented the team MVP award to me and there was a standing ovation for quite a while, so that was a pretty cool experience.

CG365:  What’s your favorite food in Boston?

PP:  My favorite place to eat would probably be Anna’s Taquarilla.  They have cheap burritos and they’re good!

CG365:  What about your favorite tourist site?

PP:  Believe it or not, I love the Museum of Fine Arts.

CG365:  If you have the choice between a Patriot game and a Celtic game, which do you go to?

PP:  Oh, you gotta go to a Pats game.  They’re sold out for twenty years, I think.

CG365:  I’m sure your answer would probably be different if we were back in the Sixties.

PP:  Exactly.

CG365:  Any special message you would like to share with BYU fans?

PP:  I want to make sure that Cougar fans know that I’m part of a new team. Although I have good friends back there and those connections, I’m part of a new team and we are going to do our best to bring a victory back here this weekend.

CG365:  When you were playing at Boston College and having success, BYU was going through a really dark period in the program with consecutive losing seasons and some serious off-the-field problems with a handful of players … from what you read or heard about the program during that time period, how would you describe the program as you see it today?

PP:  You know, I think this team has some great, great players, and our coaches do an awesome job here of getting production out of those players. Our team as a whole—there’s a different feeling here at BYU. There’s obviously a different atmosphere here than in the past, and a different tradition that Coach Mendenhall is trying to instill in the players. The guys want to be successful and I think they are doing everything they possibly can to do that. The program is definitely headed in a great direction.

CG365:  I don’t think Arizona was better than BYU in that first game. The team beat themselves with penalties and other mistakes.

PP:  I definitely agree.

CG365:  When it comes to practice, is it really possible to see improvement in a team on a daily basis, or is that just another coach-speak platitude?

PP:  I think you can. There’s kind of this little cycle that happens … after the game, usually Mondays and Tuesdays are not the best practices … you get a lot accomplished.  You’re going over new material, so there might be some slow parts, or some things we’re trying to pick up, going from one defense to a different defense, to different personnel, and there’s a learning curve those first couple of days. And then, after that, it’s expected to get better, to get crisper, know the game plan … I think you peak toward the end of the week … and that game, obviously, is where you’re going to have the most experience and gain the most.

CG365: As the season wears on, do you feel it’s important to lay off the heavy hitting in practice and save it for the game?

PP: Yeah, we did that at BC. You have to. Physically, to be able to grind it out in full pads throughout the week, it’s just too hard on the players … they’re still trying to recover on Monday and Tuesday. You gotta get their legs so they’re fresh—so they can be 100 percent for the game. It’s a total disadvantage if you’ve got guys banged up for your game. It’s not smart management of your assets.

CG365:  Have you been helping to pattern the BYU scout team so they run their offense the way Boston College runs it?

PP:  One of my responsibilities is that I get to write down the plays in practice that we run and load them into the computer—

CG365:  But aren’t the coaches trying to utilize your knowledge, pick your brain about BC—

PP:  Sure, during the day when they’re watching film, I definitely answer any questions they have for me. I think I’ve been able to help the team prepare in that regard.

CG365:  So, what kind of memories came back to you when you were watching the film of BC with the Cougar coaches—were you able to immediately, instinctively pick out things that you would notice from being the QB in their offense?

PP:  Yeah, exactly, because their offensive coordinator has been there forever, Coach Dana Bible. I love the guy. He does some great things with the offense, and watching it, you know—most of the guys that are playing there now were there when I was, so I get to see my buddies playing on film.

CG365:  Who are some of your best buddies that are still playing at BC right now?

PP:  Matt Ryan and I were pretty good buddies. He came in with me, and we spent a lot of time in meetings cracking jokes and poking each other in the ribs, trying to stay focused in the meetings we were having … some of the offensive linemen are still there, the running backs … Josh Beekman, the guard, and James Martin, the tackle, are still good, good buddies of mine.

CG365:  Okay, a couple more question. Recruiting. What’s more important, a top rated package of physical skills or heart?

PP:  That’s a good question. You’re obviously going to try and find the athletes that have both of those. That’s your main goal. But, I feel like I was a guy that was mostly heart. I didn’t have a lot of talent, or certain physical attributes that separated me from other people. So, if you find an athlete that’s lacking some of the physical attributes you’re looking for, you hope the heart can make up for it. As a coach, your job is on the line, and you gotta be able to find those players that have both as much as possible.

CG365:  How about this BYU team–do you think they have heart?

