R A I N B O W _ F O O T B A L L

Cougars find
way to win

Young BYU team
has squeaked out 3 victories

By Paul Arnett

This is not the same Brigham Young University football team that last summer forced the Bowl Alliance to give the Western Athletic Conference a shot at a national championship.

Head coach LaVell Edwards wishes he could match that impressive 14-1 season that culminated with a victory over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl and a No. 5 national ranking. But he knows a season like that comes once or twice in a lifetime.

His challenge entering the 1997 season was replacing a dozen starters, including quarterback Steve Sarkisian and Hawaii-born players K.O. Kealaluhi, Kaipo McGuire, Itula Mili and Mark Atuaia.

Through five games, Edwards' team has shown flashes of brilliance, but the Cougars are only a shadow of their former selves. Yes, they were able to hold off Arizona State, Southern Methodist and Utah State, winning those games by a total of 13 points.

But a lopsided loss to Washington to open the season and last week's unexpected fall at Rice prove the Cougars are beatable. After all, they are only two touchdowns away from being 0-5. Another loss in the WAC would all but eliminate BYU from the Mountain Division title race.

"The beauty of college football is that you have a lot of different things to prepare for," Edwards said. "Each WAC game looms very big, but I don't know that any of them are any more important than the others until it gets right down to the end.

"We started young and have had an inordinate amount of injuries and problems. We will compete and I look for us to be in the championship hunt right down to the wire. It makes it tough when you have to sit around and wait for someone to help you.

"We have six games left and I feel confident about the team. We still can make a good run at it, but we have to get back on the winning track, starting this weekend against a much-improved University of Hawaii football team."

The Cougars will have to do it without starting quarterback Kevin Feterik, who broke his ankle on the third play of the 27-14 loss at Rice. He will be out three to five weeks.

Paul Shoemaker will start against the Rainbows. He was so ineffective at Rice, freshman Drew Hill was forced to come in and give up his redshirt season.

Shoemaker was the starting quarterback in the 42-20 loss to Washington in the season opener, but was benched and Feterik started the next four games.

In two games, Shoemaker has completed 10 of 22 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown. Shoemaker also has one interception for a quarterback rating of 120.5. Colorado State's Moses Marino leads the WAC with a 157.31 rating.

"Paul will be our starting quarterback, there is no question about that," Edwards said. "He needs a shot of confidence and that is up to us to give it to him. I am confident in him and it's not just rhetoric."

Shoemaker's top receiver is Ben Cahoon, who has 28 catches for 536 yards and one touchdown. Running back Dustin Johnson is second in receptions with 22 for 272 yards and one score.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow has had to run more than in the past. As a team, BYU has passed 164 times and run 166. Brian McKenzie is the leading rusher with 377 yards on 88 carries.

But BYU is last in the WAC and No. 108 in the nation (of 112 teams) in rushing, averaging 74.2 yards a game. The Cougars are second in the league and 12th in the nation in passing, averaging 290 yards a game.

The Cougars have struggled defensively, allowing 26 points and 410.6 yards a game. Middle linebacker Rob Morris leads the team in tackles with 52.

"We need to turn it around this weekend against Hawaii if we want to have a shot at some of our goals," Edwards said. "They always play hard when they play us, so we don't anticipate anything differently this weekend."

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