DB Aaron Francisco (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Phot Services)

2003 Statistics

Coach: Gary Crowton
21-17, 3 years
2003 Record: 4-8
at Southern Cal LOST 18-35
at New Mexico WON 10-7
at San Diego State WON 44-36
at Wyoming LOST 10-13
at UNLV WON 27-20
at Notre Dame LOST 14-33

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

Not much went the way of the Cougars last year. They saw their NCAA record of 361 games without being shut out snapped (3-0 against Utah). They finished 102nd in total offense, averaged a mere (un BYU-like) 16 points per game, and had their lowest season output from a QB since 1972. In their four wins, none came by more than eleven points, and in their eight losses, only three were by less than a touchdown.

This team is being snake-bitten by off-the-field problems. This can be expected in most programs, but, at BYU, it's not commonplace. Issues with codes of conduct have arisen lately, and it is a partial reflection on Gary Crowton. We're not bad-mouthing the guy, but it appears that his grip on this football team is slipping. The problem with following a legend is that fan's expectations will not soon drop below what that legend produced. Lavell ran a solid program that consistently reloaded and contended. Crowton has shown the folks in north central Utah that he can certainly win, and they won't forget it - nor will they accept anything less.

To start, they must get back to their identity - a severely strong passing team. A proven triggerman has to step to the forefront, keeping his competitors on the bench longer (though tough when passing often), and therefore, forcing them right into this strong pass-defense's wants. The offensive line is good enough to give the QB ample time to throw in this quick-read offense; it's just a matter of progressive team development. There will be no presence of a run game to balance the marginal passing attack, so it's imperative that they re-identify themselves offensively before their campaign rolls.

This team will be defined defensively, and they'll depend on continued success this way. No let-ups, no excuses. If this team improves, it will be because the offense raised their level of play. If they drop, it will be because (what should be a consistent) defense let-up.

There is no room for a slow start. Non-conference foes (in no particular order) Notre Dame, USC (both in Provo), Stanford and Boise State (both away) start the slate. After that, they get Colorado State, New Mexico and Utah. You have to admire their creed of long term improvement through increasing their level of non-con competition (FSU, CSU, and Utah prove such measures work). Expecting more than one non-conference win is ludicrous, but the Cougs have it in them to steal a win (or two) from one of the MWC tops. Season's end will see them sitting uncomfortably in the middle of the pack, with their first string of three losing seasons in forty years! This should not deter true-blooded Cougars, though, from realizing how close this team is with a developed QB.

Projected 2004 record: 5-6
P Matt Payne (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Phot Services)
QB - 3 DL - 3.5
RB - 1 LB - 2
WR - 3.5 DB - 3.5
OL - 2 ..

Passing: Matt Berry, 235-147-14, 1445 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: Naufahu Tahi, 34 att., 77 yds., 1 TD

Receiving: Chris Hale, 33 rec., 286 yds., 0 TD

Scoring: Matt Payne, 14-18 FG, 20-20 PAT, 62 pts.

Punting: Matt Payne, 78 punts, 44.0 avg.

Kicking: Matt Payne, 14-18 FG, 20-20 PAT, 62 pts.

Tackles: Aaron Francisco, 116 tot., 57 solo

Sacks: Brady Poppinga, 6 sacks

Interceptions: Aaron Francisco, 3 for 42 yds.

Kickoff returns: Brett Cooper, 18 ret., 24.2 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Kip Nielsen, 1 ret., 29.0 avg., 0 TD



OFFENSE: Toby Christensen-WR, Justin Jory-TE, Scott Jackson-C, Quinn Christensen-OT, Brandon Stephens-OT, Reynaldo Brathwaite-RB, Marcus Whalen-RB (transferred), Tafui Vakapuna-RB (mission), Todd Mortensen-QB (transferred)

DEFENSE: James Allen-DB, Chad Barney-DB, Colby Bockwoldt-LB, Jernaro Gilford-DB, Levi Madarieta-LB, Mike Tanner-LB

