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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Trivia: Win-Loss Record On Halloween

The correct answer to last week’s trivia question "What BYU running back set the NCAA record for most touchdowns scored by rushing in one quarter?" is Dick Felt. He scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter in a game against San Jose State, on November 8, 1952. That's right, twenty years before LaVell Edwards started coaching, BYU players were setting NCAA records. Felt was the first player to score four rushing touchdowns in one quarter. Now, there are four, but it wasn't until 1990 that a second player accomplished this feat. How impressive is that?

Yesterday's flashback had a Halloween theme to it. We will continue that theme with the trivia question.
What is BYU's record in games played on Halloween (October 31)?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 40, Colorado State Rams 17 (1991)
Is Jake Heaps the Worst Brigham Young Cougars Freshman Quarterback Ever?
Poll Results: Which new BYU record is most impressive?
Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 25, Wyoming Cowboys 20
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys
Top 5 O'Neill Chambers Moments With The Brigham Young Cougars 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 40, Colorado State Rams 17 (1991)

This weekend is a bye for the Brigham Young Cougars. It is also Halloween. This week’s flashback is one of my happy memories from Halloween 1991.

BYU went to Fort Collins for an ESPN Thursday Night special. Ty Detmer didn’t dress up as anything fancy for the game. He came as himself—Heisman Trophy winner. Detmer played the part well as BYU took control of this game early jumping out to a 13-3 first quarter lead. After allowing Colorado State a field goal on the Rams’ opening drive, the defense held Colorado State scoreless until the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.

Detmer didn’t come to the party alone. He brought a new friend: Eric Drage. The sophomore wide out came dressed as BYU’s new number one receiver, filling the vacancy left by Andy Boyce’s graduations. Drage caught three touchdown passes in the first half. His final score of the half concluded a three play, 47-yard scoring drive that started with just 28 seconds left in the half.

Derwin Gray returned a Colorado State fumble 62 yards in the third quarter to highlight BYU’s second half scoring. By the end of three periods, BYU held a 40-3 advantage.

When he sat down, Detmer had completed 23 of 28 passes (82%) for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns. His pass efficiency rating was 216.

BYU only punted one time in the game.

The win was BYU’s fifth consecutive win over Colorado State, and sixth consecutive win in 1991.

More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Is Jake Heaps the Worst Brigham Young Cougars Freshman Quarterback Ever?
Poll Results: Which new BYU record is most impressive?
Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 25, Wyoming Cowboys 20
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys
Top 5 O'Neill Chambers Moments With The Brigham Young Cougars
Thursday Trivia: Rushing TDs In One Quarter
Flashback: Jim McMahon's Magical Season (1980)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is Jake Heaps The Worst Brigham Young Cougars Freshman Quarterback Ever?

Jake Heaps is making history in many ways as quarterback for the Brigham Young Cougars this year. Making history isn’t always a good thing. I commend Heaps for getting the win Saturday against Wyoming, and throwing the touchdown pass that sealed the win. However, he only threw for 81 yards, and he had another touchdown pass (pick six) that was a big reason why this game was even close. Add to this that Heaps was coming off of a 91 yard outing with two interceptions and a less than 50% completion rate the week before against TCU, and wheels start to turn in your head and you start to wonder.

Before all the staunch Heaps supporters stop reading, let’s make one thing certain. The fact that this question can even be asked about Heaps is a tremendous compliment to the kid. Rarely does a quarterback come to campus, grasp the offense, and have his skills developed to a point that he can even see significant time on the field as a freshman.

A quarterback cannot be judged on just touchdowns and interceptions, or yards passing. Therefore, before jumping to any conclusions or getting upset. Let’s conduct a proper analysis.

Since 1973, when BYU fully adopted the forward pass, Jake Heaps is just the fifth freshman quarterback to log significant minutes during meaningful moments of games. Ty Detmer (1988), Drew Miller (1997), Matt Berry (2002), and John Beck (2003) are the others. Although comparing statistics is never a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, looking at each quarterbacks’ stats is a good starting point. Following their stats is a little more background information about how those stats were accumulated, which should give us sufficient understanding to rank these five signal callers.

TY DETMER
83 completions, 153 attempts (54.2%), 1,252 yards, 13 TD, 10 Int., 138.0 Efficiency

Notes: Detmer threw the most TD passes, has the highest efficiency, however, he also threw the most interceptions. He was 1-0 as a starter, a 65-0 blowout of New Mexico (2-10). He threw for 333 yards and 5 TDs. Detmer came off the bench to win 3 other games, including the Freedom Bowl.

DREW MILLER
37-67 (55.2%), 430 yards, 3 TD, 4 Int., 112.0 Efficiency

Notes: Miller has the least completions, attempts, and yards. He also had the least interceptions. He was 0-1 as a starter in a ugly loss to UTEP (14-3) when he threw three of his interceptions (one a pick six). He came off the bench to throw 3 TDs and win the TCU game. TCU was 1-10 that year.

MATT BERRY
108-184 (58.7%), 1,309 yards, 7 TD, 9 Int., 121.2 Efficiency

Notes: Berry has the highest completion percentage, and the most passing yards. He was 2-4 as a starter. In his best game he threw for 360 yards against Wyoming (2-11).

JOHN BECK
73-145 (50.3%), 864 yards, 5 TD, 5 Int., 104.9 Efficiency

Notes: Beck has the lowest completion percentage. He was just 1-3 as a starter. One of those losses was a direct result of a Beck interception. BYU was leading Stanford 14-12 with 4:20 to play. Beck threw an interception and Stanford promptly scored the winning points. He also came off the bench against Wyoming and threw a pick six that gave Wyoming a 13-0 lead. BYU lost 13-10.

JAKE HEAPS (through 8 games)
120-229 (52.4%), 1,057 yards, 2 TD, 7 Int., 87.9 Efficiency

Notes: Heaps has the most completions and attempts, yet he has the least TD passes. He also has the worst efficiency. Heaps is 2-3 as a starter. He played well off the bench in the only other win of the season (Washington).

Using just the stats and the notes, I would put Jake right in the middle at number 3. However, I have some serious reservations.

  1. Yards per attempt. Heaps averages 4.62 yards per attempt. Anything less than 8 isn’t very good.
  2. Very few touchdown passes. With 45 more throws and 12 more completions than the next closest QB, Heaps should have much more than two touchdown passes. Yes, some passes have been dropped in the end zone, but even with all the drops, you would think Heaps would have at least 5 TD passes. As it is, it takes 115 throws to get one caught in the end zone.
  3. The coaches have consciously decided to emphasize the run. That hurts any quarterback’s case.
Keeping these three concerns in mind, let’s take a closer look at Beck, and Miller. Miller’s position suffers because he saw the least action. I find it a drawback, too, that all his TDs came against a 1-10 team. When he played a 4-7 team the next week he threw three interceptions. I think that had Miller played more, his numbers would get worse, and I don’t know if he would have won a game as a starter. The coaches would have probably shifted and given the ball much more to Brian McKenzie, who ended up rushing for 1,004 yards that year. Miller did have a 6.4 yards per attempt average, which is better than Heaps, but still well below the 8.0 standard.

