Air Force out to snap losing streak at BYU
The numbers are telling: Air Force hasn't won at BYU since 1982, a streak of seven Cougar home victories. "Maybe it's something in the water down there," said Falcons coach Fisher DeBerry. "We haven't had much luck in Provo, but neither have a lot of teams. This is obviously an important game for both teams. After it, one will still be in first place and the other will be moving down."
If you ever needed to know how valuable a senior center is to the success of an offense, glance only at BYU right now. The Cougars are playing with a freshman quarterback (John Beck) and didn't have center Scott Jackson (knee) in an 18-14 loss to Stanford. Against the Cardinal, BYU was held to minus-5 yards rushing. The Cougars have not scored a rushing touchdown in 26 straight quarters dating to last season. "We have redshirt freshmen and a true freshman around (Jackson) on the line," said BYU coach Gary Crowton. "That made a difference against Stanford. To say we're young is a good excuse, but we just need to get better up front. (Jackson) should be back this week, which will definitely help us."
The Rams are 2-2 after a 41-21 home loss to Miami (Ohio) and now open conference play against visiting Utah. So far, the roller coaster has made a few sharp turns for CSU, picked in the preseason to defend its Mountain West title. "I have a lot of faith in the character of our players," said Rams coach Sonny Lubick. "We have a lot of good seniors on this team. We've been playing fairly hard, but not really getting it done. We need to find out how good we really are. I still don't have a real good read on this team."
The Rebels should get a patent on these conference Player of the Week honors. UNLV received two more awards off its 33-22 win against visiting Hawaii. Junior cornerback Ruschard Dodd-Masters (career-best 10 tackles, two forced fumbles, fumble recovery) earned the nod on defense and senior kicker Dillon Pieffer (tied school record with four field goals) on special teams. More importantly, the Rebels intercepted Hawaii record-setting quarterback Timmy Chang three times. "(Chang) is almost impossible to sack because of their scheme," said Rebels coach John Robinson. "But we got pressure on him. We kept him off balance where he wasn't as effective as he might be."
The team is struggling at 1-3 overall and 0-1 in conference. The Lobos now host New Mexico State, which they have defeated 11-of-12 times in Albuquerque. "I think we're disappointed and upset that things aren't going better than they are, but I don't think there will be a letdown," said New Mexico coach Rocky Long. "If we were ever going to have a letdown it would have been last week (in a road loss to Washington State). In this program, we put so much emphasis on conference games, and to lose a game like we did against BYU (10-7), that takes as much out of you as any game can. We played one of the top teams in the country in Washington State and if we were emotionally drained, it sure didn't show on the field."
San Diego State
The Aztecs are 3-1 for the first time since 1996, but just how good Tom Craft's second team is will begin to unfold this week. SDSU (which has wins against two Division I-AA programs and lowly Texas-El Paso, coupled with a three-point loss at Ohio State) is at UCLA on Saturday to face a Bruins program that is 17-0-1 all-time against the Aztecs. "(UCLA) has been to 14 bowls in the last 20 years and won 10," said Craft. "We've gone to three bowls in the last 34 years and haven't won any. We've got a bigger mountain to climb. I think this game is one where we'll look to close the gap. This game is a measuring stick to close the gap and we need to be realistic about that."
Coach Urban Meyer was an assistant at Colorado State from 1990-95, but doesn't expect any grand homecoming festivities when he takes the Utes to Fort Collins this week. "Nobody knows who I am," said Meyer. That could change soon enough. Utah is 2-1, nearly won at Texas A&M and had last week off after its victory against Cal on ESPN. Now, the Utes open conference play against the defending league champion. "I think a lot of people in this country have taken CSU for granted in terms of how successful they have been for so long," said Meyer. "Sonny Lubick has done a wonderful job there. Now, everybody knows Sonny. My wife likes Sonny better than she does me."
The scores alone show improvement, even if the record does not. Wyoming gave Air Force everything it wanted and more in the conference opener for both teams, but the Falcons emerged 35-29 winners. "Frying pan to the fire," said first-year Cowboys coach Joe Glenn. "We gave it all we had, but it wasn't enough. Air Force is 4-0 for a reason. Now, we have to lick our wounds and try to get back up on our feet to face a very good team." That would be Boise State from the WAC this week, a Broncos team that had its 13-game win streak snapped at Oregon State last Saturday.
Ed Graney covers college football for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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