COMMENTARY – BYU had absolutely no problem handling Boise State last Friday, beating the Broncos 37-20 at LaVell Edwards stadium.
The big win also makes Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team bowl-eligible this season at 6-2, with four more games still to be played. Bronco will now be taking his team to its ninth straight bowl appearance as head coach of BYU. This win was another big stepping stone in the right direction for this program. While Boise State’s program is not what it has been in the past few years, the Broncos are still great competitors and I think that BSU will win the Mountain West Conference and go to a decent bowl game after the season. This meeting of BSU and BYU will be fun to watch annually — the alternating home-and-home series is scheduled for at least the next 10 seasons.
BYU’s win definitely got the big BSU monkey off the Cougars back. At least for this season, the Cougars have the bragging rights and made many alumni (myself included) very proud! We will see the Broncos again next year and I would expect a much more competitive game from them. I really do not recall Boise State ever being beaten as badly as BYU beat them.
Also, the win had to have special meaning to the six former Idaho residents who are now Cougar players: Taysom Hill (Pocatello), Adam Ingersoll (Boise), Benson Manwaring (Boise), Colby Pearson (Blackfoot), JoRyheem Peoples (Rigby) and Eric Thorton (Meridian). I know it was an especially big win for Hill, after last season’s heartbreaking 7-6 loss in Boise. Now Boise State is on the schedule every year until 2022, so its not payback, but redemption. It is about evening the records and getting back to the days where BYU did not lose very often and was widely recognized as a national powerhouse.
These wins really do affect recruiting high school players since both teams are recruiting from the same schools. Years and years ago, when I was recruited both by ASU and Arizona, the Wildcat coaching staff was able to brag about beating the Sun Devils that last season. This was the case when I went to South Carolina and Southern Cal as well. Teams use these wins to help persuade players to join their team, instead of the competitor’s program.
With no game this week, I will give you a little more feedback on the BSU game and a mid-season report.
The Cougars offense really played balanced football, working the pass and run with great consistency. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae is now hitting a play-calling stride and is on the same page as his players. Anae is calling some great games and I am excited to see how he can help this program continue to develop and recruit over the years. This is showing more each and every week as you watch confidence growing in all positions. Now that we have more than half the season to look back on, we are able to see the progress that players like Hill, Ross Apo, Jamaal Williams and many more have made. Hill was 27 for 41 passing for 339 yards and three touchdowns, plus he had 69 rushing yards on 18 carries. These stats alone show you that they are showing much better balance and consistency.
I have to admit, one thing that makes me cringe is when Hill takes those big hits while running the ball. I know he is a very tough player, but he needs to learn how to protect himself and not take unnecessary abuse to avoid injury. Keeping him healthy and on the field is crucial. His QB mechanics have really tightened up, but he still needs to slide here and there instead of hurdling or going head first into tacklers. I love that he can scramble when needed and cause mismatches, but leave some of the running up to Williams, Paul Lisake and Alge Brown. Williams carried the ball 21 times for 107 yards and is developing into the college football coach’s dream running back. He is one talented running back. Lasike and Brown also provide toughness and a change of pace when Williams comes out.
Lets keep our fingers crossed that the Cougars receiving corps continues down its current road of success. Anyone who follows BYU football knows that Cody Hoffman is having a record-breaking college career for the Cougars. He has now become the all-time career touchdown leader, passing Austin Collie with 31 TDs. With how Hill and Hoffman have been connecting on the same page weekly, I can see this number increasing to much greater heights by the season’s end.
Mitch Mathews had another great performance with 4 catches for 66 yards and a TD. With the BYU’s receivers now being delivered very fast, accurate passes from Hill, it is something they can keep building on, especially with Apo. He is much more consistent now and is also coming out of his shell, making big plays weekly now. Against Boise, he scored on a 37-yard pass play. That’s his third TD in just the last two games. It will be a great thing to see if Ross can keep this up and carry it into 2014 for his senior campaign.
BYU’s defense continues to look rock-solid. The Cougars held the Broncos to 20 points (Boise was averaging 39.9 ppg coming into the match-up with BYU). This Cougar group of linebackers could be one of the best core groups in the country. Uani Unga had 15 total tackles, followed by Alani Fua with 13. Spencer Hadley looked like he never missed a beat with his previous suspension behind him as he had a career-high 12 tackles (8 solo) and his best game of the year. I know one thing from all of my college defensive line days: You have to have a great defensive line keeping those offensive lineman off your linebackers to make the play. This linebacker group does.
What would one of my article be this season with out a Kyle Van Noy spotlight? Van Noy is up for the Butkus Award (nations top linebacker), and is one of 12 semifinalists. The Butkus award is named after NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, one of the fiercest defenders ever to play the game. Van Noy has been a defensive statistical leader for several years for Mendenhall’s famed defenses. I believeVan Noy has been the foundation needed to allow Mendenhall to open up the defensive play-calling, due to opponents having to double- and even triple-team him. Even with all the extra attention, he’s still managed to tally 47 tackles, a safety, four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, six pass break-ups, 11 QB hurries and an interception for a TD this season.
Up next for BYU is a match-up with the Wisconsin Badgers Nov. 9. The game will be at 1:30 p.m. on ABC or ESPN. Can BYU beat another team with BCS hopes this season? It would be a true accomplishment for their program and set them up nicely for the last three games against very beatable opponents. If the Cougars can take this week off to prepare for the Badgers and get healthy, I think the Badgers are going to have more than their hands full next week.
After the Badgers, BYU will face Idaho State in Provo, Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and Nevada on the road. These are all winnable games for the Cougars, especially with how they have gelled this season. BYU has added the one thing they have lacked over the last couple seasons: offensive consistency. I see BYU definitely winning three out of the next four games if they keep up what they have been doing the last month or so. More on Wisconsin and their extremely talented and somewhat underrated team next week.
Scott Young is a sports columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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