Beck’s numbers are not much better than Heaps’ numbers. His yards per attempt is just 6.0. Beck also saw his passes reduced from 45 to 35 to 26, while BYU increased its rushes to 45 in the only game Beck won as a starter. Beck bests Heaps in touchdown passes, but Beck definitely had costlier interceptions. He cost BYU two games in 2003. Thus far, I can’t point at one of BYU’s five losses this year and say that Heaps lost that game.

That makes the final ranking of freshman quarterbacks as:

1. Ty Detmer
2. Matt Berry
3. Jake Heaps
4. John Beck
5. Drew Miller

Jake Heaps’ freshman season is not over yet. With four, maybe five, games left, he could still move ahead of Berry, or drop below Beck. Heaps has shown glimpse of his potential. One particular drive in the first quarter against Washington was very impressive. Heaps connected on back to back passes to McKay Jacobson for 13 and 17 yards. A 16 yarder to J.J. Di Luigi followed, which took BYU to the Washington four-yard line. Heaps looked poised and comfortable against Florida State running the two minute offense just before the half on a drive that ended in a touchdown pass. Heaps has demonstrated that he has the tools and the potential. When he starts using those tools to consistently play to his potential will determine where he sits on this list at the end of the year.

As for his sophomore-senior years, the results of the other four give Heaps a 50/50 chance at being the next great BYU quarterback. He also has a 50% chance to be the one who kept the seat warm before the next great QB came along. Detmer and Beck are legends. Miller transferred and Berry lost the job to Beck. For Heaps' sake and the sake of BYU football, I hope he joins Detmer and Beck as BYU quarterback greats.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Poll Results: Which new BYU record is most impressive?
Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 25, Wyoming Cowboys 20
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys
Top 5 O'Neill Chambers Moments With The Brigham Young Cougars
Thursday Trivia: Rushing TDs In One Quarter
Flashback: Jim McMahon's Magical Season (1980)

Poll Results: Which new BYU record is most impressive?

The poll results are in, and the most impressive new BYU record is Mitch Payne's record for most career PAT conversions, as agreed by 54% of voters. Jake Heaps' new record for most completed passes by a freshman was second with 27%, and O'Neill Chambers' record for most career kickoff return yards was third with 19%.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "Which game will be the hardest to win?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 25, Wyoming Cowboys 20

The Brigham Young Cougars jumped out to a 16-0 lead and held on to beat the Wyoming Cowboys 25-20. Apparently, the gap dividing BYU and Wyoming is so wide that nothing can be done for Wyoming to get a win. No wonder they don't want to play BYU anymore. Wyoming has had a coaching change. BYU lost a plethora of NFL talent from last year’s team (two running backs, two tight ends, and a quarterback), as well as seven starters on defense. The BYU offense even gave Wyoming 10 points on Saturday. In the end, Wyoming came up on the short end for the seventh time in a row.

This was the defense’s day. The BYU defense was more than an impenetrable wall in the first half—they were a rush of water overflowing the banks of the Laramie River. BYU held Wyoming to -18 yards of offense in the first half. Wyoming ended the game with just 173 yards (110 pass, 63 rush). For the game, the D registered 12 tackles for a loss and three sacks, with six quarterback hurries.

True to Bronco Mendenhall’s word, BYU used a run first mentality on offense led by the trio tandem of Bryan Kariya (88 yards), J.J. Di Luigi (82 yards), and Joshua Quezada (59 yards). This offensive philosophy has worked against San Diego State and Wyoming, and it might be enough to get BYU to a bowl this year, but it is not the long-term solution. As teams start preparing for this new style of attack, BYU must have a real passing game. Passing yards have dropped from 126 to 91 to 81 this week since BYU adopted this run first mentality. Emphasizing the run is probably the right approach, at this time, but BYU should still have a goal of 150 passing yards a game. Without 150 yards, I don’t like BYU’s chances against Utah, especially, and possibly New Mexico (as bad as they are, they always play better against BYU, like last year).

PLAY OF THE GAME: Kyle Van Noy batting down Austyn Carta-Samuel’s pass on 4th and 10 with 27 seconds left to seal the win.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Vic So’oto-4 tackles (3 tackles for loss), 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries

What I was watching:

  1. Another shutout? No. Jake Heaps’ pick six with four minutes to play in the second quarter ended 10 consecutive shut out quarters. Another turnover deep in BYU territory gave Wyoming three more points. Even with -18 yards total offense, Wyoming still had 10 points. While it doesn’t make sense mathematically, I really wonder if 20-10 = 0 would have been true Saturday. In other words, if the offense hadn’t given Wyoming its first 10 points, it is hard to imagine that Wyoming could have ever gained enough momentum on its own to score its second 10 points.
  2. How much run? BYU ran the ball 51 times for 217 yards on the day. The Cougars only threw the ball 18 times. Still close to a 3:1 ratio like the San Diego State game.
  3. Independent Impact. Any bitter feelings still harbored by the Cowboys regarding BYU’s move for independence did not influence how this game was played out on the field. As stated, BYU was well on its way to another shutout. It was miscues by the BYU offense that made this game close.
  4. Bowl hopes. They are still alive for BYU. I am not going to count any chickens before they hatch, and I hope the team is doing the same.
  5. More new records? Jake Heaps tied Matt Berry’s record for most wins by a freshman quarterback (two). The touchdown passes drought might be a new record (5¼ games—second quarter of game 3 to fourth quarter of game 8). It was really good to see that streak stop. The BYU record books don’t keep track of least yards allowed in one half, but the -18 yards total offense by Wyoming has to be close to, if not, a new low for yard allow in one half.
Other observations:
  • Kyle Van Noy a freshman All-American? The site High in the Blue points out that a BYU player has been a member of the freshman All-American team every year since 2003. Van Noy has really stepped up the last few weeks. If he keeps this up he might be the player to keep this steak going.
  • Field position was phenomenal for BYU to start the game. After the defense, field position was the second biggest reason the Cougars won the game. BYU started the game on its own 42 yard line. Touchdown. Later in the first quarter, BYU started a drive on the Wyoming 33 yard line. Touchdown. Those short fields leading to early touchdowns were a difference maker.
  • Shades of 1996. This game had some disturbing similarities to the 1996 BYU-Wyoming game for the WAC Championship. Fourteen years ago, BYU jumped out to a 13-0 lead. The game turned around when the Wyoming defense turned a BYU turnover (fumble) into a touchdown. BYU also scored on a safety in the 1996 game. Of course, not everything was the same, but what matters most—win—was the same both years.
NEXT: UNLV
DATE: November 6, 2010
TIME: 12:00 PM

Friday, October 22, 2010

Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys

The Brigham Young Cougars come into their game against the Wyoming Cowboys sitting at 2-5. If you are a doctor, what do you prescribe for such a team? How about easing your workload and getting a little home cooking? Fortunately, for the Cougars, that’s exactly what is in store. The first seven opponents have a combined 33-13 record. The next four are just 5-22, none of them have a better record than BYU, and they are the bottom four teams in the MWC right now. What makes it even better is that three of these four games are at home, where BYU is 2-1 this year and 24-3 since 2006.

