BYU season in review

BYU headed into 2005 with cautious optimism. On one hand, the Gary Crowton reign had met its curious demise. When he arrived in 2001, it looked like the Cougs were right back at the top after a debut 12-2 season. But things went downhill in a hurry and Crowton never oversaw another winning year.

Enter Bronco Mendenhall. The fourth-youngest head coach in the country, the former defensive coordinator inherited a large stockpile of talent. But Crowton always had a decent pool of good players, too, he just could never translate that to wins on the field.

There were a lot of questions about Mendenhall and his new staff, questions which would start to be answered when Tom O’Brien and the Boston College Eagles came to town to begin the season?

Boston College 20, BYU 3

The Cougars put up plenty of yards, but could not get in the end zone against the No. 22 Eagles. Cougar quarterback John Beck threw for 330 yards, on 41-of-60 passing, but only got two balls to top receiver Todd Watkins. Mendenhall made his first controversial call in the fourth quarter with BYU down by two touchdowns. Instead of going for it on fourth-and-6 just inside Eagle territory, the new head coach chose to punt and let his defense get the job done. It didn’t, as B.C. methodically drove down the field for a field goal, putting the game out of reach.

BYU 45, Eastern Illinois 10

Nothing cures the bumps and bruises from a tough loss like a game with a 1-AA opponent. The Panthers fit that bill perfectly, giving the Cougars their most lopsided win since 2001.

BYU jumped all over the outmatched Panthers in a hurry, carrying a 31-0 advantage at halftime. Beck had another big day, throwing for 255 yards and three touchdowns, as nine Cougars caught at least one pass.

TCU 51, BYU 50

At four hours and 42 minutes, the Cougars needed all the rest they had accumulated during their bye week to get through this overtime slugfest. But a victory was not in the cards, as TCU overcame an 18-point deficit to knock off BYU at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

Coming in for the injured Tye Gunn, backup quarterback Jeff Ballard rallied the Frogs, eventually finishing with 150 yards passing and two touchdowns. TCU scored on its final four drives in order to force the extra period.

BYU struck first in overtime, as Watkins caught a touchdown pass from Beck on the first play. But on the ensuing PAT, a bad snap kept the Cougars from pushing the lead to seven. TCU drove down the field and overcame a controversial no-call on an apparent fumble to get in for the winning touchdown.

San Diego State 31, BYU 10

After the heartbreaking loss to TCU, BYU hit rock bottom at the hands of the underdog Aztecs. SDSU running back Lynell Hamilton carved up the Cougar run defense, scampering for two touchdowns on 161 yards rushing. On the opposite side of the spectrum, BYU was held to only 44 yards on the ground.

It had been 17 years since the last time a BYU football team lost to SDSU in San Diego.

BYU 27, New Mexico 24

Expectations were low as the 1-3 Cougars went into Albuquerque for the Lobos’ Homecoming game. But on a topsy-turvy night, the UNM alumni went hope disappointed, as BYU came from behind for the bleed-stemming win.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Lobos held a comfortable 23-14 lead. But they would not score again, and could not keep BYU from doing the same.

Down by five with 2:48 left, Beck led the Cougs on a five-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a 23-yard touchdown pass to Matt Allen with 1:40 left.

BYU 24, Colorado State 14

Coming off the heartening win over UNM, BYU gave the Rams a taste of their own medicine on Homecoming night in Provo.

Led by Curtis Brown’s 147 yards, the Cougars rushed for 274 yards on the night, while holding CSU to a paltry 30.

“I like the way our football team is developing,” Mendenhall said following the win. “This is the beginning of the road, but we’re making significant strides in gaining momentum daily and weekly.”

Notre Dame 49, BYU 23

All the strides and momentum in the world couldn’t help the Cougars in South Bend against an Irish team coming off a heart-wrenching last-second defeat to top-ranked USC.

Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn torched the outmatched Cougar secondary all afternoon, passing for 467 yards and six touchdowns. Four of the scoring throws went to Maurice Stovall, who finished with 207 receiving yards on 14 catches.

Even with all of the offensive fireworks, BYU did manage to stay relatively close for most of the game. Beck found Watkins from 10 yards out to cut the Irish lead to 28-23 with 5:38 left in the third, as the Cougars were attempting to pull off the massive upset. But it wasn’t to be, as the Irish scored the final three touchdowns to win going away.

BYU 62, Air Force 41

Defense took the day off at Lavell Edwards Stadium, as the two schools combined for 1,162 yards of total offense. BYU scored at least 13 points in every quarter, and withheld a spirited Falcon rally in the final minutes.

Brown had three touchdowns on the ground and Beck three through the air, while backup Falcon QB Adam Fitch threw for five TDs, a stat rarely seen from an Academy team.

BYU 55, UNLV 14

The offensive explosion continued for BYU against the woefully unprepared Rebels. With the game tied at seven apiece early in the second quarter, the Cougars took control, reeling off 34-straight points. Freshman running back Wayne Latu got his first extended action of the season, rushing for a game-high 93 yards and one touchdown.

BYU 35 Wyoming 21

Five Cowboy turnovers were too much for Wyoming to overcome as the Cougars won their fifth of six games. The victory guaranteed BYU its first winning season since 2001, and also qualified the Cougs to potentially go to a bowl game.

After a light week against UNLV, Brown was back in the black, gaining 153 yards on 25 carries and getting into the end zone twice.

The victory set the stage for an important matchup with the Utes this week, as a victory would make the Cougars a virtual lock for the postseason.

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