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Talented QB keeps Cougars gunning

BYU's John Beck has been one of best in team's history
by: RONALD MARTINEZ, John Beck, the latest in a line of great Brigham Young quarterbacks, is fourth in the country in passing at 319.1 yards per game. The resurgent Cougars are 10-2 entering the Las Vegas Bowl.

Brigham Young has rediscovered offense with the Cougar quarterback John Beck leading the way.

'He's really good, really efficient,' says Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who has been busy scheming to beat Beck and BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl next Thursday.

'He's good at everything - accurate. He's off the charts.'

Indeed, Beck, a senior from Mesa, Ariz., has some phenomenal numbers. He's averaging 319.1 yards a game (fourth in the country) while completing 70.4 percent of his passes. Beck's rating of 173.27, barring any collapse against the Ducks, would be one of the best in history.

Aliotti says Beck's primary receivers, running back Curtis Brown and tight end Jonny Harline, won't necessarily scare the Ducks as much as the quarterback's ability to get his receivers the ball.

'You have to pressure him, but you don't necessarily get there,' Aliotti says. 'He's very efficient, and he makes plays when he scrambles. The quarterback is the one who makes them stand out.'

The Cougars run some one-back spread offense and some traditional, two-back offense with fullback Fui Vakapuna in the game. The 6-4, 235-pound Harline often splits out from the offensive line.

Under then-coach Gary Crowton, the Cougars had an exciting, nationally renowned offense in 2001. But offense went on the skids in ensuing years, before new coach Bronco Mendenhall made it prolific again.

A player for the annals

When Crowton, now the UO offensive coordinator, recruited the 6-2, 215 Beck, he said he could become one of the greatest BYU quarterbacks of all time. He has. Beck trails only Ty Detmer in career yardage, and his senior season has been one for the ages.

He has 3,510 yards and 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He was named Mountain West Conference player of the week a record seven times and earned the league offensive player of the year honor.

Oregon has been stingy against the pass and uncharacteristically soft against the run. The Ducks give up only 303.2 yards offense, including 156.7 yards through the air to lead the Pac-10 Conference.

'I know enough to say that Oregon is going to be fast and athletic and strong,' Beck, who has played against Arizona and California in the past, tells The Salt Lake Tribune. 'They are going to be just like Cal, which was a really athletic, explosive team.'

Defense bends, doesn't break

Beck completed 35 of 53 passes for 352 yards against Cal in last year's Las Vegas Bowl.

'Oregon will be a good challenge for us,' he tells The Salt Lake Tribune. 'These types of games, against big-name opponents, are the most fun to play because they are going to be the most competitive.'

Harline, a first-team All-American by The Sporting News and CBSSportsLine.com, has caught 49 balls for 754 yards and 11 TDs, the most scores in the country by a tight end. The 6-foot, 200-pound Brown has 55 catches for 511 yards and 890 yards rushing. Beck has nine receivers to call on with 19 or more receptions.

The Cougars have converted 57 percent of third downs to help produce 458.6 yards per game. The Ducks are holding opponents to a 34 percent third-down conversion rate.

'We've actually played pretty good defense,' Aliotti says. 'We've not had as many turnovers as we would've liked (13 picks, seven fumble recoveries). But we've not given up big passes.'