No team has taken a bigger beating from BYU in the Bronco Mendenhall era than Wyoming. BYU has outscored Wyoming 221-38, which comes out to an average score of 44-8 in each game. In Provo, it is even worse, 99-7 in two meetings, and Wyoming was lucky to even get the 7. With the way Bronco has the defense playing, points will probably be a precious commodity once again for Wyoming. In fact, Wyoming has only averaged 11.6 points per game this year, ranking them 119th in the nation.

BYU may need the defense to keep Wyoming scoreless. The Cougars have had their own problems this year with putting points on the board. BYU averages only three more points per game than Wyoming, 14.7 (115th). Earlier this week, Coach Mendenhall said BYU would adopt a run first mentality on offense, which tends to lower the final score by shortening games.

Wyoming doesn’t figure to just lay down in this game. After a surprising bowl win to end 2009, this year was supposed to be even better. Quarterback Austin Carta-Samuels was no longer a freshman and the team was in its second year under Dave Christensen. At this time last year, Wyoming was 4-3 and averaging 27 points per game, despite being shutout twice. Wyoming also didn’t play TCU or Utah in the first seven games last year like they did this year. Maybe if Colorado State and UNLV were not at the end of the schedule this year, Wyoming would be 4-3 again and average closer to 20 points per game. Either way, one thing is certain. Wyoming will give BYU its best game.

Things to watch for:
  1. Another shutout? BYU has shutout Wyoming the last two years. Will they do it again? Whether they admit it or not, I would bet that the BYU defense is harboring hopes of shutting out Wyoming again. After the disappointment last week against TCU, nothing would feel better than registering a third consecutive shutout of Wyoming.
  2. How much run? As stated already, BYU will have a run first mindset on offense. How exactly does that translate into number of runs versus number of throws? Are we looking at another San Diego State mix (62 rushes, 22 passes)? The scoring drive against TCU referenced by Bronco was 8 passes and 5 rushes.
  3. Independent Impact. Wyoming was one of the more vocal schools criticizing BYU after BYU announced it would leave the MWC next year. Are emotions still running high in Laramie over this decision, and will they have any bearing on the game?
  4. Bowl hopes. At 2-5, BYU needs four wins in the next five games to secure bowl eligibility. Losing this game will make it infinitely more difficult. Really, BYU needs to win the next four games, so bowl eligibility isn’t even an issue when they play Utah.
  5. More new records? The last two weeks have seen three new BYU records set. Will anymore records fall this week? Jake Heaps is still too far away from the record for most passing yards by a freshman. Could Kyle Van Noy set a freshman record for tackles or sacks in a game? Maybe, with the run first mentality, a rushing record will be broken.
All-time Series: BYU leads 43-30-3
Last: BYU, 52-0
Streak: BYU won last 6

KICKOFF: 12:00 PM (MDT)
TV: The Mtn.
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, http://www.ksl.com/

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Top 5 O'Neill Chambers Moments With The Brigham Young Cougars
Thursday Trivia: Rushing TDs In One Quarter
Flashback: Jim McMahon's Magical Season (1980)
Poll Results: Will BYU go to a bowl game this year?
Game Recap: TCU Horned Frogs 31, Brigham Young Cougars 3

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top 5 O'Neill Chambers Moments With The Brigham Young Cougars

This week, Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver O’Neill Chambers was disciplined for the second time this year. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said that Chambers’ indefinite suspension will all but certainly end his career at BYU.

Chambers came to BYU from Harmony, Florida, in 2008. He saw some quality playing time as a true freshman. Like all players, he had his low moments, but he also made very positive contributions to the team.

Looking back on his 2 ½ years as a Cougar, here are my top 5 O’Neill Chambers moments.

1. Punt Returns versus Utah, 2009. O’Neill Chambers was a difference maker in the Utah game last year. I would even go as far as saying that without his stellar play on special teams BYU loses this game. With BYU trailing 6-3 midway through the second quarter, Chambers returned a Utah punt 43 yards to the 7-yard line. Two plays later, BYU led 10-6. He stood tough while Utah committed kick catch interference on three punts. One offset a BYU penalty that could have given Utah a new set of downs. Another gave BYU favorable field position to start its first drive of the second half; a drive that ended in a touchdown.

2. Breaking the BYU record for most career kickoff return yards. Chambers returned the opening kickoff of the second half against TCU last week from the goal line out to the 24-yard line. He broke this record when he crossed the five yard line on that return. Setting a new record is always impressive, but this is made more impressive by the fact that Chambers did this in just two and a half years. Imagine how high he would have set the mark if he played out his eligibility.

3. First career touchdown reception. In the first quarter of the 2008 game versus UNLV, Chambers scored his first career touchdown. It was a 20-yard pass from Max Hall. This game turned out to be a shootout and BYU needed this touchdown by Chambers to be in a position to win the game in the end.

4. 97-yard kickoff return at UNLV, 2009. UNLV must have been Chambers’ favorite opponent to play. With 14:50 to play in the fourth quarter, UNLV scored to make it a 45-21 game. On the ensuing kick, Chambers fielded the ball at the BYU one and ran all the way down to the UNLV two-yard line. Any momentum that UNLV had gained with the touchdown was gone. It was the best kick return for BYU since Nate Meikle returned the opening kickoff of the 2006 Wyoming game 84-yards to the two-yard line.

5. Acrobatic reception versus Florida State, 2009. Chambers made the highlight reels when he lunged forward to catch a tipped pass with one hand.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Thursday Trivia: Rushing TDs In One Quarter
Flashback: Jim McMahon's Magical Season (1980)
Poll Results: Will BYU go to a bowl game this year?
Game Recap: TCU Horned Frogs 31, Brigham Young Cougars 3
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. TCU Horned Frogs

Thursday Trivia: Rushing TDs In One Quarter

The correct answer to last week’s trivia question "What individual record for BYU players has been held by the same player the longest?" has two parts. Part one, Don Bushore set the BYU record for best average punt return in a season by averaging 22.9 yards per return in 1948. Part two, Jim Eccles set the dubious record for most interceptions thrown in a game when he threw 7 against Utah on October 9, 1948, let’s hope this record is never broken.