The Cougars averaged just 215 YPG tossing the 'skin. Remember the days when BYU could throw the football? There were times when QBs of old could eclipse that mark in one quarter! No solid contender came out of last year's campaign, so we head to '04 with another competition. Returning "starter" Matt Berry and John Beck alternated, and, along with Todd Mortensen, they totaled 12 TDs against 21 INTs! Those three return, but we ostensibly recommend that they not try this three-way approach again. While John Beck has the slight edge due to mobility, we believe wildcard QB Jason Beck (no relation) will ultimately take over for just the same reason. He seems a natural leader out there; it's just a matter of how quickly he can pick up the offense to the point where he can effectively manage a game. Stick with one, give him a chance, and let him make a few mistakes that will ultimately be invaluable for when the same thing happens in those crucial games towards season's end.

Running Back
Reynaldo Brathwaite broke a team rule and was suspended, Marcus Whalen transferred, and Fui Vakapuna filed his mission papers. Who's left? Well, luckily Crowton seldom plays more than one back, so three candidates at this position is a healthy number. Fahu Tahi is the likely horse, but Curtis Brown and Bryce Muhikia will see the field as well. Crowton is high on Muhikia and after seeing what he can do, so are we. Muhikia fits that role of "slasher" (ala Wes Welker, Derek Abney, etc.) that is common in college football and will give the Cougars a real pass-catching/double-edged weapon at RB.

Receiver and Tight End
The QB will have most of the same receivers from '03. But the most talented of the group is a new guy. JUCO-transfer Todd Watkins was a much-heralded prospect whom Crowton lured to Provo and will pay big dividends while in the Cougar passing attack. He has big-play written all over him (averaged 22 YPC, but on the JUCO level) and will give the Cougs a real deep threat. Reliable targets Rod Wilkerson and Chris Hale team to help anchor this corps. One thing that will be crucial is to throw some balls to the newcomers and young talent right away, as experience and depth prove to be crucial. TE Daniel Coats enjoyed a prominent freshman season. The Cougs have always utilized their TEs well and we like what they bring to this hybrid position.

Offensive Line
True, the offensive line was a bit banged up and, in turn, was often shuffled. But, regardless, they have to improve on their 35 sacks allowed. It's no wonder the passing game stunk - QBs had no time or vision. Bottom line for team success, they need to be more physical up front. They return one starter and others saw mentionable playing time, but spotty field time doesn't equate to chemistry on the front line. But aside from cohesion, muscle and technique need to also prevail. Like most teams, they will make-or-break their entire campaign with this unit's level of achievement.

Last year's team showed a genuine inability to move the ball. The key to success is to find a proven QB. We feel it will be Jason Beck who steps up. His athleticism and poise are that upon which Provo legends are built. The offensive line will continue to grow. Concern is whether they'll be steady enough in time for USC (September 18th) - how long development takes will directly affect game outcomes. Once this team finds a rhythm, they will have the ability to put up points. Any disruption or setback(s) will ultimately spell doom, due to a vacant rushing attack that then leads to easily anticipated play-call deciphering for defenses.


TE Dan Coats (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Phot Services)


Returning Starters in bold
QB Matt Berry-Jr (6-5, 225) John Beck-So (6-2, 202)
RB Curtis Brown-So (6-0, 190) Naufahu Tahi-Jr (6-0, 230)
WR Chris Hale-Jr (5-9, 175) Michael Morris-Jr (6-1, 180)
WR Rod Wilkerson-Sr (6-2, 190) Brett Cooper-So (5-11, 186)
WR Todd Watkins-Jr (6-3, 185) Jason Kukahiko-Sr (6-1, 190)
TE Daniel Coates-So (6-3, 249) Phillip Niu-So (6-5, 243)
Aisaac Aiono-Sr (6-5, 265)
OT Jake Kuresa-So (6-4, 350) R.J. Willing-Fr (6-4, 290)
OG Ofa Mohetau-So (6-3, 355) Eddie Keele-So (6-5, 283)
C Lance Reynolds-Jr (6-3, 265) Hanale Vincent-Sr (6-5, 321)
OG Scott Young-Sr (6-5, 312) Nick Longsore-Jr (6-5, 297)
OT Paul Fisher-So (6-7, 315) Brian Sanders-Jr (6-3, 330)
K Matt Payne-Sr (6-4, 234) Trent Williams-Fr (6-0, 175)



Defensive Line
Bronco Mendenhall's three-man defensive front relies on athleticism and agility more than bulk and brawn. Poppinga and Denney combined for 10.5 sacks. Daniel Marquardt gives them quality resistance in the middle against the run. The effectiveness of this group set the tone for one of the MWC's best defenses last year. When you see these guys forcing opponents to put two helmets on each of their defensive hogs, then you will see team results follow.

