Improvement Needed

Fumbling four times in the second half isn't typically a good way to extend the nation's longest active winning streak, but a forgiving opening-week schedule was still enough to prolong BYU's run.

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The 15th-ranked Cougars will likely need to be sharper on Saturday, when they travel to Seattle in hopes of winning a 12th straight game and earning the program's first-ever win at Washington.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made BYU -9.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on BYU -9.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

BYU did most things well in its opening game, a 41-17 home win over Northern Iowa on Saturday. Quarterback Max Hall went 34-of-41 for 486 yards and two touchdowns, Dennis Pitta had a career-high 213 yards receiving and the defense allowed only 10 points - six of them on one 76-yard play.

But the Cougars coughed up five fumbles in the game - four in the second half, when their Championship Subdivision opponent climbed back to within 10 points after three quarters.

"Ball security was one of the things we can improve on, and with that being different, most likely the game would have been much more convincing," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall told the school's official Web site. "We saw enough mistakes and things that we can certainly improve on over the next week."

In terms of results, the Cougars - tied with Arizona State at No. 15 in the rankings - still couldn't do any better in their last 11 games. Their last loss came at Tulsa last Sept. 15, and nine of their wins since then have come by at least a touchdown.

Their season-opening win over Arizona in 2007 also gave them 11 straight victories, but they lost the next week at UCLA. They last won 12 straight during a 14-game run from 2000-01.

BYU had to replace eight defensive starters from last year's team, but the unit still was mostly stingy against Northern Iowa. The Panthers scored their lone offensive touchdown on a 76-yard touchdown pass, and also had a 69-yard run, but otherwise managed just 217 total yards.

"We have a very good football team," Mendenhall said. "We made enough plays to win and I think we showed signs of being the team that we are capable of being."

Washington's potential is a little less clear after the Huskies were blown out 44-10 in their opener last Saturday at Oregon, which jumped to No. 18 this week. The Huskies went 4-9 last season, winning the same number of games against Pac-10 teams - two - as BYU did.

They are now 11-26 under coach Tyrone Willingham, who is entering his fourth season in Seattle. Ten of their starters against Oregon were freshmen or sophomores, and the Ducks gained more than twice as many yards as the Huskies.

"We felt coming in we'd fare much better than this and felt we'd have a chance to win this football game," Willingham said.

Sophomore quarterback Jake Locker was just 12-of-28 (42.9 percent) for 103 yards, also rushing 16 times for 57 yards (3.6 yards per carry). Washington was within four points at the half, but was outscored 30-0 after the break.

"We understand we didn't play nearly as good as we can," Locker said. "We're not good enough to come in and just show up and beat teams. We gotta play as well as we can to win games."

Things don't get any easier for the Huskies, who play three straight games against ranked opponents to start the season. Fourth-ranked Oklahoma visits Husky Stadium next weekend.

Washington and BYU haven't met since 1999, when the Cougars earned a 35-28 home win over the Huskies.

Washington has won four of its six meetings overall with BYU, including all three in Seattle, but the Cougars have won three of their last four games against Pac-10 opponents, including bowl victories over UCLA and Oregon the past two years.

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