This week, we will keep our noses in the record book. We will also keep in line with the identity of the offense that Bronco Mendenhall laid out this week: more focus on the run. Therefore, this week's trivia question is:
What BYU running back set the NCAA record for most touchdowns scored by rushing in one quarter?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Flashback: Jim McMahon's Magical Season (1980)
Poll Results: Will BYU go to a bowl game this year?
Game Recap: TCU Horned Frogs 31, Brigham Young Cougars 3
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. TCU Horned Frogs

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Flashback: Jim McMahon's Magical Season (1980)

At this time 30 years ago, Jim McMahon was quarterbacking the Brigham Young Cougars. Some would say he was following in pretty big footsteps succeeding NFL first round draft pick Marc Wilson who had just rewrote the BYU record book the year before. In reality, McMahon was blazing his own trail. Jimmy Mac was a prodigy, and his play in 1980 made that clear to everyone.

Just six years ago, ESPN ranked Jim McMahon's 1980 season 76th on their list of the top 100 seasons produced by any athlete, in any sport, college or pro, male or female, in the last 25 years. He was the only college quarterback on the list.

What made McMahon’s 1980 season so magical?

First, his statistics were phenomenal; off the charts. He had 284 completions on 445 attempts (63.8%) for 4,571 yards, with 47 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His pass efficiency rating was 176.9. If the NCAA counted bowl games in a player’s season stats back then, McMahon would have been credited with the first 5,000 yards passing season and over 50 touchdown passes (5,017 and 51 to be exact).

To put this into perspective, along the way to these numbers McMahon set 34 NCAA records. Those records included the 4,571 yards passing, the 47 touchdowns, and the 176.9 pass efficiency rating. The 4,571 passing yards were 851 yards more than the previous record.

The most astonishing feat was that he reached these new heights with only 445 pass attempts. Last year, Houston quarterback Case Keenum threw the ball 700 times. Using McMahon’s averages, he would have had 7,190 yards passing and 74 touchdown passes, if he attempted 700 passes. Keenum only had 5,671 yards passing and 44 touchdown passes.

Maybe if McMahon had played more than one full game that year, he would have thrown 700 times, but he didn’t play much in the second half of games because of reason number two.

Second, the way he won games. After an opening day 25-21 loss to New Mexico, Jim McMahon led BYU to 11 straight victories by an average score of 49-16. In twelve games, BYU scored 560 points (606 with bowl game) and led the nation in scoring by a touchdown. A win in the Holiday Bowl made the eleven consecutive victories twelve, which was the longest win streak and most wins in one season in school history.

He beat Utah by 50 points, 56-6. It is still the largest margin of victory for either side in this rivalry.

BYU set the school record for most points scored in one game—twice. McMahon threw for six touchdowns and ran for two as BYU put up 70 points against Utah State. Two weeks later, he tossed six more touchdown passes, in the first half, as BYU hung 83 on UTEP.

In total, BYU scored over 50 points five times—also a school record (it was tied in 1990, and broken in 2001).

As impressive as all this was, no win in 1980 was greater than the last.

Third, Jimmy Mac got BYU its first bowl win. The 20-point comeback with 3:58 is a fixture in Cougar Lore. I have summarized it here. McMahon willed the team to victory. He insisted that the coaches not give up. The win required the whole team, but the team drew their strength from Jim McMahon that night.

He made every play that he had to make. He made everyone associated with BYU football believe that anything was possible. No game was out of reach with McMahon at the helm. Before the game, McMahon was already a BYU legend, now his legend was etched in stone.

Long before people were talking about it, Jim McMahon proved that he had It. In 1980, number 9 had BYU football on cloud 9.

More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Poll Results: Will BYU go to a bowl game this year?
Game Recap: TCU Horned Frogs 31, Brigham Young Cougars 3
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Thursday Trivia: Oldest Individual Record

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poll Results: Will BYU go to a bowl game this year?

The latest poll has closed, and the results support a bowl game for the sixth straight year. The final result was 57% said yes, BYU will go to a bowl game this year.

Thank you to all who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "Which new BYU record is most impressive?"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Game Recap: TCU Horned Frogs 31, Brigham Young Cougars 3

The Brigham Young Cougars game against the TCU Horned Frogs might look “just as expected” to the casual observer, but it was anything but that. BYU had the ball in their hands with two minutes to play in the first half, and they trailed just 3-0. With only 14 yards of total offense to their credit, the Cougars had to be pleased. Then disaster struck.

TCU capitalized on a Jeremy Kerley punt return to the BYU 46-yard line. Two plays later, the score was 10-0. BYU quarterback Jake Heaps threw an interception two plays later that set TCU up at the BYU 38-yard line with 1:12 left in the first half. Three plays later it was 17-0.

The BYU defense had held TCU to 134 yards of offense in the first 28 minutes. TCU needed BYU miscues to pull away.

The real problem for BYU is the pass game. Heaps threw two more interceptions. The extremely short throws prevent BYU from moving the ball. The passing offense is very bland. It is more than a one player problem. The wide receivers should be replaced with extra blockers for the running game. The tight ends aren’t earning their scholarships. Jake Heaps is just a true freshman. As highly touted as he was, and as impressive as he looked in practice, this is what you get with a true freshman: lots of interceptions, few touchdowns.

The problem isn’t limited to the players, either. The coaching staff needs to do more to prepare and groom Heaps. They are wasting this year. Heaps is not running the “BYU offense.” He is running a dumbed down version of it with the goal to avoid making big mistakes that will cost BYU the game. This version also avoids doing what is necessary to win the game. Heaps’ stat line was 14-30, 91 yards, 2 Ints. That is terrible. I would much rather see the completion percentage lower but the number of yards the same. That would mean that BYU is spreading the field, throwing more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and using play action passes to help the tight ends slip past the linebackers. It also means BYU is getting more first downs. If you have 91 yards on 8 completions you are now averaging 11.4 yards per completion as opposed to 6.5. Instead of 2nd and 3 you have a fresh set of downs. Instead of coming up short on 3rd and 8, you get a first down. Extremely short passes to the wide receivers are a waste of a down. If you want two or three yards, hand off the ball. Even with this ultra conservative passing game, Heaps is still throwing interceptions, drives are still being stopped by third down sacks, and BYU is setting a new standard for scoring futility as they are routinely blown out.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Corby Eason’s 7-yard sack that took TCU out of field goal range with 4 minutes to play in the second quarter.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Andrew Rich, 13 tackles (10 unassisted).

