Blue Blood: Three straight wins for Cougars linked to great line play

COMMENTARY — BYU has now won three straight games since that disappointing 31-0 loss to Michigan and is now sitting at 5-2 after beating Cincinnati 38-24 at home last Saturday.

I loved the play of both the offensive and defensive lines for the Cougars in recent games and especially vs. Cincinnati. I am a big fan of line play because that is where the game is won or lost.

Photo courtesy BYU Athletics
Photo courtesy BYU Athletics

Last week, Tanner Mangum proved that, with great pass blocking by his offensive line, he is extremely accurate and scary for any team’s secondary. He is maturing and gaining confidence with Coach Robert Anae’s offense and has gotten much better on his short and quick passes. The more time he is given, he can pick defenses apart with his mid-range and deep ball passes.

On the other side of the ball, BYU’s defense collapsed the pocket and pressured Cincinnati’s QB into bad passes and throwing the ball away as the Cougars wore down the Bearcats offensive line. The Cougars had eight sacks. The entire second half BYU’s offensive and defensive lines separated themselves from the competition, enabling BYU to pull away with a win. If the Cougars can continue to improve and dominate the line of scrimmage, they will win out and create a new culture for the program to follow moving forward.

And speaking of moving forward, BYU plays Wagner this week, a private liberal arts college on Staten Island in New York City. The Seahawks, who play at the FCS or I-AA level, are in the Northeast Conference with such powerhouses as Long Island and Fairleigh Dickinson. They did win a National Championship — in Division III — back in 1987.

Let’s face it, every Division I team has a “warm-up” game or two on its schedule. That’s what this week is for BYU. Unfortunately, it actually would have been better scheduled in September during their difficult opening stretch of the season, but the Cougars need this game and their following bye week to get back to healthy, become bowl eligible and finish out their remaining schedule strong.

BYU will have the opportunity this week to play their younger players and rest some of their starters. It could be a really good chance to give backups some limelight and see what potential is waiting behind some of the older players. Even though the competition level won’t be high, it should be good for development of players like backup QB Beau Hoge. Giving some of the younger guys playing time could really help in the future.

wagnerNo offense to Wagner, but I actually had to look up their school and football program to make sure they weren’t a community college. I seriously didn’t know anything about the Seahawks program and felt a lot better after finding out that they are a I-AA team from the Northeast Conference. Wagner is a small college that plays at home with a 3,300 maximum-capacity stadium. It’s too bad Wagner isn’t a decent FCS team. They are currently 0-6 and are averaging just 13.2 points a game, while allowing opponents 33.3 ppg.

There is nothing wrong with the Cougars playing a I-AA or FCS team. A large contingent of the big-time schools do it. But why Wagner? Surely BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe can do better than that. We have a couple of I-AA teams right here in Utah (Weber State and Southern Utah), plus the West is littered with them — Portland State, Eastern Washington, Idaho State and the rest of the Big Sky Conference.

The writing is on the wall: This will be ugly — a complete blowout. Look for some of the younger BYU talent to get out and compete. That and a guaranteed win is about all BYU can get out of the game this week.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

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