Blue Blood: Line play doomed BYU vs. Notre Dame

COMMENTARY — It was not for a lack of effort by the Cougars last Saturday that they fell to Notre Dame, 23-13. The effort was there, they just flat out lost at the line of scrimmage on offense and defense.

There are many other reasons BYU lost to the Irish. The Cougars did not take advantage of all of their trips to the red zone — usually getting stopped short with field goal attempts. BYU also had a few fatal errors in the fourth quarter that kept them from making it a much tighter final score, including a blocked field goal by the Irish late in the game. During the loss to the Fighting Irish, BYU also had a few bad play calls that were apparent to most.

120px-BYUlogoBut the bottom line is this: BYU got worked over on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Cougars routinely work over teams like Middle Tennessee and Idaho State by dominating the line. The big dogs work over those smaller, less-talented opponents, making the skill players’ jobs much easier. The shoe was on the other foot vs. Notre Dame. BYU got shoved around and the Irish owned the line of scrimmage and, ultimately, the game.

Add to that the questionable offensive play calling late in the game and it was a roller coaster that got off its tracks.

I have not had to call out BYU’s offensive line or D-line much this season, but this was, by far, the worst game of the year in the trenches for the Cougars. I don’t know if it was the long flight, the cold or that Notre Dame’s line came to play and BYU’s did not, but that was where this game was lost. It was Notre Dame’s Senior Day and I am sure that this did play into the hands of all of the Irish players as they were intent on going out winning.

BYU’s coaching staff must have seen something differently than I did. When I reviewed Notre Dame’s team as a whole, it was very obvious (as I stated in my article last week) that this game was going to be won or lost on the line of scrimmage, and that both teams were ready to run the ball until they were stopped. The Cougars waited far too long to put an added safety in the box to add more run support, which would have forced the Irish to throw the ball. Notre Dame gashed BYU over and over with long runs while eating the play clock away the first half and into the third quarter. The Irish racked up 249 yards on the ground, averaging five yards per carry.

By mid-third quarter, BYU started to tighten things up, keeping Notre Dame out of the end zone and away from eating up the majority of the game clock. By then, it was almost too late. The Irish were also able to pass for 235 yards and one TD. Both teams recorded no fumbles lost and one interception apiece, so the turnover margin did not play a big factor in the game.

Next up for the Cougars is the Nevada Wolf Pack and it falls on their senior day. This will also be a homecoming for senior Kyle Van Noy as he plays in front of his hometown crowd in Reno, Nev., on Saturday.

nevadaIt was the fall of 2010 the last time BYU played Nevada. The Cougars ended up losing at home, 27-13. I still remember QB Colin Kaepernick running over BYU, knowing that he was a special talent. Nevada is not the same team it was a couple of years ago after losing two-time WAC player of the year Kaepernick to the NFL. The Wolf Pack is currently 4-7, coming off a win over San Jose State. A couple of notable wins for the Wolf Pack were early this season vs. Hawaii and Air Force. Although they have had a very tough schedule , the Pack did not really put up a big fight against the better programs like Boise State, Florida State and UCLA.

Nevada has some notable players that BYU will have to defend on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Wolf Pack has two ground attack options, running back Kendall Brock and quarterback Cody Fajardo. Brock currently has 9 TDs and averages 4.4 yards per carry while Cody Fajardo has 7 TDs with a 4.7 yards per carry average. Fajaro’s main target through the air is Brandon Wimberly, who averages 10 yards per catch and has 7 TDs to date.

BYU is heavily favored to win this game by Vegas oddsmakers. The Cougars are a 14-point favorite on Saturday. With a Fight Hunger Bowl game (vs. the sixth selection from the Pac-12) already secure for the Cougars, they need this win to end the regular season on a positive note. An 8-4 record is not great, but will give the Cougars a chance for nine total wins in 2013. Saturday’s game is at Nevada at 1 p.m. (MST).


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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