Things I watched for:

  1. BYU run game. Except for the lone scoring drive when BYU gained 30 yards on 5 carries, the run game was pathetic. Even when you factor out the -21 yards on three sacks, BYU only had 77 yards on 24 carries (3.2 yards per rush). Remember that 30 of those yards came on 5 carries in a 5 minute stretch. That means BYU gained just 47 yards on the other 21 carries.
  2. The real impact of Bronco taking over the defense. Bronco’s impact has been immense. TCU was averaging over 278 yards rushing per game. BYU held them to 108. Andy Dalton had completed over 80 percent of his passes at home this year. He completed “just” 67% on Saturday. The defense also sacked Dalton twice. That is half as many times as Dalton had been sacked all season.
  3. Beating Number 4. It was really wishful thinking, but with the way the defense played most of the first half, there was still hope. TCU didn’t look like the number 4 team, but BYU isn’t the number 16 team that they were back in 1985.
Other observations:

  • Although it bit BYU in the rear end, running the two-minute offense with 1:30 to play in the first half, down 10-0, was the right thing to do. We have seen BYU score late in the first half and gain a little momentum against Florida State, Nevada, and Utah State. If BYU got even just a field goal before halftime, it would have been huge.
  • I questioned in the game preview whether Gary Patterson would “try and hang as many points on the board as possible.” He appears to have done just that with the throw to the end zone on 4th and 3 on the 21, up 24-3, with 4:26 to play. He couldn’t have been concerned with losing. TCU’s last three runs were for 6, 7 and 7 yards. Why the pass? Why the pass to the end zone? Makes me wonder.
  • One positive on offense was the sacks allowed. After seeing Max Hall go down six times in 2008, and five times in 2009, Jake Heaps was sacked just three times.
  • Maybe BYU couldn’t win, but at least we kept some measure of dignity. TCU was threatening to match BYU’s MWC record for continuous shutout quarters. With 1:14 left in the third quarter, BYU scored to end TCU’s streak at 10, one short of BYU’s 2008 record of 11.
  • As much flack as O’Neill Chambers has received, he does deserve to be patted on the back when he does something good. He is now the school record holder for kickoff return yards with 1,612 in just 2 ½ years.
  • Riley Stephenson had five punts of 50 yards or more (50, 53, 54, 59, 59). Too bad his other two punts were 33 and 28 yards.
NEXT: Wyoming
DATE: October 23, 2010
TIME: 12:00 PM (MDT)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. TCU Horned Frogs

The Brigham Young Cougars rebounded a little last week beating San Diego State, but they have no time to dwell on that win with the TCU Horned Frogs up next. BYU needs a win on Saturday to avoid losing to the same team three consecutive years for the first time since they lost to Utah in 2004.

Beating the Horned Frogs will be very difficult. TCU has registered back-to-back shutouts (27-0 and 45-0). TCU has also managed to outscore BYU 70-14 in their last two meetings combined. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff may have devised a solid game plan for TCU this year, but the question remains: can the players execute that game plan?

Adding to this grudge match is the fact that TCU coach Gary Patterson was particularly upset about BYU announcing independent status in football last August. It is clear that Patterson targets BYU. Whether it is a BYU helmet on the tackling dummy or signs in the weight room, the BYU game means more to him than any other. How will he handle this game? Will he keep starters to preserve a shutout? Will he try and hang as many points on the board as possible?

Freshman quarterback Jake Heaps is the key for BYU to be successful Saturday. TCU will load the box to stop the run game and force Heaps to beat them with his arm. BYU should have prepared for this by working on 6-8 pass plays that can be run from multiple formations, and they can’t be those passes three yards or less. They need to be real down field throws. Heaps will need to be able to make the reads for these plays in his sleep—no matter what coverage TCU runs.

Things to watch for:

  1. BYU run game. Can the line open holes for J.J. Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya, and Joshua Quezada to pile up the yards again, even with TCU expecting it? Harvey Unga ran for over 100 yards last year and it didn’t make a difference. Even if the backs can run effectively, will it be enough? Without a run game, Jake Heaps could be sacked more than he was at Florida State (8).
  2. The real impact of Bronco taking over the defense. Most changes have a positive impact, initially, and it is hard to tell if those positive results will be sustained over the long run. The TCU game will give us a much better idea how good this move has been.
  3. Beating number 4. BYU has been able to beat high ranked opponents, when they are non-conference games. Number 3 Oklahoma and number 1 Miami quickly come to mind. The story is very different when that top 10 team is a conference member. Utah (2004 and 2008) and TCU (2009) have registered blowout victories. However, they were not ranked number four. BYU did play number 4 Air Force in 1985, and pulled off the upset. Will BYU do it again?
All-time Series: BYU leads 5-4
Last: TCU, 38-7
Streak: TCU won last 2

KICKOFF: 3:00 PM (MDT)
TV: Versus
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, www.ksl.com

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Thursday Trivia: Oldest Individual Record
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 41, Wyoming Cowboys 38 (1984)
Poll Results: Was Bronco's decision to let Coach Hill go a good one?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Trivia: Oldest Individual Record

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week's question: "How many times has BYU won 10 or more games in a row?" An anonymous responder gave the correct answer: 7. Those seven times were:

11 wins (1979)
17 wins (1980-81)
25 wins (1983-85)
12 wins (1996)
14 wins (2000-01)
11 wins (2006-07)
16 wins (2007-08)

This week, in recognition of Mitch Payne breaking Kurt Gunther's 28 year record for most point-after-touchdown (PAT) conversions in a career, this week's trivia question is:
What individual record for BYU players has been held by the same player the longest?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 41, Wyoming Cowboys 38 (1984)
Poll Results: Was Bronco's decision to let Coach Hill go a good one?
Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 24, San Diego State Aztecs 21

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 41, Wyoming Cowboys 38 (1984)

Twenty-six years ago today, October 13, 1984, the #5 ranked Brigham Young Cougars had a classic shootout with the Cowboys from Wyoming. BYU quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions. Wyoming used a halfback pass to get on the board with 7:07 to play in the first quarter. Robbie Bosco threw one of his five touchdown passes with 9:03 to go in the second quarter, which pushed the lead back to 14. Wyoming made this a game again just before halftime by scoring two touchdowns in only 2:16. The Cowboys missed the extra point following the second touchdown, a 77-yard punt return, and BYU took a one point lead into the locker room, 21-20.

Wyoming took the lead 2:44 into the third quarter. It was the first of six lead changes in the second half. BYU and Wyoming combined to score 5 touchdowns in the third quarter. Both teams tried a two-point conversion after each of their third-quarter touchdowns; they were all unsuccessful. The final lead change came in the fourth quarter when Bosco found tight end David Mills for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:16 to play. This time, the two-point conversion was successful as Bosco connected with Kelly Smith.

