COMMENTARY – It’s never a good sign to be virtually hitting the proverbial panic button after game one of the BYU season and many did that very thing last Saturday.
Every season you have smaller programs knock off bigger programs and what’s scary is that it could have been the Cougars this year. Internally, I am sure there is no panic in the BYU program – just a bunch of priorities to iron out on both sides of the ball (which typically happens the first game of the year).
BYU missing a short field goal in the fourth quarter kept it way too close for comfort, the game ending in a 20-6 win at home against FCS team Portland State. That is a positive thing, because a win is a win in any book and that really is all that matters.
But the unimpressive style in which the Cougars won left many scratching their heads as to what identity the 2017 Cougars will have on both sides of the ball. Yes, the matchup between BYU and Portland State was an unexpected surprise for most of whom watched the game, minus some Portland State fans. Who figured it would be much closer than the 35-point Vegas spread which was given to BYU?
But I give Portland State two thumbs up for being a fundamentally solid, competitive program. BYU did some good things, but that was really overshadowed by the first-game jitters and problems – like too many penalties – that come along with a first game of the new season. One thing I can say is that there isn’t a BYU fan out there that would have said last week wasn’t a good time to have a slow start as opposed to one of the next few opponents on BYU’s schedule.
With room for improvement across the board, a few things stood out to me. This is the first time in many years that BYU has had an actual warm-up game and Portland State turned out to be a lot tougher all-around than anyone expected.
BYU’s offense sputtered for much of the game. Tanner Mangum and company showed a few flashes of a potentially solid play, but Ty Detmer was never able to get his offense into a rhythm. Mangum looks like he may have really matured as a Division 1 college quarterback. Let’s be honest here, he made a name for himself as the Hail Mary king, but his performances when looking at technical parts of a QB were far less than stellar.
But Mangum now looks to have improved greatly on his passing progression issues from seasons past. It was nice to watch him not stare down his targeted receivers and actually move his eyes and body to a second, third and even a fourth receiver without forcing the ball out.
Another positive: For the first time in many years, we can say they have a potentially great freshman tight end in Matt Bushman. With what looks to be a solid backfield, full of different running back styles replacing all-time BYU rusher Jamaal Williams, the rush game seems ready to rule. Squally Canada leads the way there.
BYU’s offensive line looks hard-nosed and solid, but will surely be tested this week with a much bigger and faster LSU defensive front. If the Cougars are to have a chance this week, it has to start with the offensive line and winning the line of scrimmage.
On defense, BYU looked good for most of the game, but showed some vulnerability that needs to be worked out quickly. The entire defense seemed to be a little out of wind and had a tough time when they couldn’t keep Portland State’s offense off the field with three-and-outs.
Portland State was able to spread BYU out, between a decent ground and air game, at one point driving down the field on a 17-play drive that ended in PSU’s only touchdown.
I do not know if it was BYU playing down to the level of competition or that Portland State was really solid with a great game plan that was executed and worked well. Either way, the Cougars better have something up their sleeves to be ready for LSU this Saturday.
I think the BYU coaching staff never put the throttle down vs. PSU, trying to avoid giving LSU a bunch more game footage to prepare for, while coming away with a modest win against Portland State.
Most fans seem to be upset by not having it turn into a blowout, but there were no major injuries and the game goes into the W column at the end of the day.
Now on to LSU. This game will take about what would be considered a perfect game for 14-point underdog BYU to come away with.
By the way, our thoughts and prayers go to the many people affected by the flooding in Texas. The BYU game vs. LSU was originally going to be played at NRG Stadium in Houston, but with the natural disaster, it has been moved to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and the contest will be on ESPN.
Blue Blood is a sports column written by former BYU lineman and captain Scott Young. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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