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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cautiously optimistic about the BYU offense going into Utah State game

Here we are, five games into the season, and, as usual, we have no idea how good this Brigham Young Cougars football team actually is. This is becoming customary at BYU. One game they look so good, while in another game they look awful. Every season proves to be a roller coaster ride, with the fans feeling every twist and turn, every rise and every fall.

As a BYU football fan over the years, I’ve been a part of that ride. One thing I’ve noticed is the untempered zeal of many other fans. After losing two admittedly ugly football games to quality opponents by a combine of only four points, many fans act like all is lost. The frustration and disappointment of those games taint their whole outlook on the rest of the season. They are eager to see some heads roll on the coaching staff and want the starting quarterback benched. On the other hand, after a huge victory against a sub-par opponent, many start to think that BYU is a lot better than they really are, which is often what sets them up for the disappointment when BYU struggles against higher quality foes.

In the wake of all the ebbs and flows of a football season, I’ve learned to be what I call “cautiously optimistic.” I have a reserved and tempered excitement for the season, and I learn to keep my expectations realistic. When BYU has a big win, I feel my cautious side kick in to keep the excitement in check. I lean more on my optimism after an ugly game to help me see some of the positives and keep perspective.

With BYU in the middle of coming off a big win against an easy opponent and getting ready for their second big rivalry game of the year against a formidable Utah State team, now seems like a good time for a healthy dose of cautious optimism.

Not Quite Taysom Time

Blue Cougar Football has noted that Hill’s career path has coincided with some of the greats, and there is no doubt that Hill has a huge upside. I look forward to the upcoming years, and hope to see him live up to his potential. I’m also glad to see him do well while filling-in for injured starter Riley Nelson, but it is not quite Taysom time.

Hill looked good against a very weak Hawaii defense, and his brilliant running (15 carries for 143 yards, including a 68 yard jaunt into the end zone) masked the not so impressive, albeit effective, passing attack. Hill relied on mostly short passes, and the receivers did a nice job getting yards after the catch, but again this was a defense that has been, to put it bluntly, awful. You even have to wonder how good of a running quarterback Hill is, since other teams have similarly run all over the Hawaii defense.

Still, Hill’s play in the Hawaii game was a good sign. He clearly has talent, and I’m sure he learned a lot in his first start. The passing game needs some work, but that will come with time. I am comfortable with starting Hill while Nelson is out, but I was glad to hear that Bronco is still committed to Nelson as long as he is healthy. Judging by the current ratio of votes in the weekly poll, I’m in the minority. We have heard this story before – Jake Heaps, anyone? – and it seems Bronco has learned his lesson. Hill has a lot of upside, but right now I’ll take Nelson’s grit and experience so long as he is healthy.

Return of the Running Backs? Maybe

While we are at it, let’s not get too googly-eyed over the 394 rushing yards. Hawaii has the 109th rushing defense nationally, and besides the 394 they gave up to BYU they gave up 355 to Nevada. Don’t forget that an already toothless defensive line lost two of its starters early in the game due to injury. You can bet that Utah State – whose rushing defense in the top 25 nationally (24) – will put up more of a fight. I’m concerned that, going into the Utah State game, our top two rushers are freshmen who are filling in for starters. Youth and inexperience is always tough to prepare going into a game that is bound to be emotional and heated.

Don’t get me wrong, along with Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams gives us a lot to be excited about, and should probably be the starter anyway, as has been argued here at Blue Cougar Football (though, no ill-will is meant toward the now injured Michael Alisa). Williams has the skills and the speed to be an impact player, and Paul Lasike also looks promising, but we need to realize that they are probably going to face a lot more resistance from opposing defenses the rest of the season.

What About the Offensive Line?

I actually think the O-line looked much improved. But we must remember just how weak that defensive line for Hawaii is – and they were down two starters. Still, the O-line looked better against Hawaii than they did against FCS foe Weber State, so I think things are moving in the right direction there. But they may yet struggle against some of the better opponents coming up on the schedule.

Conclusion

I want to be clear: the Hawaii game gave BYU fans a lot to be excited about. Improved offensive line play, two exciting and dynamic freshmen making big plays, and overall strong play from the offense for the first time this season are all good things. Hawaii was the right kind of team to be playing when you have to make adjustments to the offensive line and break in a freshman quarterback. However, let’s keep our feet on the ground and realize that there is still a lot for this team to improve on and some more difficult games coming up this season.

I admit that I could be completely and utterly wrong – maybe it is Taysom time, and he and the running backs are just going to tear up Utah State and everyone else this season. That is what is so great about being cautiously optimistic – not only does it help avoid the letdown of unfulfilled expectations, but you can be pleasantly surprised sometimes.

I still believe BYU is a quality team that can compete with and even beat anyone their schedule, but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially on the offensive side of the ball. You can bet that there will be more ugly games this season. Hopefully, as the team improves, BYU can be the kind of team that finds the way and the will to win ugly.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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