COMMENTARY – BYU was a 16-point favorite vs. UConn last week, so the 35-10 final score was not a surprise to anyone. A lot of this game was predictable, but there were many questions left unanswered from last year’s end. It felt like a solid when. Hey, BYU actually scheduled a decent team to start the season and not a I-AA school like many teams open with (our Pac-12 friends, for example). Kudos to the Cougars for taking on a good young program.
Certainly BYU needs to clean up all the penalties, but the biggest thing I learned from last week is thazt this is not the same BYU team as last year. This year’s Cougars have some swagger and perhaps a chip on their shoulders. As I sat back and watched last week’s match-up, several things both good and bad stood out. Taysom Hill’s play was almost flawless and showed maturity. He consistently made smart decisions and his experience is now showing on the field.
He went 28 for 36, racking up 308 yards in the passing game, and ran for another 97 yards off of 12 carries. He had every one of his skilled positions active and contributing. His techniques of making reads and checking off and down on receivers has improved greatly. All I can say about him right now is he is a great duel threat QB and will scare all apposing defensive coordinators.
The O-line also played awesome and look like a completely different group from the last couple of seasons – Big, Strong, Fast, Conditioned, Aggressive, and in great shape. This group looks like it has finally gelled. I can’t wait to see how well they fare against tougher foes.
As a former Cougar O-lineman, I expect this type of play. The trenches, where both offensive and defensive linemen battle it out, is where the game is truly won or lost. If this group continues to stay healthy and play at this level, BYU will have a great year on offense.
Bronson Kafusi was the highlight of the defensive side of the ball and showed that he can keep up the leadership roll for BYU’s defense. The front seven of the defense looked solid, but will need to get off to a quicker start on getting to the QBs from here on out.
But it was just one game and Saturday’s bout with Texas should have Cougars fans wondering if BYU can beat Texas for the second straight year.
Texas has a new head coach (Charlie Strong) and the Longhorns have had several big changes over the offseason that BYU will have to be prepared for. Strong was the former Louisville Cardinals head coach with an impressive winning streak. Longhorn fans are expecting really big things from this young coach.
I truly believe BYU’s 40-21 drubbing of Texas, a game in which Hill rushed for 259 yards, was the beginning of the end for former UT coach Mack Brown. The Cougars obviously left a black mark on that program last season and I know that redemption for that loss has been one of the biggest offseason goals for Texas. Strong currently has his team ranked 19th in the some national polls (CBS Sports), while BYU is right behind them ranking at 24 in the same poll.
Last week the ‘Horns beat North Texas 38-7. The Mean Green, barely a I-A opponent, had no chance against Texas. But Texas did experience a couple of big setbacks from the game – starting QB David Ash suffered a concussion and will miss the BYU game. The starting nod is going to Tyrone Swoopes, who will be making his first career start. Swoopes is still a very rough, unpolished QB without much experience. If that wasn’t a big enough blow for UT’s offense, they also lost center Domonic Espinosa, who went down with a broken ankle. Espinosa had started 40 straight games for the Longhorns, so his loss will definitely have an impact on the gameplan.
Surprisingly, the Longhorns are still 3-point favorites over BYU.
This is a huge game for Texas. The Longhorns need to beat the Cougars to prove they are back on the national scene. The same can be said for BYU. The winner will have beaten a great opponent and the loser will have trouble being considered a power team this season.
BYU’s O-line needs to stop UT defensive end Cedrick Reed who had 10 sacks last season and is very disruptive in the backfield. The O-line needs to continue its play from last week and eliminate the drive-stopping penalties.
The Cougars also need to account for Texas linebacker Jordan Hicksa and conerback Quandre Diggs. On D, BYU needs to try and rattle this new starting QB and make the Longhorns run the ball.
But perhaps the biggest issue the Cougars will have to deal with won’t be on the field at all. Playing at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium is an experience the BYU players will never forget. DKR Stadium holds 101,000 fans and has a jumbo screen that is nearly 30 yards tall and 42 yards wide – nicknamed Godzillatron.
The crowd will be large and frenzied, with the bloodlust of revenge in their minds. Starting the game well could be the biggest key of all. If the Cougars can get the crowd out of the game early, things could get a bit easier.
BYU will have a lot on the line as the Cougs continue down the path to trying to change people’s perspective. Right now, BYU is on the outside looking in as far as the movers and shakers in college football. A win will keep their hope alive in being considered a team worth the power conferences scheduling for non-conference games. It will also put them on the national radar again as far as recruiting goes.
This is the toughest game on BYU’s 2014 schedule, and a must win for the Cougars if they’re going to be taken seriously this season.
I believe BYU will win this game, especially if the offense can continue to play smart football.
Blue Blood is a weekly column written by former BYU captain Scott Young. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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