Anyone that tells you they saw that coming is a liar. Cougars and Utes alike were surprised. I certainly was. I had picked the Cougars to win this one 21-17, figuring the offense would get better, but that being the rivalry game there would be mistakes that would lead to a close game.
Despite 3 first half turnovers, the Utes led BYU by only 14-10 at the half. By that time, I was convinced the worst was behind us, and that the “rivalry jitters” had all been shaken out. But then, for the second week in a row, BYU’s opponent came out for the second half and completely outplayed the Cougars.
Cougars fans are all too be found somewhere in the following stages (yeah, of grief):
I hit stages 1-2 in the third quarter, and cruised right along to stages 3 and 4 in the fourth. Stayed depressed all night (I feel it resurfacing here as I have to revisit stats and storylines…) but I feel that I have finally moved on to acceptance. The loss is what it is –> a BIG loss, to Utah. For the next year, any Ute can simply point to the sky and say “scoreboard” and you’re done. There is no way around it. BYU was beaten very, very badly, by the team we all love to hate.
Being in the acceptance stage, I am ok with continuing my review of the game as usual.
Bronco made it clear that he was unhappy with the rivalry game being played so early in the season. That may be due to his early season record (10-11 in the first three games through all of his seasons), or it’s because he simply knew that his team was not ready for this kind of a game. Either way, he was justified in his thinking.
Keys to the game
Doman. Honestly, I have very little to complain about with Doman himself this week. The offense was the definition of sloppy, and that’s on Doman, but the play was so sloppy that it’s hard to say that the play calling wasn’t good. I was happy with the way BYU was able to move the ball. They were able to drive down the field repeatedly. Unfortunately, turnovers were the rule for the offense, and they quickly negated any positive plays made.
Heaps. When not involved with a fumble, Jake looked better today – he finally managed to connect with Cody Hoffman, who averaged 17.3 ypc over 8 catches for 138 yards. Heaps also threw for 305 yards, one TD and one INT. It was the first time in his career that he broke the 300 mark. Room for improvement? Yes. He only completed 27/50 passes. Lost at least two fumbles (sorry, lost track of all of them).
The Rush Attack. Virtually non-existent. DiLuigi and Quezada each fumbled on first quarter drives, and (not counting quarterback negative yardage) the team rushed for 42 yards. It didn’t help that the Cougars fell behind quickly in the third quarter, and in the last 32 plays, only one of them was not a pass, and that was Riley Nelson rushing 12 yards. You have to conserve the clock to play from behind, but even when they had the chance they couldn’t get it done.
Special Teams. Well, I thought we had an exciting group of guys to return punts and kickoffs this year. Hoffman was capable but unimaginative in his kickoff returns, averaging 17.4 yards over 8 of them. On one return, JD Falslev officially “muffed” the ball, effectively giving it to the Utes on the one yard line. Bright spot, Sorensen did hit a career high 46 yard field goal. Utah missed a field goal AND a PAT.
Ball Control. 7. 6 fumbles and 1 interception. Jake Heaps fumbled twice and threw the INT. One fumble was recovered by the Utes in the end zone. Two fumbles were made after BYU had driven inside the Ute ten yard line. One fumble (by Riley Nelson) was recovered and returned 57 yards for a touchdown. Add up all of those, and say the Cougars would have punched it in on the two drives when they lost the ball deep in Utah territory, and you do have a different game. Except the Cougars did give up all of those fumbles, and they did not, in fact, score those points.
Bronco D. The defense started out very good. They overcame three early turnovers and kept the game within one score. In the second half though, things fell apart. This was the first time since Bronco took over as DC, that I can remember the defense literally giving up, standing around to watch Utah score. It’s hard to blame them when you see how little the offense did with the ball each time the defense earned it back. In the end, the showing was pitiful as the Utes racked up nearly 500 yards of offense, with more than 242 yards on the ground.
What we know about Utah (2-1, 0-1 Pac 12)
The Utes were the better team on Saturday. They were better prepared, better coached, executed at a higher level, and made BYU pay for every single mistake. They have a week off before hosting the University of Washington on October 1st.
What we know about BYU (1-2)
Literally nothing. Seriously. I picked the Cougars to go 10-2 this year, with losses coming against Texas and TCU. Getting completely decimated by Utah changes everything. Can the Cougars beat UCF next week? Can they beat Utah State? Granted, Bronco’s teams typically struggle through three games and then play lights out the rest of the season. The back-half of BYU’s schedule is loaded with cupcakes, but will they be enough to make the Armed Forces Bowl? Most of these questions will depend on how the team responds to this devastating loss to Utah. The question is this: is this season like last season, and things will get worse, or is this season like ’06, ’07, or ’09, and things will get better. We’ll find out when we see which team shows up to play next week.