Yes, here we are. The Brigham Young Cougars have lost two games in a row, both of which were so close to having a different outcome. The difference between BYU being 4-0 and ranked in the top 20, and maybe even 15, is the difference in a couple of plays and decisions.
As we contemplate the Cougars being 2-2, let’s take a look back at the Five Things to Watch For that was posted before the game, along with other observations from this game.
Well, yes and no. The defense came back hungrier, if anything. The defense has shown up big in all four games this year, but none bigger than this game. No offensive touchdowns allowed, even stopping Boise State four times on the one-yard line. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and Kyle Van Noy shut the door on running back D.J. Harper and quarterback Joe Southwick multiple times. The defense kept the Cougars in the game all night long, even as the offense turned the ball over five times.
With the turnover aside, the offense was even more stagnant than last week. In my opinion, Utah had a better defense than Boise State, but the Cougars could not move the ball until the final offensive drive.
2. Is five days between big games enough time for BYU?
I don’t know if there is a black and white answer for this question either. Obviously, the defense was ready. And I think the defense had the bigger task at hand. With no practice on Sunday, and then traveling on Wednesday, the defense only had two days to get ready for what Boise State was going to throw at them.
The offense should have had it easy in comparison, as they could run the same plays they have been running all year. Quarterback Riley Nelson would have greatly benefited from two more days for recovery. That could have made a huge difference in offensive production.
Unfortunately, the Cougars needed two more points to win the game. Maybe two more days would have made the difference.
3. Can BYU’s offense start fast this time?
The Cougars had a chance to score fast. It wasn’t necessarily fast, but they had the ball inside the five. After getting called for a chop block, BYU was pushed back 15 yards. Then an interception by Riley Nelson took away that chance, and the Cougars didn’t get on the board until 56 minutes into the game.
After the game, offensive coordinator Brandon Doman told BYUtv, “I don’t know why we can’t start fast right now. That’s something I’ve gotta figure out as an offensive coordinator. But I do know there aren’t two guys who try harder.”
I hate to quote a movie, especially Star Wars, but maybe Yoda’s advice is applicable here. “Do or do not. There is no try.” The Cougars need to score.
4. Can Riley Nelson be consistent?
Being consistent is almost impossible when you are hurt. We all love Nelson’s grit and fire, but being injured takes away accuracy and consistency.
On Nelson’s injury, Doman said, “He’s hurt bad. He’s fighting through an injury that was significant, but he’s one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever known."
He is tough. We all know that. The problem is, a tough quarterback will only get the team so far.
Apparently Doman considered taking Nelson out a drive earlier, but Nelson asked for one more try.
“We almost made (the switch) a little earlier, but Riley asked for one more so we gave it to him…But he threw a pick on that drive,” Doman said.
Now the question is, will he start next game or do the Cougars need to call upon Taysom Hill? Or even revert back to the original backup James Lark for that matter? Doman says if he’s healthy, Riley is still the man behind the center.
“I don’t know that we have a decision to make, it’s all dependent on Riley’s health.”
5. BYU faces a tough road crowd for the second week in a row. Will the offensive line figure out the snap count?
The road crowd didn’t seem to have too much of an impact on the game. The offensive line did much better this week, only false starting three times, compared to last week’s nine. Those little mistakes were corrected, but the line still needs to improve its blocking.
Other Thoughts and Notes
The defense needs to be commended for this game.
Boise State got the ball on the BYU one-yard line and did not score. They stuffed the fake punt. They stopped the Broncos on 4th down multiple times. The only score by Boise State was on an interception return. The offense had five turnovers, and it was a one-point game. How does that happen? The defense was amazing. Ansah and Van Noy are NFL players someday, and they showed it tonight.
Doman’s comments after the game were very interesting.
Doman always gives very open, honest interviews. In his postgame interview with BYUtv, he talked a little about the idea to go for two. He said, “The decision to go for two was Coach Mendenhall’s decision, which I supported all the way. But the (play) call was my call.”
The call to go for the two-point conversion will be controversial among media and fans alike. But is it as controversial as letting Riley Nelson call the shots?
As written above, Nelson told the coaches he wanted one more drive, where he threw his third interception of the game. Should they have pulled the plug earlier?
Ziggy Ansah is big, fast, and good.
Ansah is still learning how to play the game of football. Tonight’s game got me very excited to see his progression throughout the rest of the season.
Will 2012 be much like 2011?
With a potential switch up in the starting quarterback, starting the season 2-2 and the offense sputtering, will things start to pick up for the Cougars? I guess we’ll see starting next week as Norm Chow and Hawaii come to town.