The Cougars, who lost all three starters, are happy to see Paul Walkenhorst return after sitting out the whole year with knee problems. Walkenhorst has been regarded as (one of) BYU's top defenders ever since stepping foot in Provo. The new LBs joining him are Bryant "the Silencer" Atkinson and K.C. Bills. Bills came to BYU as one of the top H.S. LBs in America and has spent the last couple seasons learning the ropes. Atkinson is a feisty player with 4.5 speed and a keen sense for tackling. This unit will join the linemen to form an unorthodox MWC front - they should be able to compete well with their larger-conference foes.

Defensive Back
The ultimate pivot/strength, though, lies in the secondary. They return three (of five) starters from the nation's eighth best pass defense. It all starts with the captain of the secondary, FS Aaron Francisco. Aside from being a ball-hawking defender, he led the team in tackles. His seniority, combined with his natural abilities, makes him quite an asset in the deep middle. CB Brandon Heaney was granted a sixth year. Their experience will help prepare the new starters and additional contributors for action. There is no reason to believe this unit will not repeat their level of play, but opponents will see this strength coming this time. Even then, this defense should be strong enough to resist any curves thrown by creative offensive coordinators.

Defense reigned supreme this spring, but keep in mind they were going up against an inferior offensive adversary. The new starters in the secondary will play up to the level of their seniors to keep that unit on top. Overall, this will again be one of the MWC's best defenses, limiting opponents' opportunities in Cougar territory. When the LBs step right in and contribute to both run and pass stopping with equal vigor, this defense is tough to score against. The big question will be the team's lack of depth.


DE Brady Poppinga (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Phot Services)


Returning Starters in bold
DE Brady Poppinga-Sr (6-3, 260) Michael Marquardt-So (6-4, 260)
NT Daniel Marquardt-Jr (6-2, 315) Justin Carlson-Maddux-So (6-3, 253)
Vince Feula-Jr (6-0, 300)
DE John Denney-Sr (6-6, 275) Shaun Nua-Sr (6-5, 270)
RLB Bryant Atkinson-Jr (6-3, 225) Justin Luettgerodt-Jr (6-4, 240)
MLB K.C. Bills-So (6-1, 220) Matt Ah You-So (5-11, 240)
LLB Paul Walkenhorst-Sr (6-5, 252) Cameron Jensen-So (6-2, 230)
CB Brandon Heaney-Sr (5-11, 185) Micah Alba-Sr (5-8, 160)
CB Nate Soelberg-Jr (6-0, 172) Spencer White-Jr (6-1, 185)
CGR Aaron Francisco-Sr (6-2, 206) Dustin Gabriel-Fr (6-1, 190)
S Jon Burbidge-Sr (6-0, 197) Joel Theler-Fr (6-2, 197)
S Kellen Fowler-Fr (6-0, 187) Quinn Gooch-Fr (6-1, 190)
P Matt Payne-Sr (6-4, 234) Jared McLaughlin-So (6-5, 195)




BYU has perhaps the nation's best all-purpose kicker in Matt Payne. Payne has exhibited extreme consistency in both, averaging 45 yards per punt in three years and connecting on an astounding 42-of-48 FG attempts (87 percent!) with a long of 52 yards. So. rest assured, the Cougars are golden if the fate of the game ever falls on Payne.

Return Game
Brett Cooper will team with Nate Soleberg for KR honors. Either will do fine. Francisco gets first crack at returning punts, but don't be surprised to see the coaches save his body and turn the job over to Bryce Muhikia.