Posts tagged BYU Cougars
Much has been written about BYU’s bold move into the realm of college football independence since last summer when the university announced it was leaving the Mountain West Conference. At first, most pundits thought it was a suicidal move for the Cougars, but as A.D. Tom Holmoe methodically cobbled together the program’s first indy season schedule with the help of broadcast partner ESPN, perceptions slowly began to change.
It’s a much stronger schedule than what they’d face if they were still in the MWC.
BYU’s 2011 schedule starts impressively – on the road at Mississippi and Texas, then back home for Utah, Central Florida and Utah State. Three additional tough road games are tossed into the mix with Oregon State, TCU and Hawaii. Technically, the TCU game is considered to be at a neutral site – Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Fort Worth. This game is minutes from the Horned Frog campus and it’s considered a neutral site? Right.
The rest of the Cougar schedule features Idaho, Idaho State, New Mexico State, and San Jose State, giving the team eight solid games and four that provide a little breathing room during the back stretch of the season. We don’t consider Utah State a breather because it’s a rivalry game, even though BYU has owned the Aggies for decades (27-8 record since
1970). Every team gets up for playing BYU and Bronco Mendenhall can’t afford to let his squad take any opponent lightly.
H.B. Arnett of Cougar Sportsline (a subscription newsletter for BYU sports fans) is so high on this year’s Cougar football team that he’s predicting a BCS berth.
Quote: “… this is the year that BYU breaks into a BCS bowl. I’m not stupid. I know that means an undefeated season for the Cougars. That’s how stupid good this BYU team can be.”
We’d be inclined to agree with Arnett if Brigham Young’s new OC Brandon Doman already had a year of calling plays and total interaction with the offensive players and coaches under his belt. There is a lot of talent on this team and they appear to be unified and excited to take on the world as an independent.
New coaches Ben Cahoon (receivers) and Joe DuPaix (running backs) complement the move assistant head coach Lance Reynolds made to shore up a nationally touted (out of high school) group of tight ends in Austin Holt, Richard Wilson and Devin Mahina. (Note: Mahina is now out for the season with a fractured neck).
Cahoon has senior McKay Jacobson, soph Cody Hoffman, and redshirt freshman Ross Apo headlining a solid group of receivers, while DuPaix has senior sparkplug J.J. DiLuigi, second year bruiser “Juice” Quezeda, and senior Bryan Kariya to handle the rock out of the backfield.
Mark Weber’s offensive line is as solid as it’s ever been with Outland Trophy candidate Matt Reynolds holding down left tackle, and Braden Brown, Braden Hansen, Houston Reynolds, Terence Brown, and Ryker Matthews manning other ports
of call at the scrimmage line. They’ll protect soph signal caller Jake Heaps who is poised for a big year, and solid backup QB James Lark. Dual threat southpaw QB Riley Nelson will be utilized in the Cougar offense, but not as Heaps’ backup, should that need present itself.
Defensively, the linebacker corps is experienced, swift, and highly underrated with three NFL-quality studs in Uona Kaveinga, Jordan Pendleton and Kyle Van Noy. Barring injuries, they’ll be considered one of the top units in the nation by the end of this season.
The defensive line depth looks solid, especially now that senior DE Matt Putnam has been cleared academically to rejoin the team. The addition of Putnam’s experience and wingspan, not to mention the psychological lift of returning to his teammates, cannot be overlooked. It should take him a few weeks to get up to speed with the line platoon of Romney Fuga, Travis Tuiloma, Graham Rowley, Eathyn Manumaleuna, and USC transfer Hebron Fangupo.
The defensive backfield finally has solid with Daniel Sorenson, Travis Uale and Mike Hague handling safety duties and Corby Eason, Preston Hadley, Joe Sampson, and DeQuan Everett handling the corners. This group just needs some real game-time experience and you’ll see them gel nicely as a unit.
Prediction: 10-2 regular season, Armed Forces Bowl win, Top 15 ranking
BYU has a new OC and defensive backfield to break in. Look for them to lose close games on the road to Ole Miss and Texas the first two weeks of September and then rattle off 10 straight wins. Although they’ll be deserving of a Tier 2 bowl bid by season’s end, without the strength of a major conference affiliation they’ll be stuck playing in a Tier 4 bowl game.
