Since Jake Heaps committed to play football for the Brigham Young Cougars, he has talked about winning a national championship. After the Utah game I questioned, “Where is the killer instinct?” If Heaps is going to realize his lofty dreams at BYU, then BYU must have this killer instinct.
What is Killer Instinct?
Killer instinct is one of those abstract concepts, like “it,” in sports that doesn’t really have a definition. However, killer instinct is real, and it can be identified. Seven signs will show when BYU has captured a killer instinct.
1. Score touchdowns, not field goals. A team with killer instinct finishes drives. When they can sniff the end zone, they go for blood. Scoring is much more important than being in scoring position. The Utah game is usually when BYU can’t find the end zone and kicks more field goals than completed passes. This comes back to haunt any team. While all the stats indicate a one sided game, the opposition is still in striking distance in the fourth quarter and only has to mount one good drive to get momentum and possibly win.
2. Score early and often. Scoring first, second, third, fourth, and fifth not only builds a commanding lead, it demoralizes the competition. When given a chance to put teams away in the first half, do it! Don’t just run out the clock at the end of the half, drive down the field and add one more score. Then, on the first possession of the second half, full speed ahead. Set the tone to start the second half and snuff out any notion that the opponent may still have of a comeback. BYU did effectively put UNLV and Colorado State away in the first half in 2010, but took a little longer against New Mexico and missed a golden opportunity to do it against Utah.
3. Score on 1st and Goal. When BYU gets a first and goal inside the five-yard line, it is time to drop the hammer. Every down that the defense gets a stop, the defense gains confidence and the offense loses momentum. Pretty soon, it is 3rd and goal—a must score situation.
4. Force turnovers. Nothing deflates and disrupts an offense more than turnovers. The Cougar D needs to create a minimum of 3 turnovers each game. Turnovers are momentum changers. They can stop scoring threats or give the offense a short field.
5. 3 and out. When the defense isn’t creating turnovers, they need to force a punt after three plays. Don’t give the opponent any momentum by moving the chains. Don’t let the opponent turn the game into a field position chess match. To “bend but not break” is to play with fire. If they don’t score, they can’t win. The less they have the ball, the less likely they are to score.
6. Swarm and smother. The number of turnovers and 3 and out drives will spike if the defense is aggressive. Don’t “read and react.” Don’t play passive. BYU defenders need to live in the backfield, cause chaos, and keep the opposition on their heals every play. Get them thinking more about where you are coming from than where they need to go.
7. Never be satisfied. Both the offense and the defense need to have an insatiable appetite for winning. Yeah, it is fun to beat a marquee opponent or pile it on an inferior team, but none of that should satisfy BYU. The goal has to be a perfect season. From the opening kickoff in game one to the final whistle in the bowl game, everyone needs to feel that there is unfinished business. Being the top ranked team is better than beating the top ranked team, but an undefeated record is required. Entitlement must be thrown out the window. BYU has a national championship and a multitude of former Cougars have done great things, but the playing field isn’t tilted in BYU’s favor for those things. Every game still starts 0-0, each team kicks off from the same spot. Each team still has to go 10 yards for a first down. Each team gets only 6 points for a touchdown. Put that silver platter away, you first have to kill the prey.
BYU football has some great achievements under Bronco Mendenhall. The future looks very bright. Without a killer instinct, the BYU camp could be hit with a disappointing dose of reality.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at email@example.com
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