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Archive for November, 2008

Report Card vs. Utah

Utah 48, BYU 24
BYU team grade: C-plus

You would think that with a score of 48-24 in favor of the Utes, BYU’s team grade would be worse, but were it not for Max Hall’s fumble and five interceptions Saturday, the Cougars very likely would have won.

Four of Hall’s six turnovers were converted into easy touchdowns—three of them coming in the fourth quarter when the score had been as close as 27-24 with Brigham Young driving when Hall fumbled. The Utes scored off that and then on the next two drives Hall threw ill-advised passes that turned into 14 more quick points.

The six turnovers by Hall set a BYU record for giveaways by an individual player in a single game.

Despite the six turnovers, the Cougars compiled more total yardage (418 to 416) and rushed for more yards than any other team has on the Utes this season with 214 (120 over the Utah average of 94 per game).

BYU also did not allow any sacks in the game, the first time this season the Utes had been shut out from sacking an opponent.

Cougar offense grade: C-minus

Again, take away just half of Hall’s six turnovers, and BYU’s offense played well enough to beat Utah.

• Solid pass protection provided by the offensive line—no sacks
• Rushing game totaled 214 yards. Could have had far more than that but just when the Cougars would move the ball on the ground with ease, Hall would turn it over.
• Harvey Unga and Fui Vakapuna both averaged over 7.7 yards per carry. Why BYU abandoned the running game when it was working so well is a mystery. Unga finished with 116 yards and two TDs on 15 carries (7.7 yards per try) and Vakapuna had 36 yards on four rushes (9.0-yard average).
• Austin Collie extended his streak of 100-yard receiving games to 10 with 104 yards on 10 catches. He also added 14 yards on two rushing attempts.

Hall also had six passes batted down by the Utah defensive front. He finished with his worst stats of the year (21 of 41 for 204 yards, five picks, zero passing TDs, one rushing TD).

Cougar defense grade: B

The defense was sliced and diced by Brian Johnson in the first quarter as Utah raced to a 17-3 lead on Johnson’s 254 passing yards—most of it on quick throws. The Cougars were only down 20-17 with a minute left in the first half when Hall threw his first pick and Utah converted it into a quick touchdown to make the halftime score 27-17.

The Cougar defense made good adjustments at the intermission and clamped down on Johnson, holding him to 46 yards passing in the second half.

The defense also limited Utah to just 110 yards rushing (64 yards below the Utes’ per-game average).

The most telling stat on how Hall’s turnovers affected the outcome of this game: Utah scored on five of its six possessions in the first half—one of those coming off a Hall interception right before the halftime whistle. The Cougar defense stopped Utah’s offense three drives in a row to begin the second half before Hall was picked off on three straight possessions, which handed the ball over to the Utes on BYU’s 31-, 4- and 29 yard-lines in those three turnarounds.

Cougar special teams grade: B

The Cougar special teams performed well enough to contribute to a win.

Collie set up BYU’s first three points with a 70-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. He had a 33.5-yard average per return (134 yards on four tries). O’Neill Chambers added 91 yards on four returns (22.8).

C.J. Santiago logged a 54.5 per-punt average on two boots, and Mitch Payne nailed all three extra point attempts and a 40-yard field goal.

The Cougars provided solid coverage on the Utah kickoff and punt return attempts.

Fourth and inches …

Just when the Mountain West Conference was gaining some serious cred, three of its head coaches are being replaced…New Mexico’s Rocky Long stepped down on his own, citing that he thought the Lobo program needed a new direction. Wyoming gave Joe Glenn the boot after six years and San Diego State dismissed Chuck Long after his third season.

There’s a long list of potential replacements rumored to be interested in the three openings, including John L. Smith, Steve Sarkisian, Terry Bowden, Dwayne Walker, Dennis Green, Glen Mason, Lane Kiffin, Steve Marriucci and Jaime Hill to name a few.

Anyone see BYU’s Max Hall down in Vegas this week?The junior QB set a school record for most turnovers in a game with six—five interceptions and one fumble—in the Cougars’ loss to Utah last weekend. Four of Hall’s turnovers were quickly converted into 28 points by the Utes.

And the award for biggest BCS whiner goes to? Right now, it’s a tie between USC’s Pete Carroll and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. Both of their respective programs still have a shot at the national championship game, but they’ve been busy working the media, claiming that a playoff would be the sure cure for the equations being spit out by the BCS computers. In reality, not a peep would be uttered by either coach had the Trojans taken care of business against Oregon State and if Oklahoma lassoed the Longhorns in Dallas several weeks ago.

BCS busters still standing: Utah claimed the prize plum bowl for non-BCS teams with its victory over instate rival Brigham Young last weekend. Ball State wrapped up its regular season undefeated, but it still needs to get by Buffalo in the MAC title game in next week. Boise State will wrap up an undefeated regular season when it rolls over Fresno State on its puke-blue smurf turf this Saturday.

Heisman ThermometerReclaimed Heisman Hot: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. Burnt Orange Hot: Colt McCoy, Texas. Hangin’ in there Hot: Tim Tebow, Florida. Substantially cooled off: Graham Harrell, Texas Tech.

Conference Power Meter: 1. Big XII. 2. SEC. 3. Big Ten. 4. MWC 5. Pac-10 6. ACC. 7. Big East. 8. C-USA. 9. WAC. 10. Sun Belt.

Top games this weekend and why:
West Virginia at Pittsburgh. Neither team has a shot at the Big East title—unless Syracuse upsets Cincy. Still, a win improves the bowl situation for either team.
Colorado at Nebraska. Border and conference rivals. Colorado needs a win to become bowl-eligible and Nebraska needs the win to get a better bowl invite.
No. 19 Oregon at No. 17 Oregon State. The Beavers can end a 44-year Rose Bowl drought with a win over the hated Ducks.
No. 18 Georgia Tech at No. 13 Georgia. Battle for state bragging rights and better bowl game invitations.
Kansas at No. l2 Missouri. Big XII Conference rivalry and Kansas is looking for payback from last year. The Tigers could get caught looking ahead to the Big XII title game next week against Texas, Oklahoma or Texas Tech.
South Carolina at Clemson. Bitter instate rivalry will be clawing and scratching each other to claim state bragging rights.
Houston at Rice. Battle for supremacy in Houston. And there’s something on the line with the C-USA as both are deadlocked in first place with 6-1 conference records.
Maryland at No. 20 Boston College. Both teams still looking to mix up the ACC race even more than they have already.
Auburn at No. 1 Alabama. Some call this the best rivalry in college football. We’ll find out this weekend.
**Co-Game of the Week** No. 2 Florida at No. 23 Florida State. This one’s got a lot of appeal just to see if the Gators can continue to roll over another opponent. The Seminoles’ defense is ranked No. 20 in the nation.
**Co-Game of the Week** No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State. A shot at the Big XII title game and the national championship is at stake for the Sooners. Oh yeah, and state bragging rights.

Upset Specials: I choked last week, going 0 for 3. This week we’ll live dangerously again with Pitt over West Virginia, Florida State over Florida, and Oklahoma State over Oklahoma.