A Great Day, For Openers



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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some scattered thoughts from the day after...

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The third of Bronco Mendenhall's season openers showed how far he and the team have progressed since struggling to a 3-point performance in the debut vs. Boston College in 2005.

The 2006 lid-lifter was better, but a 16-13 loss at Arizona showed the Cougars perhaps lacked in confidence, concentration and execution (tackling, in particular) at key times. BYU was still not yet "ready for prime time."

Yesterday, the Cougars essentially flipped the 2005 game, winning easily, methodically disptaching a team breaking in a new offensive system (as BYU was two years ago), and showing the poise and discipline for which veteran teams are known.

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Completing two-thirds of his passes for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns, QB Max Hall simply turned in a masterful performance, considering the pressure of the position, and the following facts:

Max Hall is only the 7th BYU quarterback in the last 35 years to make his first start in the first game of a season. Of the seven, he joins only Steve Sarkisian in 1995 as BYU QBs to make their debuts in a season opener, without having taken a single NCAA snap previously.

Sarkisian was coming off an impressive year at junior college in 1994, so he was hardly rusty. Hall, as has been well documented, was four years removed from his last meaningful snap. So, you could say that in the last 35 years, never had a quarterback been under more pressure in an opener, for more reasons, than Max Hall.

All of the other BYU QBs making their first start in a season opener (Bosco, Lindsley, Walsh, Shoemaker, and Engemann) had seen action in the previous season as backups. The other BYU QBs making their first starts (Wilson, Detmer, etc.) did so during a season, usually as a result of injury to the starter. Hence, there was neither the scrutiny, nor an offseason worth of speculation to accompany their starts.

In short, when considering the productivity of his predecessor (John Beck), the standard set by the preceding team (10-game win streak, conference title, bowl victory), the nature of the day (season opener, Pac-10 opponent, sellout crowd, jersey retirement), the length of his competitive layoff, the culture of fan devotion and the overwhelming impact of the media (both fueled by the internet), Max Hall responded as well as any Cougar fan could have hoped or expected. Indeed, you could say he exceeded expectations. He deserves to feel satisifed today.

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Regardless of whichever innovative offensive style a team chooses to use (West Coast, Texas Tech, Spread Option), football seems to be about two questions: Can you run the ball? Can you stop the run?

BYU running backs carried the ball 27 times, for 104 yards, while the Cougar defense allowed Arizona 32 rushing yards (on 17 running back carries).

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Century Stats:

BYU has rushed for 100+ yards in 8 of its last 9 games (and 11 of its last 13). The Cougars have won 9 consecutive games when rushing for 100+ yards.

BYU is now 10-0 versus the Pac-10 (since 1972) when rushing for 100+ yards.

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Bronco is now 18-8 in his third season. He is one game behind Charlie Weis (19-7) for the best record by new head coaches hired in 2005.

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BYU has had the halftime lead in 14 consecutive games, and has scored first in 13 consecutive contests.

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BYU's first-half shutout was its third in the last 5 games, and 4th in the last 7.

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Kudos to the Cougars, TCU Horned Frogs and Wyoming Cowboys for picking up wins vc. BCS Conferences Saturday (Frogs beat Baylor from the Big 12, while the Pokes pummeled Virginia from the ACC). Partial credit to CSU for taking Colorado to overtime. No credit to New Mexico for scoring 6 points while losing at UTEP--ditto for Utah losing at Oregon State (injuries factored into the setback, of course). In games that only would have affected the MWC if the league teams lost, Air Force won a home gimme with South Carolina State, while UNLV won at Utah State. SDSU was idle.

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Bronco says he will esentially not acknowledge anything said about his team by others, but this much can be said and not argued: if BYU beats UCLA this week, the BCS talk will begin, and will get louder and louder, until the Cougars lose a game. Boise State and TCU (but not Hawai'i, in my opinion) can consider themselves in much the same boat, although the Cougars and Frogs will have claim to the tougher schedule. BYU will have played two Pac-10 teams--one highly-ranked--and a MWC team ranked to begin the season, not to mention a well-respected Tulsa team on the road. TCU plays ranked Texas. Boise State and Hawai'i are both ranked, but they do have to play each other, and you've got to think strength of schedule would weigh in the Cougars' (or Frogs') favor. Either way, it would be great to be part of the BCS discussion after next Saturday.

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More on UCLA during the week to come, but there's no doubt, a win over the sky-high Bruins would be the biggest victory of the Bronco Mendenhall era.

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Broadcast News:

there was a server problem with our audio archive system at KSL, and game audio from yesterday's contest will not be available on ksl.com until Monday.

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