"Yeah, we're better this week than we were last week. Last week we didn't have (Brett) Cooper … and John (Beck) didn't play very much … and (Gary) McGiven was a little bit beat up," he said.
Many BYU fans gasped at the sight of defensive tackle Manaia Brown favoring his previously-injured shoulder as he limped off the field in the fourth quarter aided by trainers last Saturday. Crowton said "he (Brown) practiced good. I feel like he'll be fine. He's a little beat up, but he's not out of the game. At least that's the way I feel right now."
To the dismay and disbelief of Crowton and most Cougar fans, BYU's top two quarterbacks – John Beck and Matt Berry – were sidelined by injuries in the first two games and third-stringer Jason Beck played most of the second game against Stanford, losing his planned redshirt year.
A bewildered Crowton declared, "I'll tell you what's been strange for me is all the years I've been coaching is … Tim Rattay played every game and he never missed a game. Jason Martin missed one game in two years with a knee (injury) after he threw a touchdown pass against Mississippi State. Glen Foley played every game, didn't miss a game. Bobby Jean played every game. Mark Carr missed the first two games with mononucleosis and played the rest of the year when I was at New Hampshire.
"I mean, I've never had them get hurt. They all get banged up, but I guess it's just a cycle. Hopefully, we're just about done with that cycle," Crowton chuckled nervously. "Jason Beck … didn't get hit too much. He got a few good shots in there, but nothing compared to Trent Edwards (Stanford quarterback). And John (Beck) felt like when he played he didn't get hit too much. He got sacked one time kind of running away, but we're actually getting rid of the ball better, especially John. I hope that'll keep him from getting beat up," said Crowton.
In the one-and-a-half quarters he saw of John Beck during the Notre Dame game, Crowton noted, "The thing about last year that was bad is John just came off a mission and didn't really know how to take a hit. You see him sliding and stuff already. He hasn't fumbled yet and he hasn't thrown an interception. I can see his maturity of the game present when he plays."
He also answered the predominant question as to how healthy Beck will be after he suffered a Grade-two shoulder separation on Sept. 4.
"He (Beck) had a good practice yesterday," Crowton said Thursday. "He felt like he's getting stronger everyday. He practiced without a shot (pain killer) and I think he'll be all right. I just want him to get used to throwing with a slight separation in there because it feels a little different. I've had a few in my day and it's just a feeling that when you rotate, you're shoulder kind of feels like its being pushed on. It's kind of a different weird feeling. He just has to get used to that feeling because it's a problem that'll never change now."
He recalled his star BYU quarterback, Brandon Doman during his inaugural 12-2 season, had a similar injury. "You know Doman had that and he was the same way. The difference … is John had a real severe bruise around it where Doman's didn't bruise as bad."
In regards to the current recovery and development of his backup signal caller Matt Berry, Crowton said the coaches are working on his posture when he follows through with the pass.
"Matt sometimes gets low when he follows through. I'm trying to get him to stay high and kind of lean back. We've been working on that. I think it's just a flaw in his motion and we're trying to correct that."
Crowton explained, "He's (Berry) a tall guy and he can be over the top, but when somebody comes (push rush), he has to throw it fast and he goes like that and gets low… that's why he's hitting everybody (knockdowns) ... I'm trying to get him to kind of lean back. We've got a couple drills we've been doing. Matt felt more comfortable with it in our two-minute drill the other day," he said.
Back home at LaVell Edwards Stadium tomorrow to face the Trojans, Crowton said the players know what to expect and does not expect a letdown like they experienced at Stanford last week.
He said the mood and energy of the team and fans should be similar to that during the season-opener against the Fighting Irish in Provo. "That was an awesome experience (Notre Dame). We really felt like we had a good home field advantage in that game. Hopefully we'll feel the same this week."
Speaking frankly, Crowton said the location, mood and ambience of Stanford Stadium was a disappointment for the players. "When we got to Stanford, a lot of the young players where kind of astonished. You come into our atmosphere and it's just a huge atmosphere," said Crowton. "You go to Stanford, a Pac-10 team, thinking it's going to be the same atmosphere and it wasn't … There were a lot of seats that weren't taken and there was nobody close to the field. It was a different atmosphere for the guys."
Crowton continued: "Our (veteran) players have played at a lot of places ... That was the one place (Stanford) they weren't familiar with and they knew it was a big stadium. They were getting excited about the stadium. When they got there, it was a little disappointing.
The head coach was quick to point out "that had nothing to do with how we played. What I'm trying to say is the atmosphere here is outstanding and we should appreciate it. I think they'll be up for the (USC) game, I really do. You look at the history of BYU, they played good in big games and they really get up for them," he said.
Commenting on this week's vigorous practices, Crowton noted, "Our guys are excited. They've been challenged and they're working hard in practice so I expect to see good things. I'm trying to show our team that we have an outstanding opportunity right now; the opportunity to play a Pac-10 team that's ranked really high at home.
"We've played in a big game already this year. They're all big, but the Notre Dame game is a unique game in itself and they responded well to that game. They know if we go out and play hard and play well throughout the whole 60 minutes, good things are going to happen. That's the approach I've brought in; that this is a tremendous opportunity," Crowton concluded.
In an extraordinary display of leadership and teamwork, Crowton confided during a Cougar Club luncheon Thursday an incident from practice this week that left an indelible impression with him -- and his attentive audience.
After a heavy practice Monday with a heavy dose of running and conditioning drills, Crowton directed all the players who committed penalties during the Stanford game to line up for a series of exhausting "gassers" -- dreaded running drills that have to be completed by everyone within a specific time or else it is repeated.
Just before he blew his whistle to signal the start of the "gassers," wide receiver Todd Watkins stepped forward to the line, even though he had not committed any penalties. Immediately after, running back Curtis Brown followed suit and then other players joined them until the entire team was on the line ready to run "gassers" as a team.
The moral, he told his captive listeners, was Watkins, Brown and others loudly declared without a word said that they were one team and they all share the consequences of everything good or bad that happens on the field.
The message was received loud and clear.
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