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Monday, October 4, 2010

Game Recap: Utah State Aggies 31, Brigham Young Cougars 16

The Brigham Young Cougars fell to 1-4 for the first time since 1973. The worst part about it is that this loss was to in-state punching bag Utah State. The game started promising with BYU moving the chains for a couple of first downs before having to punt the ball away and pin Utah State deep in their own territory. Slowly, the wheels fell off, once again. Andrew Rich was burned for a 79-yard touchdown. Jake Heaps threw an interception on BYU’s next drive. Utah State led 10-0 after one. A failed fourth down conversion early in the second quarter at the Utah State 37 spelled BYU’s fate. Utah State took over on downs and scored another touchdown 12 plays later. Sure, BYU was able to capitalize on a 34 yard kickoff return by JD Falslev to finally get some points on the board (field goal), but Utah State returned the ensuing kickoff 67 yards to take back any momentum they had lost. The Aggies were able to take time off the clock as they methodically used 7 plays to cover the remaining 33 yards and take a 24-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Strangely, I had a small feeling that BYU still could make a comeback in the second half and win. After a defensive stop, Heaps and co. drove down to the Utah State 31 yard line. A terrible no call on a pass interference in the end zone (Luke Ashworth still should have caught the ball) and a drop by J.J Di Luigi two plays later in the same corner of the end zone, and BYU had to attempt a long field goal. Missed. Utah State took over and scored yet another TD. Now it was 31-3. So much for the comeback. It was nice to see BYU get into the end zone twice, but it was way too little, way too late.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Jake Heaps to Marcus Mathews for 32 yards on BYU’s first touchdown drive (finally a big play to a tight end).

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Riley Stephenson, Punter. Averaged 47.8 yards on four punts. Two were 55 yards or longer, and two were downed inside the Utah State five yard line.

Things to watch for:
  1. Will October 1 be Di Luigi Day? J.J. Di Luigi was limited somewhat because Joshua Quezada did got more touches than usual. However, Utah State contained Di Luigi. He had only 42 yards on 12 carries and 62 yards on 5 receptions.
  2. How will the injuries on defense impact that unit? The defense has looked so bad the last couple of weeks, it was hard to tell how Romney Fuga’s absence impacted the game. Jameson Frazier was not sorely missed. Kyle Van Noy had a good game (more on that later). The bigger concern is the new injuries: Andrew Rich (stinger and contusion) and Jordan Pendleton (left knee sprain). If these two players miss any games, this season might end up the worst in many, many, many years.
  3. The BYU Passing game. The passing game is ridiculous. What happened to, "Whoever the quarterback is he will have to run the whole offense"? The coaches are obviously concerned about something and they are not calling plays to win the game, only plays to avoid costly mistakes. Why is Heaps making short throws to wide receivers the entire first half? Why aren’t the coaches calling plays on third down that will get receivers to run routes past the first down marker? Why is there no balance? It was either all short throws (first half) or all long throws (second half). The risk/reward rules hold true here. BYU is taking little risk (short passes) and getting very little rewards (no turnovers, but no first downs). Pretty easy for a defense to stop you when you are predictable. Where is the effort from the wide outs? Luke Ashworth should be ashamed of himself for giving up on the throw to the end zone. Sure the defensive back grabbed you in the end zone, but you still need to fight for the ball. The ref should have called pass interference, but he didn’t because you still could have caught the ball (not the right call, but that is the way it went and the team suffered for your lack of effort). If we need better protection so Heaps has time for deeper routes to develop or for the receivers to get open, then leave the backs in to protect. I would prefer to see Heaps tuck it and run for three yards if no one gets open rather than throw a three yard pass than didn’t have a chance to get a first down. Will Jake Heaps pick apart the Utah State defense like Ryan Lindley or will he be flustered like Landy Jones and Ryan Colbrun? The stats make it hard to tell, but Heaps was somewhere in the middle. The continued dropped balls epidemic and the poor play calling didn’t help Heaps’ cause. Will Cody Hoffman continue his emergence and become Heaps' #1 target? Hoffman had a good game, but McKay Jacobson was able to step up and catch 8 balls for 85 yards to lead all players in both categories. Will the tight end finally be part of the passing game? Sadly, no. Three tight ends caught passes (one a piece) for 55 yards total.
Other observations:
  • The deceptive stat of the game: 3rd down conversion (8-19, 42%). BYU had been averaging just 33% in the first three losses. Most of the third down conversions Friday night came after the game was out of reach. BYU could have had the same conversion rate, but made this game very different if they had converted on the first third down of the game and the third down before the failed fourth down in the second quarter. Each drive, BYU was just outside scoring range. Build your confidence and momentum with first downs and you probably come away with points early in this contest.
  • Poor play calling. One final note on the failed 4th and 1 in the second quarter. I was hoping (wish I could say “expecting”) for a play action pass. The coaches are so predictable calling run plays in short yardage situations that defenses are able to stop us. Utah State was ready for the run. If Heaps fakes a hand off, a tight end could release from his block and be wide open 5 yards down field with at least 15 more yards to run. Goal line calls are killing me. Heaps moves the team nicely down the field by completing several passes, but as soon as we are inside the 10 yard line the pass is abandoned and two straight runs are called. Now it is third and goal and the defense is ready for a pass.
  • Experience matters. Against Air Force, Nevada, and Utah State, most people would say BYU was the more talented team—on paper. The problem was that each team had very experienced offenses, while BYU was breaking in new players on both sides of the ball. These confident and experienced teams knew exactly what they were trying to do. BYU has looked lost, at times, and hesitant. It doesn’t help either that these teams “experience” also includes several losses to BYU in recent years, or, in Nevada’s case, playing in the MWC shadow.
  • Kyle Van Noy showed promise. The freshman linebacker looked fast. He was making plays, and he was causing disruptions in the back field. Van Noy was a bright spot on a dark defensive night.
NEXT: San Diego State
DATE: October 9, 2010
TIME: 4:00 PM (MDT)

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