The 2011 rivalry game has all the makings to be an ugly one. Not as ugly as the 2003 game. Nothing could be that ugly. And no, it wasn’t the bitter cold and snow that made it an ugly game, thank you very much, Gary C.
This match-up presents a different kind of ugly. The kind that should produce a low-scoring battle, slugged out in the trenches with field position and turnovers setting the table for the few points that will make it on the board. More >
The 2011 season is one-third of the way in the books and BYU has racked up an embarrassing total of 64 points, with only 50 of those points on the board from the Offense. That puts the Cougars on track to score 192 points this year.
To put that in perspective, that’s 200 points less than Lavell Edwards’ teams averaged per season during his tenure. Want more perspective? BYU scored 201 points in Brandon Doman’s first 4 games of his senior year (2001) and went on to score 608 during the regular season.
Team psychology, or where are these teams’ heads at?
Utah State boggles the mind. They had Auburn on the ropes in the opening weekend, leading 38-28 with 2:07 remaining in the game. They blew their 10-point lead and lost 42-38. The following week, they thrashed Weber State, 54-17 (don’t laugh Cougar fans, BYU plays the Wildcats next year) and then they lost in double overtime at home to Colorado State, 35-34. In that game, the Aggies led 21-13 with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter and they blew that lead.
BYU boggles the mind, too. The Cougars sport an offense that’s been impotent in each of the first four games this season (12.5 point average per game, folks). They snuck out of Oxford, Mississippi with a 14-13 win thanks to the defense, but Ole Miss is 1-3 with their only win coming against Div I-AA Southern Illinois (which managed to rack up 100 more total yards than BYU did).
The Cougars managed to look fairly competitive during the first half at Texas but got outscored 17-0 in the second half and lost by a point. Trying to describe the 54-10 shellacking at the hands of archrival Utah is an exercise in futility because it was just so damn pitiful with 7 turnovers and an entire length of the gridiron in penalties. And last week, the special teams won the game against a decent Central Florida team that dominated the Cougars in total yardage, 399-260.
Defense by the numbers
- Scoring defense: BYU ranked 67, Utah State ranked 97
- Passing efficiency defense: BYU 44, Utah State 88
- Rushing defense: Utah State 16, BYU 62
- Total defense: Utah State 12, BYU 47
- Turnover margin: BYU 87, Utah State 110
Offense by the numbers
- Team passing: BYU 66, Utah State 105
- Team rushing: Utah State 5, BYU 116
- Scoring: Utah State 14, BYU 109
- Total offense: Utah State 16, BYU 111
Special Teams by the numbers
- Team Punting: Utah State 4, BYU 82
- Punting: Tyler Bennett, USU, 13, Riley Stephenson, BYU , 32
- Team Punt returns: Utah State, 27, BYU 57
- Field Goals: Justin Sorenson, BYU, 37 – USU, no ranking
- Kickoff Returns: Cody Hoffman, BYU 26 – USU, no ranking
- Significant injuries: Utah State – none, BYU – Houston Reynolds, doubtful, Jordan Pendleton, questionable
- Aggie running back Robert Turbin is averaging nearly 122 yards per game (5.7 yards per carry).
- Freshman signal caller Chuckie Keaton has not tossed an interception yet this season and is ranked among the top 50 quarterbacks in the nation in passing efficiency.
- BYU QB Jake Heaps is not on that list. He’s also been eliminated from consideration for most of the major quarterback awards with 8 games still to play.
BYU has played the tougher schedule, so a lot of the numbers you see above are deceiving. Factor in a touch of home field advantage, a bit of revenge for last year, a solid defense against the rush, plus a sagging Aggie confidence and a Cougar offense that finally begins to show what was expected from the get-go this season. The crystal ball says it all adds up to a BYU win: 30-24.
Offense Grade with Jake Heaps (8 possessions, 2 FGs, 1 TD): C-
Offense Grade with Riley Nelson (4 possessions, 2 TDs, 1 missed FG, 1 fumble): A-
Talk about a tale of two offenses. Riley Nelson energized the entire team near the end of the third quarter and the offense promptly doubled the total yardage and points they had scored with Heaps at the helm. If not for DiLuigi’s fumble at the Utah State 28-yard line on the third drive under Nelson, the Cougars could’ve had another score.
