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Eight weeks. And what eventful eight weeks they have been.
BYU opened football camp on August 7th, without a starting quarterback, which might have been the first cosmic sign that things were not right in the Cougars' world.
A program that had been guided by clear-cut leaders John Beck and then Max Hall for five straight seasons was still going to have to wait for a leader to emerge from behind center. And that's just what the coaches, players, fans, and media did. Waited. Waited, and watched, as the BYU offense struggled through camp to replace the heart of last year's arsenal.
At the same time, football independence rumors rumbled, amid conference affiliation intrigue. In the end, BYU cut itself loose from the Mountain West Conference, went solo on the gridiron, did deals with ESPN and Notre Dame, and introduced the remainder of its programs to the West Coast Conference.
With the off-field events dying down, the football team and the coming season came back into focus, while the team's signal-caller situation remained fuzzy. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall committed to a two-QB system which appeared to work, for a week, and a win over Washington.
During practice the following week, promising freshman WR Ross Apo suffered a four-to-six week finger injury.
Then came week two, and "the fumble that seemed to change everything." A Jake Heaps-to-J.J. DiLuigi connection had the junior running back rumbling toward the end zone with a touchdown that would have given BYU a 14-nothing lead early in the game at Air Force. Instead, the TD run turned into a turnover that signaled a sign of things to come, as BYU came unglued. The Cougars soon lost their one-score lead, lost their composure, hit the halftime break trailing by a touchdown, and have not led one minute of one game since.
Clearly, that one fumble wasn't the reason things have gone south this season, but it is interesting to note that almost nothing has gone right since.
Since the loss at Air Force, BYU has:
Lost QB Riley Nelson to season-ending surgery for an injury he says happened in the preseason, but was kept from the coaches and medical staff. The injury worsened in the loss at Florida State—a game in which BYU set Mendenhall era lows for offense in a quarter and a game
Named Heaps as its starting quarterback. He is only the second-ever BYU QB to go from high school one season to starting for the Cougars the next season.
Lost starting NT Romney Fuga to a season-ending cheap shot knee injury.
Lost starting FS Steven Thomas to a concussion that could be season-ending, if not career-ending.
Lost starting WR O'Neill Chambers for two weeks due to suspension.
Lost starting LB Jameson Frazier for 3-4 weeks with a thumb injury.
Lost already banged-up starting LB Jordan Pendleton and ailing starting Kat Andrew Rich to game-ending injuries at Utah State.
Lost every game, including one at Utah State; BYU's first loss to the Aggies in 17 years.
Compiled the lowest five-game point total in 40 years.
Fired Defensive Coordinator Jaime Hill before back-to-back games against two of the top offenses in college football.
It has been a weird, wild, and not so wonderful eight weeks.
Brighter days are ahead, but with improved San Diego State and powerful TCU next on the agenda, things could conceivably get darker before the Cougars see the light.
If nothing else, the season's 1-4 start and the turmoil of the past two months underscore how difficult it is to win ten-plus games for four consecutive seasons.
BYU's one-of-a-kind streak of success will not reach a fifth season, and to know that's the case in the first week of October is a stark realization, but also a reminder that fans can never be too grateful for the wins, no matter how or when they come.