PROVO, Utah (AP) — Max Hall is trying to stay patient.A month into the season, Hall has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdown passes. For somebody who threw for 35 touchdowns a year ago, it’s an alarming trend early in his senior season.Going into Friday night, when the 20th-ranked Cougars (3-1) host Utah State (1-2), Hall is as baffled as anyone else how his ratio of touchdowns to interceptions can be so far off his career average.”It’s just kind of been weird. A lot of the interceptions have kind of been things that don’t usually happen or miscommunication,” Hall said. “I think that number will start going down.”Hall entered the season with 61 career touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. This year, he has thrown eight of each.”It’s easy when the standard goes very, very high to only focus on what he’s not doing. I think he’s making tremendous progress,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “The flaws, because the standard is higher, will always be exposed and talked about.”BYU is in the middle of a stretch of four games that will do little to restore the national attention the Cougars lost in a 54-28 loss to Florida State two weeks ago. A loss, however, or even a close game in the next three games could drop BYU even further, like last week when the Cougars beat Colorado State 42-23 and fell a spot to No. 20 in the AP Top 25.After Utah State, the Cougars visit UNLV and San Diego State. They host No. 11 TCU on Oct. 24 in BYU’s first game with BCS implications since the Cougars were knocked out of the BCS running by Florida State.Hall hopes to have the interceptions out of his system long before TCU comes to town.”If I can just keep managing the game, control the emotions and not do anything to put our team at risk and just continue to make plays when I need to, our offense is good enough where I don’t have to do it all,” said Hall, who has completed 88 of 130 passes for 1,185 yards in the first four games.The Aggies are in their first season under coach Gary Andersen, the former defensive coordinator at Utah. While the intensity of the Utah-BYU rivalry is well known, there hasn’t been much suspense between BYU and Utah State lately.The Aggies haven’t beaten BYU since 1993 and last won in Provo 31 years ago.”They’re not going to sit there and say ‘Holy Cow – this is like a Utah-BYU week,'” Andersen said. “It’s an in-state football game right now. To me, a rivalry is when there’s give and take in the series. Right now there is no give-and-take.”It is still a rivalry with fans, shown last year when BYU was taunted with jeers of “over-rated!” even after the eighth-ranked Cougars took a 24-0 lead in the first quarter and won 34-14 in Logan.The Aggies finished with 322 yards, broke the Cougars’ string of 11 straight shutout quarters with two touchdowns in the fourth and flustered BYU into 12 penalties.”Towards the end of that game we believed in our abilities,” said Utah State running back Robert Turbin, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the first three games. “We believe we can do a lot of things against BYU as far as scoring points and racking up yards. That was a big confidence boost for us at the end of that game last year.”Utah State fans are also still bitter that former Aggie quarterback Riley Nelson, who started as a freshman three years ago, chose to transfer to BYU while he was serving a church mission and is now Hall’s backup. Nelson will hear plenty next season when he’s expected to take over for Hall and the Cougars have to visit Logan, where Nelson grew up.This is Hall’s final season and he’s trying to salvage it by throwing more touchdowns than interceptions once again.He threw two interceptions last year against the Aggies and had one of BYU’s many personal fouls when the frustration built in the second half.”They’re going to be gunning for us. You know they’re going to want to do everything they can to win the game,” Hall said. “We also know what it means to us and to keep our season going and to reach our goals.
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