(Sports Network) - Still with a slim chance of making themselves bowl eligible, the BYU Cougars head to Fort Collins this weekend to tangle with the Colorado State Rams in Mountain West Conference action.
Since starting the 2010 campaign with four losses in five tries, the Cougars have bounced back to win two straight and three of the last four outings, not to mention getting back over .500 in conference play at 3-2. The squad had its best offensive output of the campaign last weekend when it handed a 55-7 beating to the UNLV Rebels in Provo, which means the Cougars now need two wins in their final three games to become bowl eligible and perhaps rescue what appeared to be a lost season.
As for the Rams, they went from scoring 38 points in a win over New Mexico on September 30th to posting just 19 points in a loss to San Diego State on the road the first week of November. The setback was the second in the last three outings for the squad and has left them with a mere three wins in 10 tries this season.
Last year, BYU cruised to a 42-23 win over CSU which gave the Cougars a 38-27-3 advantage in the all-time series. The Cougars have won the last six meetings by an average of more than 12 points. The Rams' last victory over BYU in Fort Collins was a 37-10 decision on October 24, 2002.
Joshua Quezada ran the ball 13 times for 65 yards and scored three touchdowns for the Cougars as they crushed UNLV at home over the weekend by 48 points. The BYU rushing attack generated a total of 216 yards and five scores overall, taking some of the pressure off quarterback Jake Heaps who was able to settle in and convert 19-of-31 passes for 294 yards and a couple of scores. More importantly, Heaps wasn't sacked and he didn't throw a single interception. Since Riley Nelson went down with an injury the offense has belonged to Heaps and he has had some serious growing pains while trying to survive. The youngster has completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 150.1 ypg and has just four TDs, against seven INTs thus far. Thankfully the running game has taken on a much more prominent role with 151.0 ypg and a total of 15 TDs, thanks mostly to the efforts of J.J. Di Luigi (681 yards, six TDs) and Bryan Kariya (362 yards, five TDs).
The BYU defense totally consumed the Rebels at LaVell Edwards Stadium, posting five sacks and a total of 10 tackles for loss. With all that action in the backfield the Rebels managed to post a net of only 22 yards rushing, while the combination of Caleb Herring and Omar Clayton at quarterback converted just 11-of-29 passes for 122 yards and a single score, while being picked off two times in the onslaught. Obviously the effort against the Rebels was the best of the season for the BYU defense and hopefully something the Cougars can build on as they move forward. The squad doesn't have a single dominating figure, other than Andrew Rich who leads the team with his 80 tackles through nine starts. When it comes to sacks the leader is Vic So'oto with his three quarterback takedowns for a team that averages just 1.78 sacks per game to rank fifth in the MWC and 75th in the nation at the moment.
Ben DeLine got the Rams off on the right foot Saturday night as he booted a pair of field goals in the first half, but then the CSU offense went cold until the last minutes of the fourth quarter in a 24-19 loss to San Diego State on the road. Quarterback Pete Thomas did manage to toss a 28-yard Td strike to Zac Pauga in the final frame, but missed opportunities along the way cost the squad a chance at a win. Thomas has experienced the highs and lows of being a college quarterback this season while throwing for 227.3 ypg and 10 touchdowns and also suffering from 10 interceptions along the way. He hasn't had a single, reliable outlet down the field who serves as the go-to guy, which is both good and bad and it certainly hasn't helped that the running game is ranked sixth in the conference and 96th in the nation at the moment with just 121.2 ypg. Put it all together and the squad is 107th in the nation in scoring with a mere 18.8 ppg.
Against a San Diego State offense that has been rolling along of late, the Rams actually played fairly tight on defense and made things difficult for Ryan Lindley and Co. In fact, there's was a point in the third quarter when it appeared the CSU defense may have turned the corner and had the Aztecs on their heels when Mychal Sisson stripped Lindley, scooped up the fumble and rambled 88 yards into the end zone, and yet it still wasn't meant to be for CSU. As great a play as it was for Sisson, he and the rest of the Colorado State defenders have still been beaten and bruised for the majority of the season. After 10 games the team's pass efficiency defense has a rating of 164.56, a number that ranks them last in the MWC and 117th in the country. Sisson seems to be the one shining light for the group, placing second in tackles with 74, first with 12.0 tackles for loss and tops with four forced fumbles.
As long as Heaps can stay out of the way of Sisson the Cougars should have a great shot at picking up the road win and solidifying their stance as they make a play for the postseason.