Robbie Bosco had a big day completing 29 of 44 passes for 384 yards and 5 touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns were to Mills as he amassed 136 yards on seven receptions.

This game marked the 17th consecutive win for BYU, which tied what was then the longest win streak in school history.

More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

You can watch the full game here.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Poll Results: Was Bronco's decision to let Coach Hill go a good one?
Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 24, San Diego State Aztecs 21
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Thursday Trivia: 10 Consecutive wins

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Poll Results: Was Bronco's decision to let Coach Hill go a good one?

An overwhelming majority (80%) said Bronco's decision to let Jaime Hill go was a good one. After one game, the results on the field agree with the poll voters.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll question: Will BYU go to a bowl game this year?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Game Recap: Brigham Young Cougars 24, San Diego State Aztecs 21

The Brigham Young Cougars used a strong run game to keep the ball out of the hands of San Diego State's dangerous offense to get their first win since the season opener. BYU piled up 271 yards on 62 rushes and scored all three of its touchdowns on the ground. J.J. Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya, and Joshua Quezada teamed to gain all but 2 of the 271 rushing yards, with each gaining 50 yards or more. BYU used a fake field goal on its first possession to keep the drive alive. The Cougars eventually ended that drive with a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish. That scoring drive was 19 plays and lasted 8:28.

In the first game since Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, the Cougar D played much more effective and with much more emotion. The defense forced the Aztecs to punt without a first down on five drives, including San Diego State's final drive with 3:26 to play with only a three point lead. Another drive ended after one play when Brandon Ogletree intercepted a Ryan Lindley pass.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Bryan Kariya, Running Back, 22 carries, 85 yards, 2 touchdowns.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Matt Marshall's 16 yard pass to Mike Muehlmann on the fake field goal in the first quarter.

What I was watching for:

  1. Will the injury situation get worse? No major injuries were sustained during the game.
  2. How will O’Neill Chambers play in his return? Chambers was a non-factor in the game. He played some special teams and was in the rotation on offense, but had no impact on this game.
  3. More or less dropped balls? Three passes were dropped on the opening drive. A successful fake field goal kept the drive alive. After that, dropped passes were not a problem.
  4. Home field advantage. A win is all I need to see for me to say home field was an advantage for BYU. San Diego State split the difference between the average points at San Diego and at LES with 21 points on Saturday.
  5. Protecting Jake Heaps. The strong run game helped take the pressure off and keep the sack total down. Heaps was sacked twice on the night for a loss of 12 yards. Overall the protection was adequate.

Other observations:

  • Time of possession for BYU was 45:01. After four games where the defense was stranded on the field most of the game, the offense moved the ball methodically all game to give the defense plenty of time to rest. I don't think BYU has ever had a higher time of possession.
  • Third down conversions were 12 of 19 (63%). That is better than the average last year when BYU led the nation. BYU converted two third downs to run out the clock on the final drive that started with 3:02 left and San Diego State having two timeouts.
  • The leading receiver was a tight end. After an unprecedented disappearing act by this position, Marcus Mathews led all BYU receivers with 43 yards receiving on three receptions. Mike Muehlmann and Devin Mahina added one reception each.
  • Pesky turnovers. This game was a lot closer than it had to be. Heaps threw an interception in the end zone on BYU's third drive when BYU already had a 14-0 lead. Two drives later, Marcus Mathews fumbled at the San Diego State 21 yard line. Two scoring opportunities were lost by these turnovers. These turnovers didn't kill BYU, but they didn't help. BYU cannot have turnovers like these next week at TCU.
  • Long Live Bronco. The team played much, much better this week, a night and day difference. It is obvious that Mendenhall is the right man for the job. Let's hope he never loses touch with the team again.
NEXT: TCU
DATE: October 16, 2010
TIME: 3:00 PM (MDT)

Other recent posts on BYU Football Talk:
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Thursday Trivia: 10 Consecutive wins
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 45, San Diego State Aztecs 44 (1993)
Brigham Young Cougars Football, 2010: A New Low?
Poll Results: When will Jake Heaps have his first 300 yard passing game?
Brigham Young Cougars Relieve Jaime Hill of Defensive Coaching Duties

Friday, October 8, 2010

Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs

The Brigham Young Cougars will play their second conference game this week against San Diego State. While the first five games have been very disappointing, this week is almost like a new season for BYU. The most notable reason is that defensive coordinator Jaime Hill is gone and head coach Bronco Mendenhall has taken over the defense again. As bad as the first five games were, only the Air Force game counts against the Cougars in the conference standings. Hopefully, the BYU team that comes out on Saturday will be a different one than the last four games.

Even with a new attitude and new energy, it will take a lot from BYU to win this game. Just like Utah State, the Aztecs will be giddy to release years of frustration on the 2010 BYU team. BYU has won 13 of the last 15 meetings. San Diego State comes into this game fresh off a bye. The week before, San Diego State crushed the same Utah State team that just beat BYU. In Brady Hoke’s second year as head coach, San Diego State has a new identity. Quarterback Ryan Lindley leads the passing attack, and he is the only quarterback to have a good game against Utah State. Not only does San Diego State feature a strong passing game, running back Ronnie Hillman has amassed 532 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground through four games. The Aztecs (3-1) are off to their best start since 2003. If it wasn’t for a 68-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left by #22 Missouri, San Diego State would be 4-0 for the first time since 1981.

Things to watch for:

  1. Will the injury situation get worse? Injuries have depleted the BYU defense the last two weeks. Andrew Rich and Jordan Pendleton join Romney Fuga, Jameson Frazier and Steven Thomas on the sideline this week.
  2. How will O’Neill Chambers play in his return? The outspoken wide out will return to the field this week following his two week suspension. He has been talking big this week. Now, it is time for him to play big.
  3. More or less dropped balls? Has Las Vegas set an over/under for dropped balls in this game? At some point, the receivers will start catching these passes. This week will be a good time to start.
  4. Home field advantage. Most teams typically play better at home than on the road, and that is especially true when BYU plays San Diego State. BYU has held the Aztecs to 14 points per game in LES going back to 2000, as opposed to allowing almost 29 points per game in San Diego.
  5. Protecting Jake Heaps. Former New Mexico head coach Rocky Long is the defensive coordinator at San Diego State. Long is notorious for using complicated blitz schemes. Will the offensive line be able to protect Heaps from these blitzes? Will the running backs be effective on the ground to help slow the blitz? One thing is certain, BYU cannot throw the ball 55 times like last week. The run-pass selection must be more balanced.
All-time series: BYU leads 26-7-1
Last: BYU won 38-28 (2009)
Streak: BYU won 4

KICKOFF: 4:00 PM (MDT)
TV: The Mtn.
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, www.ksl.com

Other recent posts on BYU Football Talk:
Thursday Trivia: 10 Consecutive wins
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 45, San Diego State Aztecs 44 (1993)
Brigham Young Cougars Football, 2010: A New Low?
Poll Results: When will Jake Heaps have his first 300 yard passing game?
Brigham Young Cougars Relieve Jaime Hill of Defensive Coaching Duties

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday Trivia: 10 Consecutive wins

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week's question: "After the two in-state rivals, what school has BYU played the most in football?" Nate Walton had the correct answer: Wyoming. BYU has played the Cowboys 76 times with 43 wins, 30 losses, and 3 ties.

