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BOISE, Idaho -- The Cougars traveled to the smurf turf on Thursday night and came away with a tough 7-6 loss to Boise State. A lot is running through my head about this game, so let’s see if I can somehow put things down on paper coherently.
1. The defense deserved better: The Cougar defense deserved better than the outcome but also better than the result Bronco Mendenhall gave them. The offense gave them a half-yard field and Kyle Van Noy and company stopped the Boise State offense stone cold to keep the Cougars in the game.
It is almost heretical for Bronco to go for two when HIS defense had worked so hard to keep them in the game. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Going for two was stupid. Period: There is no rationale or argument for going for two in that situation. Bronco explained it away by saying the Cougars had momentum. They did. They also would have had it in overtime.
You have capable kickers, maybe not good kickers, but good enough to be given a chance to win it. Other reasons not to go for two: Your defense will NOT let Boise State score, maybe not even in overtime; your offense has shown a complete inability to execute throughout the night; your offense was not prepared for the two-point conversion; you have zero timeouts.
3. Give credit to BYU for not giving up when they very easily could have: I said this last week, but the Cougars had every reason and every right to give up when they were down 24-7 against Utah. That was also true Thursday night when they were down 7-0 and it seemed like 70-0.
Let’s start with last week to give us some context. With Utah up 24-7, it would have been really easy for BYU to say to themselves, “Maybe everyone is right. Maybe the Utes are that much better than us. Maybe last season wasn’t a fluke and we don’t belong on the same field as these guys.” If the Cougars didn’t believe that before the game, they could have very easily fallen into that thinking when down 24-7 in the fourth quarter. In other words, BYU had every right to give up, but they didn’t.
They fought back and made it a game that they had every opportunity to win.
Then this week, they take Sunday off and have two practices to prepare for a very good football team in Boise State after playing an unbelievably emotional game against their arch-rival. BYU gets down 7-0 and the offense is not moving the ball. The defense is gaining more yards than the offense. The defense had every right to give up. They had every right to turn on the offense after giving them short fields, making an incredible goal-line stand and not only surviving turnovers on short fields but getting the ball right back with no points on the board. But, they. Didn’t.
BYU players were outmanned at Utah and at Boise State, but their effort and their execution is what keeps them in these games. Give them credit. That’s what it’s all about.
4. It’s about time the Cougars finally figure out the formula for football success: Utah was going to Michigan back in 2002 to play the Wolverines in the Big House. I was asked if I thought the Utes would get blown out by Michigan, like everyone else thought. I said they wouldn’t for one reason: a good defense keeps you in every game you play.
Utah’s 2004 team was head and shoulders better than the 2008 team, but the 2008 team had a great defense and kept them in games to give them a chance to win. The 2008 team took advantage of those chances. That’s why Utah went undefeated that year. Thanks to Bronco Mendenhall, BYU has now implemented that blueprint. Obviously the offense needs to be much better to make that matter, but the defense will keep them in every game they play, including games like Thursday's that seem like they have no business winning.
5. Riley Nelson is not right: I think it goes back to the first play from scrimmage for the Cougar offense at Utah. A typical hyped up, pumped up leader trotted out onto the field in the form of Riley Nelson. After that first snap nearly went through the end zone, Nelson was face masked, jerked backwards and hit hard.
It sounds like he probably got hurt on that play, but even if he didn’t, he certainly wasn’t the Riley Nelson that the BYU coaches had fallen in love with. It was like that first hit introduced him to big-time football and big-time environments.
He suddenly became very timid, very hesitant and very un-Riley. Regardless of whether or not he’s hurt, his time should be done at BYU. Taysom Hill is the quarterback of the immediate future at BYU and the last meaningful snap BYU played this season ended when the end-over-end kick clanked off the upright last Saturday. With nothing concrete to play for for the rest of the season, it’s time for Hill to get the experience he needs to carry this program forward.
Trevor Amicone is the founder of byutahinsiders.com, which covers BYU, Utah and national college football with weekly polls, bowl projections, opinions and analysis. Follow its brand new Twitter page at @BYUtahInsiders and Trevor's at @TrevorAmicone.