Nationally ranked offense? Yep -- on both sides of the field
By Wade Denniston
It's showtime, Cache Valley. Brigham Young University (2-1) is bringing its nationally ranked (No. 8) offense to Romney Stadium Friday.
The in-state battle against Utah State University (1-2) kicks off at 7:05 p.m.
But don't count the Aggies out just yet. They also sport a highly talented offense, one that also ranks high in the NCAA, at No. 17.
Besides being ranked 17th in total offense (442 yards per game), USU is ranked 30th in passing (253.7) and 29th in rushing (188.3).
Although it is early in the season, USU's 188.3 rushing yards are the most it has had since the 1974 season (245.5), while the 442 yards of total offense easily surpasses last year's total of 318.2, and is on pace for the fourth best average in school history.
"We're running the same plays we did last year," Aggie offensive coordinator/running backs coach Rich Ericson said. "It's not like we've changed anything.
"Everything we have done up to this point, we had available to us last year. Now, being in the system for a full-year, our players believe in what we're doing (and) they're more confident in what they're doing."
In addition to its offense's rankings, USU has three players ranked 24th, or higher, in the nation, on the offensive side of the ball.
Senior running back Demario Brown is 16th in the nation in rushing and third in the Big West Conference with a 121.3 average. He is also 20th in the NCAA for all-purpose yards at 150.7 per game.
"Demario is a tremendous talent," Ericson said, "but the thing that I appreciate most of all in Demario is the little things that people don't see when he's not carrying the ball.
"It's the leadership that he is providing, both verbal and nonverbal, and the way he plays . . . the way he shows up to practice every day. That has a tremendous effect on the success of our offense, as well."
Junior wide receiver Aaron Jones is fifth in the nation in receptions (26) and second in the Big West. Also, he ranks 10th in the NCAA for receiving yards (327, 109 per game) and third in the conference.
"It's a cool feeling knowing you're up there with a whole bunch of big schools," Jones said. "I've dreamt about this all my life."
Ericson knows it's no fluke that Jones is performing the way he is.
"Aaron has got off to a very fast start and that wasn't by accident," he said. "We knew of his abilities; he's very fast and talented.
"(Jones) is going to help us win, so we have got to look for ways to get him the football."
One of those ways is from Crosbie, who is 24th in the nation in total offense and third in the Big West. The 6-foot-5 signal caller has accounted for 748 yards, 65 on the ground and 683 in the air.
"(Crosbie) has continued to improve each game that he has played, not only last year, but this year," Ericson said. "The thing to remember about Jeff is he's still a sophomore, and he is still going to continue to improve and get better. He does a ton of good things right now."
In order for USU to win though, it will have to hold onto the ball, something that has plagued the team this year. The Aggies have committed eight turnovers in their two losses and one turnover in their win. Six of USU's turnovers have come inside the opponent's 31-yard line.
"We've got to take care of the football," Ericson said, "which against BYU, that's a key thing . . . controlling the ball."
However, USU knows BYU's defense won't roll over and play dead by any means.
"Each week we've been challenged in a different way on defense," Ericson said. "BYU is a very solid defensive team and will present different challenges."
The Cougars come into the game having won the last three meetings with the Aggies, as well as holding a slight advantage in the overall series, 35-33-3.
Last year, BYU and USU did not play. However, in 1997, the Cougars defeated the Aggies in Provo, 42-35.
Jones knows what he needs to do to help the Aggies win, as well as what the team needs to do.
"I just want to go out there and catch the rock and score . . . try
to help the offense put some points on the board," he said. "Team-wise,
we just need to go out there and have confidence in ourselves."
Archived Months:September 1998