Losing records don't dull BYU-Wyoming rivalry

Updated: October 17, 2003, 7:17 PM ET

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- For the second straight season, BYU and Wyoming head into their meeting with losing records, a sign of how these proud programs have struggled in recent years. But the intensity likely won't diminish as the longtime rivals square off for the 70th time.

Kickoff is 4 p.m. Saturday in Laramie -- the Cowboys' homecoming.

Wyoming has endured three straight losing campaigns, and although the Cowboys are just 2-4 this fall, they have some confidence after a 48-21 win at Utah State last weekend.

After 28 non-losing seasons, BYU slumped to 5-7 last year and enters this year's contest at 3-4 after a humiliating 58-13 home loss to Colorado State.

Wyoming is 0-1 in the Mountain West Conference; BYU is 2-2.

"I think we're down a little bit, but we're moving up," BYU coach Gary Crowton said. "Even though we didn't play that well last week, I still believe we're getting better in practice. We need to continue to grow. There are going to be more good days coming up than bad days."

Under LaVell Edwards from 1976-95, the Cougars finished in the NCAA top 10 in passing yards 20 times. With inexperience and injuries at quarterback this season, BYU is now 49th in passing and 98th in scoring offense with 19 points per game.

Crowton, who two years ago guided the Cougars to a 12-0 start but is 8-13 since, said he is not feeling any pressure.

"I want to get back up there, I can tell you that," he said. "I knew we had a lot of seniors that year (2001) and we lost not only our starters but our backups. I knew we had to build it back up. ... We have a lot of young players who are going to get better and better."

Crowton kept the Cowboys guessing all week as to who would start at quarterback.

Sophomore Matt Berry returned from a broken hand to battle freshman John Beck, who started three games in his place.

Beck appeared to have a breakout game when he completed 17 of 26 for 180 yards and two TDs in a 44-36 win over San Diego State. But against Colorado State he completed 10 of 23 for 136 yards, was intercepted once and fumbled three times.

Crowton said both Berry and Beck will likely play, but he wouldn't name a starter until right before game time.

"It doesn't make any difference," Wyoming first-year coach Joe Glenn said. "We want to line up and beat them with their best team on the field."

Brigham Young's Reynaldo Brathwaite has rushed for 605 yards (6.2 per carry), while Toby Christensen has 24 catches for 298 yards and two TDs.

BYU allowed 446 yards against the Rams, but the Cougars still rank 28th nationally in total defense (318.4 yards).

Safety Aaron Francisco has 65 tackles, including four for losses, and three forced fumbles. Cornerback Jernaro Gilford has broken up four passes, picked off two others and forced a fumble.

"They've got a risk-taking defense and when you do that sometimes you get some people on the ropes ... and you get on a roll," Glenn said. "Sometimes when you take risks you get burnt and the other team can make some hay."

The Cowboys are coming off their best scoring (48 points) and rushing performance (192 yards), which featured 123 yards by Derek Armah.

"They run the ball a little bit better this year," Crowton said. "They're a little better than they have been in years past and they throw it the same."

Wyoming's Casey Bramlet is 29th nationally in passing. He has completed 121 of 221 (54.8 percent) for 1,668 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. Ryan McGuffey has 35 catches for 415 yards and four touchdowns.

The Cowboys defense is led by linebacker Tyler Gottschalk (49 tackles) and cornerback Chris Dixon (three interceptions).

BYU has won nine of its last 10 games against Wyoming, and the Cougars are 37-29-3 overall in the series. Wyoming's last win against BYU was in 1999, a 31-17 victory against a 15th-ranked Cougars team.

"Our kids know the importance of this game. It's huge," Glenn said. "If there is a prestige team in the league, it would be BYU." But he added, "It's not like we're the little sisters of the poor."

Crowton only wants to erase the taste of the CSU game and get his team back on track.

"That game kind of snowballed on us," he said. "We've got to get back to where we were the week before. ... I think we're going to get their best game, but it has been that way at BYU for a long time."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index