BOISE, IDAHO — The BYU Cougars headed to Albertson’s Stadium in Boise Saturday to face the Boise State Broncos, and a frustrating game for both teams ended in heroics for Broncos fans and heartbreak for the Cougar faithful.
Despite costly turnovers, badly-timed penalties and a non-existent running game, BYU found themselves in perfect position to beat the Broncos in their stadium for the first time. But some questionable calls and poor execution lead to what might be BYU’s most disappointing and frustrating loss of the season.
Here are three things we learned from BYU’s 16-21 loss to Boise State:
Zach Wilson is the real deal
Let’s start with the positive: freshman quarterback Zach Wilson has a very bright future. The young quarterback finished the day on 18-of-27 passing for 252 yards and adding 36 rushing yards on 18 carries along with a touchdown.
The young man looked poised, and it’s clear he’s a competitor who wants to win. He’s brought a spark to the team, even though his current record as a starter is 1-2. But as we’ll get into later, you can’t really put those losses on his shoulders.
Wilson made some mistakes and gave up sacks when he should have thrown the ball away, especially on the last play of the game, but those are mistakes he’s going to learn from and be a thing of the past as he gains more experience.
Wilson is a leader, something BYU has been missing. He’s also a smart player who will have a very bright future with the Cougars as long as he gets the right coaching and stays healthy. Out of the mess that is BYU football right now there is a real bright spot with Wilson.
The offensive line has digressed
It was hard not to sing the praises of the offensive line in BYU’s early wins over Arizona and Wisconsin. The boys up front had their way with those defenses and the running game had holes to run through. The play action was a thing of beauty, but that all seems like a distant memory.
Ever since the Washington game, the offensive line has looked inept with the one exception of Hawai’i. In games against Washington, NIU, Utah State and even at times against McNeese State, the offensive line has been pushed around and is incapable of making holes for their running backs or giving adequate protection for the quarterback.
The Broncos sacked Wilson seven times on Saturday night and had nice tackles for loss. Wilson was running for his life all night long. On top of that disaster, BYU only managed 96 rushing yards for the night with the leading rusher Matt Hadley only gaining 39 yards.
When you can’t run the ball the defense can be more aggressive, and this line has had serious issues with picking up blitzes. They even tripled teamed one Boise defensive lineman while letting another run free and get straight to Wilson for a costly sack in the red zone.
If BYU hopes to get to a bowl and have any chance of even competing with rival Utah, the offensive line has to figure out what they’re doing and start pushing around defensive lines and providing their young quarterback with some protection.
OC Grimes has a lot to prove
New offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes has been tough to figure out this year. He called brilliant games against Arizona and Wisconsin, called a questionable game against Cal and called horrible games against Utah State, NIU and Boise State. The Boise State game may be the worst of the bunch.
This may be going a little far considering none of us know what the coaching staff and Grimes do. We don’t understand the actual depth of talent of the players and their psyche. We don’t know how practice went or what the exact game plan was, but what we do know is the run was not working all night, especially between the tackles.
That makes us scratch our heads when two runs up the gut were called at the end of the game when BYU had a chance to win. Hadley was stuffed both times and the clock kept running and eventually BYU ran out of time.
With 7 seconds left at the goal line, Grimes called a pass play with only two receivers. This is literally the last play of the game and you’re giving your freshman quarterback only two options to throw it to. They had plenty of time to find the right formation and play call, and it still didn’t happen.
Wilson should have thrown the ball away as soon as we he saw his receivers weren’t open to save time for at least one more play, but instead he held onto the ball and got sacked. It’s easy to point fingers at Wilson, but he’s a 19-year-old kid who was going to homecoming at his high school at this time last year.
Grimes is an offensive coordinator with years of experience at top programs and you need to drill it into your quarterback’s head that the ball is thrown almost immediately. A freshman mistake is forgivable, but these kinds of mistakes over and over from the OC are starting to get hard to move past.
BYU has three more games this season, two are against teams with losing records —UMass and New Mexico State — and the other against ranked rival Utah in Salt Lake City.
If BYU hopes to make a bowl this year it has to be done in the next two weeks because asking the Cougars to let their bowl hopes ride on a win against a good Utah team they have not beaten since 2009 is a tall task.
Up next for the Cougars is a road trip to face 4-6 UMass at 10 a.m. MT on Nov. 10.
John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. John also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome and it just so happens that these are the three things he writes about.