BYU football: Ashworth encore?
Luke Ashworth streaked by his befuddled defender.
All the Brigham Young receiver had to do was catch the ball. His first touchdown as a Cougar was all but certain.
Yet, Ashworth couldn't deny the one small doubt that could not be drowned out by more than 50,000 people.
"I'd be lying if I wasn't thinking, 'Don't drop the ball,'" Ashworth said.
Of course, Ashworth didn't drop the ball, one of five catches he made that day. The junior's career performance was a large part of the 20th-ranked Cougars' 35-17 victory against Utah State on Oct. 2.
A repeat effort is expected Saturday when BYU travels to UNLV.
A hamstring injury minutes before kickoff shelved BYU's leading receiver, the speedy McKay Jacobson. In stepped Ashworth, who had only six catches in four prior games.
Jacobson won't make the trip to Las Vegas, either. He injured the hamstring in BYU's pre-game stretch.
He limped to the locker room.
"My confidence hasn't changed," BYU quarterback Max Hall said. "McKay stretches the defense a little better. I learned about it five minutes before the game, but it didn't occur to me to change or adjust."
Ashworth's career-best 48-yard reception was the result of a double move against the defender. Two Hall pump fakes rooted the USU cornerback. Ashworth blew by and opened a five-yard gap. The rest was execution followed by a spasm of joy.
"I didn't know what to do," Ashworth said. "It was shocking."
The catch also ended the teasing by teammates. A junior receiver without a TD catch?
Ashworth admitted afterward that it lifted a burden from his shoulders. In addition, his fifth catch on third down late in the game set up BYU's final touchdown that clinched the victory.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and Hall credited Ashworth's focused practice habits for the performance.
"This year he's emerging," Mendenhall said afterward. "It's been fun to see that for a guy who's invested all that time and now has the opportunity."
In 2005, the Timpview High product caught six balls his freshman year. He then departed on a two-year mission for the LDS Church.
Last season saw Ashworth with just three catches. He spent much of the time on special teams.
During fall and spring practices Ashworth worked hard.
"Luke has been there all season taking a lot of reps," Hall said. "He brings different things. He's physical and stays strong with his back to the ball. You can tell he wants to get better."
Saturday, 8 p.m.
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