BYU hopes healthy QB is answer to offensive struggles

Updated: October 21, 2003, 8:09 PM ET

PROVO, Utah -- Brigham Young coach Gary Crowton hopes a healthy and experienced starter at quarterback can help end the Cougars' offensive struggles.

With just four games remaining, the Cougars (3-5, 2-3 Mountain West) need to find a solution quickly.

"We're running out of games and we want to get in a bowl game. We want to have a winning season," Crowton said Tuesday. "Right now we need to be very focused going into this game."

BYU, which has lost four of its last five games, visits UNLV on Saturday. One more loss and the Cougars can finish no better than .500. If BYU loses two more, it will have consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1970 and '71.

After UNLV (4-3, 0-2), the Cougars have games remaining against Boise State, Notre Dame and Utah. Crowton said it's still possible to win out, although not the way BYU has been playing.

The Cougars have struggled since quarterback Matt Berry broke a bone in his throwing hand the third game of the season. Berry returned last week, but was limited in a 13-10 loss at Wyoming.

"We've just got to get the offense on track," Crowton said. "It hasn't happened as quickly as I'd like, but with Matt back with a game under his belt, hopefully good things will happen this week."

Berry will be playing this weekend without anything hampering his throwing hand.

He completed 21 of 34 passes for 225 yards with one interception with the last two fingers on his hand taped up, not allowing him to spread his fingers and grip the ball well. But Crowton said Berry removed the tape at practice Monday and was able to throw the ball better.

"He finished the game strong in the second half. He's got some confidence. The team believes in him. I think he's ready," Crowton said.

Part of the Cougars' offensive struggles has been turnovers. BYU had three last week, including an interception that was returned 60 yards for Wyoming's only touchdown.

BYU has 23 turnovers through eight games.

"I've got to find the reason why this is happening. And that's what we're looking for. That's what's hurting us more than anything," Crowton said.

In 2001, Crowton's first BYU team averaged 46.7 points per game. This year's Cougars are averaging 17.9 points, struggling without Berry. But the defense has played well enough to keep most of the games close, other than a 58-13 loss to Colorado State.

"We're trying to win out and see what happens from there," cornerback Jenaro Gilford said. "If we win out, we can probably still make it to a bowl game. That was our goal -- to try to have a winning season and make it to a bowl game."

First, the Cougars have to rediscover the offense the program used to be known for.

"I don't think the offensive coaches have any more time in the day or night to watch more film. I know that they're working hard to correct that," Crowton said. "It's almost sometimes you work so hard for it, it's like it's right in front of you and you don't see it."

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