BYU vs. Utah: Five Game Observations

I have never hated being right as much as I do right now. In Thursday’s Five Things to Watch For, I posed a couple questions that I said would be key factors in the game. If those key items went one way, Utah would win and if they went the other, the Brigham Young Cougars would win their first Holy War in three years. The big keys went Utah’s way and now the Cougars have to wait until next year to have another shot at them.

Question No. 1: Is Utah hungry and motivated after last week’s loss to Utah State, or is it disheartened?

In my Five Things to Watch for, I used examples of other teams’ past performances after tough losses, and asked which team would Utah emulate, the 2001 Nebraska team, who lost to Colorado and then was blasted by Miami in the National Championship game, or the 2006 USC team, who lost to cross town rival UCLA and then came back to win the Rose Bowl over Michigan.

Unfortunately for Cougar fans it was the 2006 USC team, but as posed in question No. 2, that was more BYU’s fault than anything.

Question No. 2: How fast will BYU start the game?

In Five Things to Watch For, I explained the difference between the Nebraska team and the USC team, and why they came away with such different results. The answer is simply that Miami came out firing against Nebraska and put them away early. Michigan on the other hand started the game slow and allowed USC to crawl out of its hole. They allowed USC to remember, “Hey, we are a good football team,” and the Trojans ended up being the winners.

BYU started the game much to slow. False starts, fumbles, and not scoring until four minutes remaining in the first half gave Utah way too much hope, especially playing at home. This was, in my opinion, the biggest key to the game, and it went all Utah’s way.

Question No. 3: Who will take the bulk of the reps at Quarterback for Utah?

It appears Jon Hays is Utah’s new man. Freshman Travis Wilson made an appearance, only to be tackled for a two-yard loss. Hays didn’t play great, but he got the job done. After going 6-3 as a starter last season, and being 1-0 this season, he has a respectable record, and should graduate as a Ute favorite.

Question No. 4: John White hurt too?

Apparantly all that stuff he said to the Salt Lake Tribune was fluff, as White sat on the sidelines in a sweatshirt.

"I’m great. I am ready to go out there and pound these guys. There are no issues at all,” he said to the Tribune on Thursday before the game.

White missed Tuesday’s practice leading up to the game after he sprained his ankle against Utah State. Utah fans and media began panicking he would be out for the game. But he claimed he missed practice because of a class assignment and was 100 percent.

“I  miss one day of practice and they are all over it," he said. “Nobody knows me.”

Well John, now they all know you were lying.

Question No. 5: How will Riley Nelson handle a tough road environment?

My worry here was that I had never really seen Riley play a road game as intense as this one, unless you could his wild game against TCU last year at Cowboy Stadium.

Overall, I thought Riley handled it okay, but it wasn’t enough for a win. He was 17 of 35 for 206 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He had some gritty plays but also some mistakes. There were a number of false start penalties, delay of games, and the offense looked stagnant.

As mentioned by Blue Cougar Football on Friday, Nelson needed to win this game to cement his position in history as a solid BYU quarterback. Unfortunately, when Cougar fans remember Nelson they may only remember his long hair that came out of his helmet against Utah State and high fiving referees in 2011. 

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