PP:  Definitely. They definitely have heart. They have great athletes, but they have a huge heart. They are going to do whatever it takes to get that victory.

BYU Blunders Away Another Winnable Road Game

Following the gut-wrenching double-overtime loss to the Boston College Eagles, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said, “Our team simply was one play short.”

As much as Cougar fans might want to discount that simplistic evaluation, one could certainly make the argument that it’s true. Several times throughout the course of regulation play, BYU held in its hands the opportunity where one play would have changed the outcome in the team’s favor, avoiding overtime altogether.

One of the earliest opportunities you could point to would be when John Beck overthrew a wide open Zac Collie near the goal line with 8:40 remaining in the first quarter and BYU leading 7-0. That score could have been a dagger in the heart of the B.C. resistance; instead, the Cougars settled for a 49-yard field goal attempt that failed.

The argument could be made that either a touchdown pass to Collie or a successful field goal during that possession would have made the difference at the end of the game, and coach Mendenhall would be right about coming up one play short. The same “one-play” scenario could be said for Ben Criddle’s almost-interception in the end zone with 3:50 remaining in the first half. On the next play, Eagle QB Matt Ryan connected with Tony Gonzalez for an 18-yard TD pass. One play, such as that potential interception, could have changed the outcome of the game.

But the truth is, dissecting this Cougar loss isn’t that simple. On the possession where Beck overthrew Collie, the Cougars started on the B.C. 26-yard line following a recovered fumble by LB Cameron Jensen. BYU gained 13 yards on two pass plays to Jonny Harline and Manase Tonga, but also committed two procedure penalties thus negating the positive yardage. Instead of third-and-eight from the 32, it should have been first-and-10 from the 13-yard line. At the very least, kicker Derek McLaughlin should have been attempting a 30-yard field goal instead of a 49-yarder.

BYU blundered its way through not only this possession, but the entire game. Just two possessions later, the Cougars were driving and reached midfield, but two more penalties ended up rendering a fourth-and-17 punting situation at the Y’s 41-yard line.

In all, BYU was flagged 10 times for minus 67 yards, and it turned the ball over three times. That the Cougars managed to hang with the Eagles and take the game into two overtimes despite these considerable drawbacks underscores the fact that they have the talent to play Top 25-level football. This is a team that could easily be 3-0 and ranked at this point in the season.

So, what is it that’s kept BYU from cashing in on two very winnable road games this year against non-conference opponents? In a word, it’s execution.

There can be no finger-pointing with the way the Boston College game was lost. You can say that BYU came up one play short, and that might be easy to say, and seem easy to digest, but the fact of the matter is there was a host of players who failed to execute at one crucial moment in the game, or another. Collectively, these momentary lapses in execution kept the Cougars from running away with the game.

The list reads much like the Arizona game with penalties continuing to be a leading problem, especially on the offensive line. John Beck threw his first two interceptions of the year, but that’s going to happen sooner or later when you are airing the ball 60 times a game. In Beck’s defense, I wouldn’t necessarily call the interceptions or his fumble that stalled a drive and led to a B.C. field goal a failure to execute. Overthrowing a wide open Collie early in the game, and failing to check off an ill-fated deep handoff call late in the game were his biggest lapses in execution. The latter play came with only 3:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. BYU faced a third-and-inches situation on the B.C. 22-yard line.

When Beck got behind his center, Sete Aulai, there was no linebacker filling the gap over Aulai. Rather than signaling for a quick-snap quarterback keeper, Beck stuck with the play that was called and Fui Vakapuna was stuffed for a four-yard loss. The resulting 44-yard field goal attempt was wide and Boston College was off the hook once again.

Now, perhaps Beck isn’t given the freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage under certain circumstances. If that is the case, then the blame goes to the coaching staff. However, a fourth-year starting quarterback of Beck’s caliber has to be given the latitude to improvise and it’s difficult to believe that offensive coordinator Robert Anae doesn’t allow that to happen.

To be sure, Beck wasn’t the only player failing to execute the duties of his position on Saturday. He just happens to be the most visible playmaker on the team and, accordingly, tends to take a larger share of the lumps in the postmortem of the game. The last image most fans will remember of Beck in this game was his almost paralyzed immobility in the face of an onrushing linebacker. Rather than sidestepping the leaping defender, Beck tried to get his pass off as planned, and the ball was tipped into the hands of an opportunistic Eagle defender to end the game in the second overtime.