Nelson’s line compared to Heaps:
Nelson: 10 of 14 (71.4%), 144 yards (10.3 yds per att), 2 TDs and 205.0 QB Rating.
Heaps: 11 of 26 (42.3%) 108 yards (4.2 yds per att), 77.2 QB Rating.
Nelson also ended up as BYU’s leading rusher with 62 yards on 11 carries (5.6 yd avg). DiLuigi gained 50 yards on 11 carries (4.5 yd avg) and he had a costly fumble at the Aggie 28-yard line with 4 minutes remaining that almost cost the Cougars the game. Bryan Kariya pounded out 42 yards on 11 rushs (3.8 avg) and Josh Quezada had 10 carries good for 40 yards and a 4.0 avg.
Several of Jake Heaps passes were dropped. It literally seemed like the receiver corps improved with Nelson at the helm. Cody Hoffman had a brilliant TD catch and finished with 4 grabs for 68 yards. McKay Jacobson had 3 receptions for 49 yards including a 40-yard gainer that kept the game-winning drive alive, and Marcus Mathews had 6 grabs for 46 yards and the winning TD.
Defense Grade: B-
You could literally call it a tale of two defenses, as well. The defense gave up 21 points to USU while Jake Heaps was in the game. After Nelson entered, they surrendered one FG. It didn’t hurt that the offense ate up over 10 minutes of clock under Nelson’s command. The defense was energized by an offense that could move the ball and they responded with some huge stops to keep the game within striking distance. Daniel Sorenson made a huge pass breakup on the Aggie’s 4th down fake punt attempt.
The Aggies gashed the defense for 283 yards on the ground, but only gave up 122 yards through the air. Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton was held to 52 percent completions and only 22 yards on 6 carries, effectively limiting his big play capability. 80 yards were consumed on USU’s first possession and first play of the game from scrimmage with Robert Turbin’s touchdown scamper.
Special Teams Grade: B
Definitely not the shining star like last week. Justin Sorenson hit 2 out of 3 field goal attempts … his one miss could have been a killer in the end. J.D. Falslev misplayed a crucial punt at the 3-minute mark in the final quarter and the ball rolled to the BYU 4-yard line. He could have fielded the punt and kept the ball out around the 30 to help the cause. It was a huge mental mistake.
Riley Stephenson had a 44.8-yard punting average on 4 punts and Cody Hoffman returned 4 kicks for 90 yards. Kickoff and punt coverage was quite solid. Ezekial Ansah had a really sweet tackle on one Aggie kickoff return.
Coaching Grade: B
Quite frankly, this grade is inflated only because the tough but necessary decision to yank Heaps in favor of Nelson was made before it was too late to salvage the game.
Without the warrior mentality that Nelson brought to the field (which seemed to be contagious almost immediately), the team was incredibly lethargic on both sides of the ball. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
It will be very interesting to see how the team responds from here on with Nelson in the signal caller driver’s seat. How will Doman deal with the emotional fallout young Heaps is certain to experience?
Overall Team Grade: B-
If the team had been better prepared and played with more passion from the start, they would have won this game more decisively.
BYU is a difficult team to read right now. They’ve got the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shtick going pretty well just in time for Halloween. Bronco Mendenhall went from talking about this team being “really special” and “better than he expected” back in August to “every game will be a close and hard-fought” from now on.
Two losses in your first five games, including an embarrassing butt kicking by your archrival will do that to you.
Now throw a quarterback controversy back into the mix. That chapter was supposed to be in the past for the Cougars. Done. Gone with last year’s rebuilding effort. But wait – all of the sudden this season looks like it’s another rebuilding one.
Utah State had BYU on the ropes last week and failed to deliver the knockout blow.
Credit Brandon Doman for making a QB switch and Riley Nelson for coming in and pulling off what every great BYU quarterback has done before him. He gutted out a clutch win in the final moments of a game that looked like it was lost. It wasn’t pretty, but people forget that Steve Young didn’t look exactly smooth flinging the ball his first few games, either.
It was apparent to everyone that saw the USU game that the team was visibly more aggressive and positive once Nelson took over for Heaps. Receivers started hustling more to the ball and making the tough catch. The defense regained their mojo and remembered how to tackle.
