The 2012 football season has been trying for Brigham Young Cougars fans. This makes it a little hard to feel thankful on this special holiday. There are, however, several reasons for BYU football fans to give thanks. Here are five.
Cody Hoffman and Jamaal Williams are, hands down, BYU’s two best players on offense. Both arrived at BYU through a little bit of networking. One of Bronco Mendenhall’s former Oregon State teammates let him know about Hoffman, and former BYU football player Tony Crutchfield was one of Williams’ high school football coaches.
2. Crossover athletes/Foreigners.
Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah may not be the best player on the defensive side of the ball for the Cougars. That is up for debate. What is not up for debate is how great Ziggy has played filling in for an injured Eathyn Manumaleuna. The African (Ghana) native’s NFL draft stock is rapidly rising and is BYU’s best chance to end a two-year shutout in the NFL draft. Ansah is a semi-finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy given to the top college football player who started his career as a walk-on. On the season, he has 53 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries, and 7 pass breakups.
Rugby player Paul Lasike is an up and coming player for BYU. The New Zealand native has never played football before, but has caught on pretty well. As one could imagine, he is a bruising runner who doesn’t go down easy and can pick up extra yards after contact. Lasike is sixth on the team in rushing yards (109) and third on the team in rushing touchdowns (2). He also has one reception for 25 yards. As a special teams contributor, Lasike has made four tackles.
3. Miami’s self imposed bowl ban.
The Miami Hurricanes self imposed a bowl ban for the second consecutive season as a form of self-discipline for the unsavory dealings of sports agent Nevin Shapiro. As a result, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will represent the ACC Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game. (If Miami loses to Duke this weekend, then Georgia Tech would be the ACC Coastal Division champion even if the Hurricanes hadn’t imposed this ban.)
BYU stung the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta less than a month ago, 41-17. It was a dominating performance by the Cougars defense. Georgia Tech’s high powered option offense had just 117 rushing yards and accounted for three points.
4. Former USC assistant coaches.
Norm Chow and Steve Sarkisian both have ties to BYU. They were both assistant coaches under Pete Carroll at USC. In the past, fans have had other reasons to be thankful for these two men. In 2012, they gave Cougar fans some new reasons.
Steve Sarkisian is now the head coach at the University of Washington. Consequently, he has played the two Pac-12 teams that beat BYU this year. In each case, he avenged the loss that BYU received at the hands of Oregon State and Utah. The loss to Washington is part of the reason Utah will not be going to a bowl this season.
Norm Chow is now the head coach of the Hawaii Warriors. Under his guidance, the Warriors have been a pushover for every FBS school they have played. When Hawaii came to Provo, three very good things happened. BYU had its best rushing day in many, many years (396 yards, two 100-yard rushers), BYU recorded its first shutout since 2009, and Taysom Hill became the first true freshman quarterback in school history to win his first career start.
5. The other Riley.
Quarterback Riley Nelson has caused a lot of mixed emotions among fans. On the other hand, Riley Stephenson has had a fantastic season. He is a semi-finalist for the Ray Guy Award (best punter in the nation). In previous seasons, Stephenson has struggled with consistency, but this year "the other Riley" has been rock solid.
Stephenson is second in the nation with a 47.1 yards per punt average, which is nearly five yards better than his average last year. Every game this season, Stephenson has had at least one punt 53 yards or longer. Over half of all his punts (25 of 49) have been 50 yards or longer. Stephenson isn't just about power. His ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory has turned field position in BYU's favor many times. Only five punts have been touchbacks, while 23 have been inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
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