Looking for positives in the aftermath of defeat is rarely a joyful experience for fans, especially when you know your team should be 4-0 (following this week’s home game versus Utah State) and ranked in the Top 25 heading into conference play.

BYU’s defense continues to surprise nearly every preseason prognosticator. The unit has given up an occasional big play, but those moments have been sparse enough to allow the offense plenty of opportunities to win each contest this year. The linebacking corps is as good as advertised, and the young defensive line (with nine players platooning) has been solid against the run and steadily improving in its pass-rush capabilities. The defensive backfield is still the Achilles’ heel of the defense, but new DB coach Jaime Hill has worked wonders with his crew to limit mistakes to a sustainable level of damage. Walk-on CB Ben Criddle has been most impressive to date.

Offensively, the two biggest positives in the Boston College game were 137 yards rushing, and the yards after catch (YAC). Arizona severely limited the Cougars’ YAC in game one, and then BYU broke that stat wide open last week against Tulsa. Against B.C, the Cougars had 18 pass receptions that went for more than 10 yards, and 15 of those were directly attributable to yards gained after the catch.

In addition to limiting penalties and turnovers and delivering on field goal attempts, rushing yardage and YAC will be the two biggest offensive factors against 20th-ranked Mountain West Conference foe TCU in two weeks. Need proof? Texas Tech, which runs a very similar spread offense to BYU, managed only 59 yards rushing and seven pass receptions longer than 10 yards against the Horned Frogs in its 12-3 loss on Saturday.

Fourth and inches …

►The Michigan Wolverines’ dismantling of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish created the second biggest seismic shift in this young season after the Tennessee-Cal outcome rocked the first week polls…Michigan jumped six slots and Notre Dame tumbled 10. It seems like it’s been years since Michigan has played with the level of intensity and ferocity that they displayed last Saturday…Senior Wolverine linebackers Shawn Crable (6-foot-5, 245) and Prescott Burgess (6-3, 245) terrorized Brady Quinn from start to finish…Burgess intercepted Quinn on the second play of the game and returned it 31 yards for the score…later, midway through the third quarter, Burgess was there again with a pick to stop the Irish dead in their tracks…Crable had several big hits–one head-knocker on Quinn should make all the end-of-season highlight reels…hard to believe BQ could even get off the field on his own after that bell-ringer…if you saw the game, you know what I mean…

►The Michigan-Ohio State game on Nov. 18 is looking mighty important right now regarding national title implications…but first, both teams need to get by a pretty rocky Big Ten schedule…Iowa and Michigan State are poised to pull off big upsets…Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue are always dangerous…Northwestern has a lot of fight…sadly, IU and UI are the conference bottom feeders, except when it comes to basketball. Even if Michigan rolls into Columbus with one conference loss against an undefeated Buckeye squad, the Big Ten title will be up for grabs and the game will still have national title implications.

►Things don’t get any easier this Saturday for Charlie Weis and the Gold Domers as they have to travel north to East Lansing, home of the Michigan State Spartans. Despite last year’s big MSU win over the Irish, Spartan fans still demand payback with compounding interest on Notre Dame for Ara Parseghian’s decision to play for a tie in that legendary 1966 battle that was billed as the “Game of the Decade.” N.D. came in ranked No. 1 and Michigan State was No. 2. The Irish had the ball on their 30-yard line with 1:10 left, but they elected to run the clock out and settled for a 10-10 deadlock. Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated joked that the Irish “tied one for the Gipper.” The decision paid off, though, as Notre Dame stayed first in the polls and the Spartans remained No. 2…this was back when the national champion was voted by the pollsters before the bowl games…Four Michigan State players from that team were selected in the first eight picks of the 1967 NFL draft…No. 1 Bubba Smith (Baltimore Colts), No. 2 Clint Jones (Minnesota Vikings), No. 5 George Webster (Houston Oilers) and No. 8 Gene Washington (Minnesota Vikings).

►Remember these guys? The two college quarterbacks who were selected third and fourth in that same NFL draft? The Florida Gators’ Steve Spurrier was picked third by the San Francisco 49ers and Bob Griese of the Purdue Boilermakers was selected fourth by the Miami Dolphins.

►NASA satellites were able to monitor some nifty artwork taking place in the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night…USC Trojans super-duper receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith were seen carving crop circles in the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ secondary on ABC’s nationally televised game. Now they just need to find a game of epic proportions to show off their handiwork like Ted Ginn, Jr. and Tony Gonzalez did for the Buckeyes against the then No. 2 Texas Longhorns.