This week, BYU needs a win, so I was looking for a question about winning, and here is what I came up with. It is pretty straight forward, but we need 64,000 fans in LES thinking positively and cheering on the team if we want a win this week:
How many times has BYU won 10 or more games in a row?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 45, San Diego State Aztecs 44 (1993)
Brigham Young Cougars Football, 2010: A New Low?
Poll Results: When will Jake Heaps have his first 300 yard passing game?
Brigham Young Cougars Relieve Jaime Hill of Defensive Coaching Duties
Game Recap: Utah State Aggies 31, Brigham Young Cougars 16
Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Utah State Aggies

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 45, San Diego State Aztecs 44 (1993)

After starting the 1993 season 4-0, the Brigham Young Cougars dropped the next four. The fourth being a tough loss in Logan to Utah State. Game nine was against San Diego State. BYU and San Diego State had a pretty good rivalry going during the Marshall Faulk years in the early 90s. The games were high scoring shootouts with the game always in question until the final minute. This one was no exception.

John Walsh was coming off his two best games as a BYU quarterback. He had just set a school record 619 yards passing in the Utah State game. He threw for over 400 yards against Fresno State the week before, even though he didn’t enter the game until the final drive of the first half. Walsh had another big game throwing for 417 yards and five touchdowns. He even ripped off a 19-yard run that allowed BYU to kick a field goal with three seconds left in the first half to pull within one, 17-16.

Tyler Anderson dropped the kickoff to start the second half, but he was able to recover it and then raced 48 yards to the San Diego State 37-yard line. A touchdown and two-point conversion put BYU ahead 24-17. Late in the third quarter, with the game tied at 31, San Diego State was threatening to score. Then, Jack Damuni intercepted a pass at the goal line. A 63-yard touchdown pass from Walsh to Steve Christensen at the end of the third quarter and a 40-yard Walsh to Christensen connection with 13:03 to go in the fourth quarter put BYU up 45-31.

Kalin Hall ran the ball deep into San Diego State territory the next time BYU had the ball, highlighted by a 50-yard jaunt, as the Cougars tried to milk time off the clock. That drive ended with BYU’s second missed field goal of the night. When San Diego State took over with about 4:30 to play, the Aztecs scored a touchdown in 59 seconds.

On the ensuing drive, John Walsh made his only error of the night: an interception deep in BYU territory. San Diego State pulled to within one on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 1:02 to play. The Aztecs tried a two point conversion to win the game. Quarterback Tim Gutierrez was stripped in the pocket, preserving a one point lead. Travis Hall recovered the onsides kick and BYU ran out the clock.

Not only did the win snap the four game losing streak, but it kept BYU in the running for the conference championship and a trip to the Holiday Bowl.

More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

You can watch the full game here.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:Brigham Young Cougars Football, 2010: A New Low?
Poll Results: When will Jake Heaps have his first 300 yard passing game?
Brigham Young Cougars Relieve Jaime Hill of Defensive Coaching Duties
Game Recap: Utah State Aggies 31, Brigham Young Cougars 16

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brigham Young Cougars Football, 2010: A New Low?

After the Brigham Young Cougars fourth consecutive loss of 14 points or more last Friday, as a fan, I was feeling very low. This comes on the heels of four consecutive 10+ win seasons. Such a precipitous drop caused me to wonder, “Is this a new low for BYU football?” Obviously, the pre-Edwards era had lower moments, but that was well before most of our lifetimes, or at least our time following the program. Since LaVell Edwards came along and allowed fans to have good expectations, five weeks into the 2010 season could be the lowest moment in BYU football.

1-4 Start. The last time BYU was 1-4 was Edwards’ second season (1973). The difference between the 1-4 start in 1973 and 2010 is that BYU had scored 37 points in a win over Oregon State, and Gary Sheide had thrown for over 400 yards in a loss to Iowa State. In other words, BYU had some signs of life.

Lost to Utah State. BYU lost to Utah State for the first time since 1993, a two point loss 58-56. You have to go back to 1982, a three point loss 20-17, for the next time BYU lost to the Aggies. Each year, BYU went on to win the WAC and play in the Holiday Bowl (against Ohio State both years, coincidentally). The last time that BYU lost to Utah State by 15 points or more was 1978 (24-7).

Four game losing streak. This is the first four game losing streak since the 1993 season. Another difference in 1993 was that BYU started the year with a four game win streak, not a one game win streak.

Drop in Total Wins. The largest drop in wins from one year to the next at BYU was 8 from the 1996 season (14 wins) to the 1997 season (6 wins), but BYU still managed a winning record in 1997. The drop from 2001 to 2002 was 7 wins (12 wins to 5 wins). The 2002 season was the first losing season in 29 years at BYU, but at least BYU beat Utah State. Looking at the schedule, the only games that look winnable at this point are New Mexico and Colorado State (UNLV is a toss up). A three win year this year would match the eight win drop from 1996 to 1997.

Porous run defense. Opponents are averaging 259 yards rushing per game thus far in 2010. The most a BYU defense has allowed since LaVell took the reigns in 1972 is 227.7 yards per game (1993). The only other time BYU has allowed over 200 yards rushing per game was 2001 (202.8).

No passing game. The vaunted BYU passing attack was MIA at the Air Force Academy in week two. The 88 yards passing was the lowest passing total in a single game since 2003 (41 versus the University of Utah).

The 2003 season, now we are on to something. With the exception of the run defense, none of the lows that BYU has experienced this year are unprecedented. The 1973, 1982, 1993, and 1997 seasons had some redeeming virtues to them. The 2003 season did not. Forgive me for opening wounds that healed long ago, but as a quick review: the 2003 season saw BYU literally throw away a win against Stanford (John Beck interception deep in BYU territory with a few minutes to go up by 2), saw Colorado State come into Provo and walk out with a 58-13 victory and Boise State returned the favor three weeks later 50-12, saw the team lose to Wyoming, saw BYU need overtime to beat UNLV, and, worst of all, saw the NCAA record 361 consecutive game scoring streak come to an end against Utah. BYU finished 2003 with a 4-8 record, the worst for BYU since 1970 (3-8). This truly was the lowest point in BYU football.