The players felt it. Senior McKay Jacobson said, “You could tell that all of us were playing with a little bit more heart out there.”
The looming question heading into this week’s game is do you mess with that jolt of energy and fighter instinct vibe that Nelson brought to the team in last week’s comeback win, or do you put him back on the bench and use him as your relief QB? Or do you really mess with both both your QBs heads and let them split time like the beginning of 2010 all over again?
Enter the Spartans.
You would’ve been hard pressed to find anyone willing to give San Jose State a chance in Provo at the beginning of the season. It was considered to be one of the sure wins that BYU could count on after facing four tough teams in the first month of your schedule.
Now apprehension fills the air.
The Spartans have been playing competitive football since suffering an opening season blowout loss to Stanford. They went to Fort Collins and knocked off Colorado State in overtime. That’s something Utah State couldn’t do on their home turf against the Rams. So, SJSU is riding a little wave of confidence as they come to Provo.
It doesn’t hurt that they have a solid kid calling signals for them. Senior Matt Faulkner of Texas was in the Fresno State program before transferring to San Jose. In four games this season, he’s completed better than 60 percent of his passes, averaging 216 yards in the air per game. He has a really speedy receiver in Noel Grigsby (28 receptions in 4 games) and a dependable target in 6’5, 230 tight end Ryan Otten (15 grabs, 3 TDs, 17.6 yards per catch).
Senior running back Brandon Rutley is solid and shifty, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and he’s hit paydirt six times this season. He rushed for 130 yards against CSU last week and 209 the week before in a win over New Mexico State, but hurt his ankle against the Rams and is listed as questionable for the game. One of his top blockers, guard Fred Koloto is also nursing a hurt knee and is considered questionable on the injury report as well.
Defensively, the Spartans look porous. They’ve given up an average of 408 yards per game and 31.2 points. Their defense against the run is better than their pass defense, but this is a team that believes they have a chance against the Cougars and they’ve tasted what it feels like to win a couple games in a row.
This isn’t a game where you can say BYU is going to win, hands down. It comes down to which team shows up on Saturday night.
Will we see the mistake prone, tentative effort BYU offered for nearly three full quarters against Utah State last week or the one that played with fire under Riley’s leadership for the final 20 minutes?
San Jose can put the points on the board, but I don’t expect the Spartan offensive unit will be at full strength by Saturday night. Look for a renewed team spirit behind Nelson’s leadership and the Cougars to finally put together a fairly solid win.
Prediction: BYU 34 San Jose State 14
Last week it was a tale of two offenses. This week it was a tale of two halves. That’s the same tale that we had been learning to swallow in the first four games. No wonder BYU is ranked lower than they ever have been in nearly all of the key team statistics since before the Lavell Edwards era.
Offense Grade, First Half: B+
Offense Grade, Second Half: F
The Cougars’ piled up most of their stats in the first half on the way to 443 total yards in a very balanced attack (224 yards rushing, 219 passing). Riley Nelson pulled off a disappearing act in the second half that was won by San Jose State, 10-6. He ended up with 3 touchdown passes but two picks, 65 yards rushing, but coughed up a fumble on the Spartan’s 3-yard line.
Aside from Nelson’s abysmal second half performance, Michael Alisa looked decent with 91 yards on 16 carries (5.7 avg). So did Josh Quezada (9 attempts, 47 yards, 5.2 avg).
Richard Wilson (3 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD) and McKay Jacobson (2 grabs, 63 yards, 1 TD) helped Nelson out.
Defense Grade: B
Holding the Spartan offense to 16 points is not a huge feat, considering that their star running back and his pulling guard were both out of the lineup in Provo. Nevertheless, the defense thwarted San Jose State when they had to with two picks and a 50 percent average in third down conversion attempts. Kyle Van Noy continues to play the mad beast on the field for BYU.
Special Teams Grade: B+
Justin Sorenson was perfect banging in two field goals and 3 extra points. Cody Hoffman maintained a 24.3 kickoff return average. J.D. Falslev still inspires one to hold their breath when he’s returning punts or kicks. Riley Stephenson didn’t have to punt all night.
Team Grade: C+
This is a game that BYU should have won by at least a three-touchdown margin. Riley Nelson and the offense looked pathetic in the second half.