►Keeping the Cornhuskers happy on the road…Bill Callahan treated the Huskers to the ultimate training table meal on Friday for lunch at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills…prime rib, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and so on…mmm…the last time the Huskers dined there was for the annual Lawry’s Beef Bowl prior to the national championship showdown versus Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl Game.

►If you’re a Cornhusker fan searching for some sort of measuring stick regarding the USC game, try this…the BYU Cougars played in USC’s home opener three years ago when Matt Leinart was a sophomore. BYU trailed 21-18 with about 10 minutes left in the game and were driving for the go-ahead score when the Trojans forced a fumble…USC scored, then stopped the Cougars again and cashed in another big play score for the 35-18 final score…the men of Troy went on to claim a share of the national championship that year after defeating Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl Game. As for BYU…they ended up 5-6, missing out on a bowl game after former head coach Gary “Win by 9, not by 3″ Crowton blew a sure three-point lead versus Stanford. Instead of running out the last few minutes of the clock with a 14-11 lead, he called for a pass play that was intercepted and promptly converted into seven points for an 18-14 Cardinal victory. When asked about his play calling after the game, Crowton admitted to reporters that he wanted to “Win by 9, not by 3.”

►Is a one-game suspension enough for the Pac-10 officiating crew that muffed (we’re being nice here) two crucial calls in the Oregon Ducks-Oklahoma Sooners contest? More questions…How many other Pac-10 teams have benefited from the Zebras in past games against non-con opponents? The Sooners requested to have the game stricken from the record books…Not only would that be unfair (especially to Adrian Peterson) but…hey, here’s an idea…how about if Oklahoma forfeits all the games Rhett Bomar played in at Oklahoma? Saving the best question for last…is there some way we can make sure these two teams meet in a bowl game again this holiday season? What a love-fest that would be…

►Oh, how the mighty have fallen…I wonder if Miami’s A.D. is scrambling to change future schedules around after the Hurricanes’ 1-2 start this season…What is wrong with this UM team? They are loaded with talent. Is it chemistry? Leadership? We all knew Louisville would give the Hurricanes one heck of a game at home, but did you really think it would be a blowout? Perhaps Larry Coker should have insisted his boys have a little more respect for their opponent…why on earth did he allow his players to stomp on the Cardinals’ midfield logo before the game?

►Just for kicks…a Louisville fan’s sign at the game read: “Cards send Tropical Depression back to Miami.”

►Props to Tommy Bowden’s Clemson Tigers for bouncing back from their emotional double-OT loss to the Boston College Eagles and pulling out a crucial conference win on the road against Senior Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. It looks like the ACC’s Atlantic Division will be a three-horse race between the abovementioned teams. The Virginia Tech Hokies looks like the odds-on favorite to take the Coastal Division, but they do play on the road at Miami and B.C., while Miami’s schedule looks pretty favorable from hereon…dark horse Georgia Tech gets Miami at home, but has to play the Hokies and Clemson on the road…

►QuickSnap, presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: When was the last time Miami and Florida State both lost during the same game week, who did they lose to, and what were the scores? Send your answer to quicksnap@realfootball365.com. Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a set of two limited edition 2005 Rose Bowl Game trading cards featuring Texas and Michigan. Texas won the game on a last second field goal, 38-37, in the first meeting ever between the two programs. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►Catch a Tiger by the Tail…In the battle of the big striped cats, the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers got really defensive with each other in the most anticipated West Division clash of the season…Auburn took it 7-3, but the game could have gone either way and almost did right down to the wire…this game and Florida’s 21-20 squeaker over Tennessee offer strong proof how the SEC cannibalizes itself each season. A 16-team playoff would allow at least two, and possibly three SEC teams to have a shot at the national title each year…I’m a staunch bowl game traditionalist, but there’s got to be a way to preserve the importance of the bowl games while providing a more level playing field for the Top 16 teams in the country to have a shot at the national title each season. There are some good ideas out there…more on this in the future…

►Pride comes before the fall…It’s pretty sad to see how a talented athlete like Maurice Clarett has spiraled out of control off the field…a convicted felon, he’s headed to prison for at least three and half years. Imagine how different his life might be right now had he stayed in school at Ohio State and completed his football career–and more importantly–graduated…instead, he scorned the education Ohio State offered and challenged the NFL’s draft entry rules as a freshman…if there’s one indisputable fact about life, it would have to be that there’s a consequence for every choice we make.