The 2010 football season is not over. No one has put 50 points on BYU, yet. No one has shutout BYU, yet. Five wins, even six wins and a bowl game, is not mathematically impossible, yet. However, have we seen the worst that 2010 has to offer? TCU and Utah are both ranked in the top 10. Can BYU turn things around in time for those games?

Although 2010 feels very low, it is not a new low for BYU football. There is no need to resort to that level of despair, yet.

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Poll Results: When will Jake Heaps have his first 300 yard passing game?
Brigham Young Cougars Relieve Jaime Hill of Defensive Coaching Duties
Game Recap: Utah State Aggies 31, Brigham Young Cougars 16

Poll Results: When will Jake Heaps have his first 300 yard passing game?

This poll has closed and almost half of all voters (44%) thought Heaps would reach 300 yards passing against Utah State. Sometime next year was second with 22%, followed by Wyoming, San Diego State, and New Mexico all with 9%. The UNLV and Colorado State games evenly split the remaining 7 percent.

Thank you to all who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "Was Bronco's decision to let Coach Hill go a good one?"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brigham Young Cougars Relieve Jaime Hill of Defensive Coaching Duties

After the Brigham Young Cougars fell to 1-4 Friday night, they needed to change. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall moved quickly firing defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. The defense, while loaded with talent, has played terrible this year. Early on, it looked like the defense was suffering from fatigue, due to an inexperienced offense being unable to move the ball. After four games, the poor performance has created an ugly pattern.

In all fairness to the defense and to Coach Hill, BYU has played some very experienced offenses with talented players at skill positions. Air Force just beat Navy for the first time in ages. Nevada is 5-0 using an offense that has taken the nation by storm. Alabama, UCLA, and others are using the pistol and having success. Utah State showed how dangerous they could be in their season opener at Oklahoma. Three of the four teams also have added incentive to play their best game against BYU. Any team that doesn’t know their defensive assignments well will struggle against these teams. The BYU defense has also been stricken by injury. Stephen Thomas hasn’t played since suffering a concussion against Florida State. Romney Fuga and Jameson Frazier were injured during the Nevada game, and Andrew Rich and Jordan Pendleton were added to the injured list last week.

My first thought was that this move by Mendenhall had more to do with just the defensive play on the field. There must be some off field issues or something internal driving this. Listening to the press conference, Bronco has explained that leadership differences, not performance, led to Hill being let go. Bronco explained that he felt this move would help him better lead the team. This can be interpreted many ways. I wasn’t expecting that Coach Mendenhall would air out any dirty laundry (if there is any), or completely divulge his entire thought process to the public, so unless Jaime Hill does a tell all expose this is probably all we will get. Regardless of what led to this decision, I think this move will help the team.

My only other question is who to hire? Bronco might call the plays and have a heavy influence on the defense the rest of this year and next year, but a defensive coordinator is still needed. This decision falls into the President Kimball category, “Certainly the most careful thinking and planning and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that, of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong.”

I made some strong statements about the BYU culture and the BYU defense last year after the Florida State and the TCU losses. I touched on this subject again in my year end report for 2009. With this change in defensive coaching staff, now is the time for BYU to end its 30 year neglect of the defense. After the passing game got rolling, LaVell Edwards should have turned his attention to the defense and how to bring it to the same level as the offense. This lack of attention to the defense has kept BYU from jumping from a good, solid football school to one of the elite—a top 10 team on a regular basis. Look what Utah and TCU have done by emphasizing defense.

Bronco Mendenhall must find the right guy who can help recruit BYU guys, but get them to play on the field with tenacity and ferociousness. Every once in awhile, when BYU fields a great defense, BYU has a special season. More often than not, the offense carries BYU to nice heights, but reaching the lofty realm that the 1984 and 1996 teams reached won’t be done until BYU has a defense to match the offense.

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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Friday, October 1, 2010

Game Preview: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Utah State Aggies

The Brigham Young Cougars face the Utah State Aggies tonight in a game that has gone from a "sure win" for BYU to a no so certain "must win." Utah State may be considered one of the worst teams in America, but BYU cannot take this game lightly. That's not just because BYU is 1-3. First, this game is a rivalry game that has more meaning for the Aggies. Second, the game is in Logan. Utah State has only won twice since 1979, but each time it was in Logan. The last time this game was close was 2002, in Logan. Third, Utah State has shut down two good quarterbacks. Oklahoma's quarterback has a lot more experience than Jake Heaps, but he threw two interceptions, completed less than 50% of his passes, and could only manage a 105 pass efficiency rating. Fresno State's starting quarterback had a 125 pass efficiency rating (compare that to 208 and 185 in his other two games this year). These three ingredients could be the perfect recipe for a Utah State win.

BYU does have some positive signs. BYU has started the year 1-3 five times in the last 20 years (2005, 2004, 2000, 1992, 1991). All five times, BYU has won game five, including a 30-9 win over Utah State in 1992 and a 38-10 win over Utah State in 1991. Another positive is that BYU had 320 yards (229 passing) of total offense last week against Nevada. That came on the heels of 191 yards (115 passing) the week before at Florida State, and only 126 yards (44 passing) in the final 3 quarters of the Air Force game.

Things to watch for:

  1. Will October 1 be DiLuigi Day? January 1 is New Year's Day. April 1 is April Fool's Day. May 1 is May Day. A monster game from BYU's shifty back, and October 1 could be know in BYU history as J.J. Di Luigi Day. Luke Staley ran for 207 yards and scored 5 touchdowns to lead a BYU comeback against Utah State in 2001. Curtis Brown ran for 217 yards and 3 TDs to lead another comeback the next year. With the passing game not on track yet, a win might require 200 yards and 3 TDs from BYU's top offensive player this year.
  2. How will the injuries on defense impact that unit? Defensive tackle Romney Fuga is out for the year with a knee injury, and linebacker Jameson Frazier has been sidelined 3-4 weeks by a broken thumb. Fuga has made 15 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks this season. Frazier has 15 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two quarterback hurries.
  3. The BYU Passing game. Will Jake Heaps pick apart the Utah State defense like Ryan Lindley or will he be flustered like Landy Jones and Ryan Colbrun? Will Cody Hoffman continue his emergence and become Heaps' #1 target? Will the tight end finally be part of the passing game?
All-time series: BYU leads 43-33-3
Last: BYU won 35-17 (2009)
Streak: BYU won 10

KICKOFF: 6:00 PM (MDT)
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com
RADIO: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, www.ksl.com

For the results of last week's opinion poll, click here.
For this week's Flashback, click here.
For this week's Trivia question, click here.