COMMENTARY – Please let me once again sound like a broken record while recapping the loss BYU suffered to Utah (20-13) last Saturday. The game seemed very dull and about as eventful as watching paint dry. Even for the average Utah fan, the game must have been less than thrilling with these two offenses going up against good solid defenses.
Yes, there was the rivalry feel at the start of the game. But it seemed to me these two teams were both playing to not lose. The better approach would have been to play to win! “Wake up, BYU offense!” was going through my mind as I kept myself from falling asleep. I did realize once again the defense seemed to be the strong suit for both teams as the offenses were not racking up the point totals. It was not a match like I saw when Utah played Utah State in Week 1 or even like the Utah-Oregon State game. In fact, it was the polar opposite.
I did expect Utah to be tough and physical, like they usually are. But the Cougars were an absolute letdown from their last performance vs. Texas. Yes, Texas is going to prove to be overrated for much of the entire season (although the Longhorns did beat Kansas State last week), but BYU was the team that let the air out of their own sails. Where did the fire of BYU’s O-line go from the Texas game? It once again seemed to me that they played like they did vs. Virginia in Week 1. There was a complete lack of getting off the ball and being nasty. Where did the pressure go from BYU’s great defensive front? It was not there and I again blame the team and program for a lack of identity.
It seems like every week I write about the inconsistency of the BYU football program. Who is going to show up each week? Against the Utes, it was a team that was just going through the motions. This does speak and is mainly geared toward the offensive side off the ball and not the solid defense, but it’s a team sport and the offense has to match the defensive play to be successful in today’s game. I don’t want to sit here and beat up on the Cougars, but in my opinion the senior leadership of this team should wake up and realize that the season hangs in the balance. There are much tougher teams ahead and the time to speak up is now. Just look at the schedule moving forward and realize that the Utes are far from teams like Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Boise State.
I know this is redundant, but it is so frustrating. I see flashes of a team that has so much potential and then that glimpse and spark are gone the next series. I saw this in many games that were winnable for the Cougars last year and already this in Utah and Virginia. Why does there have to be an identity check for the Cougars every other week, and what happened to the team that played Texas? Yes, Utah is a different type team, but I am talking about BYU not being consistent at winning or losing. There are two faces to this team again this year. I fully support this program, but let’s get some athletic resilience. Utah is a solid team, but clearly BYU just made them out to be better than they really are.
One of the most interesting stats from last weekend’s rivalry game was total offense. BYU ended up with 443 yards and held Utah to 402 yards. With BYU’s defense again holding tough, why was this yardage total not reflected on the scoreboard? There are many reasons, but the bottom line is the Cougars didn’t finish drives with touchdowns, instead settling for field goal attempts. I mentioned in my last article that field goals would be a huge factor in this game and they did with Justin Sorenson’s missed 33-yarder. You cannot leave rivalry games to be decided by kickers or you will lose more times than win.
BYU’s defense again played solid as it kept Utah’s offense in check for much of the game. But the BYU offense failed to move the ball through most of the evening. Tyler Beck, Kyle Van Noy and Daniel Sorenson all tallied eight or more tackles and are the rocks of consistency on this team.
Taysom Hill went 18 for 48 passing with an interception and showed that he still needs much improvement to his throwing game if he is to lead his team to offensive passing success. He did have one breakout 41-yard run that set up a Sorenson field goal, but obviously he did not repeat his huge performance vs. Texas. It was nice to see Cody Hoffman back and looking healthy and solid with 108 yards in receiving. Jamaal Williams only rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries. The good news is his third-quarter injury turned out to be not as bad as it seemed. He suffered a concussion and a stinger and could return soon. Michael Alisa came in and played solid, scoring a rushing touchdown after Williams’ exit.
So, life goes on. The sun did come up Sunday morning and the Cougars have two more months of football to try and earn a bowl berth. It all starts Friday night against Middle Tennessee at Lavell Edwards Stadium at 7 p.m. With a short week, prep time is more condensed, not to mention recovery time for injured and bruised players. This makes three straight home games for the Cougars.
For those not familiar with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, they are the newest members to the packed Conference USA. C-USA includes teams such as Tulsa, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Rice, Marshal, Tulane, and many more. The Blue Raiders’ record is 3-1 overall and 1-0 in conference. Last Saturday, Middle Tennessee beat Florida Atlantic in overtime, 42-35.
A couple of players to keep an eye on are defensive end Dearco Nolan and running back Reggie Whatley. The C-USA named them both players of the week in their win over FAU. Also, Jordan Parker is averaging 108.8 yards per game rushing for MTU. QB Logan Kilgore is averaging 182.2 yard per game in passing with many solid receivers like Tavarres Jefferson and Kyle Griswould. The Blue Raiders defense is giving up 28.5 points per game and MTU is scoring 31 points a game on offense.
While this team has not faced a team like BYU, they look good. Vegas oddsmakers have BYU favored by 22 points. It should be an easy win at home for the Cougars. They need this game to again put themselves on track to a winning season and a potential bowl game. I look at this as an opponent that BYU should be able to use to start putting its game plan together for Utah State on October 4.
BYU vs. Middle Tennessee will be televised on ESPNU.
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