►Anti-Smurf Turf…How in the world can the NCAA allow the Boise State Broncos to taint, er, I mean paint their field the same hue as their primary color jerseys? What would they say if Oklahoma wanted to paint their gridiron crimson, or if Tennessee decorated their field grass in that creamy orange flavor? It’s the biggest joke in college football as far as home fields go and it needs to be banned….and don’t cry about how much money it will cost to change back to a normal GREEN grass color…BSU should have never made the decision to poison their field with that repugnant color in the first place…it’s an insult to college football.

►Uh-oh…Stanford Cardinal has a spankin’ new stadium to show off and fans are filling the seats, but their season record stands at 0-3 with perhaps the most winnable games on their schedule now in the rear view mirror. It’s conceivable that the injury depleted Cardinal could go winless this season…the only possible W looks like Oregon State at home the next to last game of the season…Ty Willingham, where are you? “Oh, there you are…up north with the Huskies…I guess we’ll see you on Nov. 11, Ty.”

►Check-up on Northwestern…following the tragic passing of head coach Randy Walker, Pat Fitzgerald has done a remarkable job getting the Wildcats to focus on their season…NU should be 3-0, except for an uncharacteristic letdown versus New Hampshire, so they’re 2-1…the ‘Cats head out to Reno, Nev. to roll the dice on one more non-con game…waiting for them are the Nevada Wolfpack…not an easy win playing the ‘Pack at home. Name a team that has a tougher four-game stretch than Northwestern from Oct. 21 through Nov. 11: Michigan State, at Michigan, at Iowa, Ohio State. Yikes! One thing’s for sure, Pat Fitzgerald will have his ‘Cats ready to play every week. They won’t back down from any challenge…that said, the Big Ten is really tough at the top four slots this year, especially when you draw a schedule that has you playing them week after week after week after week…NU needs a win against Nevada to give them a realistic shot at 6-6 this year.

►More Crowton…Northwestern’s visit to Reno reminds me of a foolish decision the former Cougar coach (and currently OC for the Oregon Ducks) made a few years back with another talented BYU team. The Cougars were 2-0 after defeating Syracuse and Hawaii…(yes, Syracuse was considered a decent opponent just a few years ago…) Anyway, Coach C. decided to gamble and fly over to Reno from Salt Lake City on the morning of the game…the ‘Pack felt disrespected, naturally, and the Cougars started out sluggishly…Nevada WR Nate Burleson lit up BYU’s secondary and the Cougars scrambled to catch up late in the game, only to fall short, 31-28. The shock of that upset lingered for weeks throughout Cougardom…the season pretty much went down the toilet after that… it was BYU’s first losing season since 1974. End note: The year before, the Cougars devastated Nevada in Provo, 52-7.

►MACfabulous upsets…Props to the Toledo Rockets for their two-OT 37-31 upset over the Kansas Jayhawks last week on ESPN2’s Friday Night Football…and to the Western Michigan Broncos for their 17-10 upset over the Virginia Cavaliers.

►Heisman’s dark horse: Garrett Wolfe, RB, Northern Illinois: 74 carries, 630 yards, 8.5 ypc, 210 ypg, four TDs. No. 1 ranked running back in Division 1.

►Can it get any worse? Barring the biggest upset of the young season, Colorado Buffaloes head coach Dan Hawkins will be 0-4 after this week’s game on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs. By contrast, Hawkins lost a total of three Western Athletic Conference games during six seasons at the helm of BSU.

►Stats Padder Games of the Week: The Auburn Tigers (43 pt. favorites) feast on the Buffalo Bulls…Florida State Seminoles (plus 30.5) dine on Rice Owls…and, the very ticked off Oklahoma Sooners (plus 29) ambush the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

►Best Games of the Week: Arizona State Sun Devils at California Golden Bears; Air Force Falcons at Wyoming Cowboys; Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Navy Midshipmen; Notre Dame at Michigan State; UCLA Bruins at Washington Huskies; Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan; Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks; Boston College Eagles at North Carolina State Wolfpack.

►Upset specials of the week…look for the Kansas State Wildcats to put up a very tough fight at home against No. 8 Louisville, which is coming off a huge emotional revenge win over Miami…I like the way the Hawaii Warriors played Alabama on the road to start the season…they’ve never won on the road at No. 25 Boise State, but there’s always a first time for everything…both ranked teams are favored by at least two touchdowns.