BYU-Utah in Salt Lake City. It wasn’t USC-Stanford, or LSU-Alabama, or even South Carolina-Clemson.
But it was ugly.
At the half the game was all tied up 7-7. The game was so ugly hard lessons had hopefully been learned on both sides by the half. The first one for BYU is for the quarterback to watch the center when he has his hands on the ball.
However, they didn't learn that one—twice in the game Nelson was counting the fans in the stadium as the ball flew by him. From the first, BYU was out of sync, poorly prepared, nervous and looked like a bunch of high schoolers.
Troubles were evident by the end of the first half.
Riley Nelson played and looked bad. As a high school quarterback, most coaches would have pulled him and given him some time on the sidelines to chill out and get his head in the game. Running eight times for 10 yards, passing 7-of-13 for 34 yards, three fumbles and a sack, that was in the first half.
The second half it didn’t get better.
Don't Blame Riley, He Just Calls The Plays
I don’t blame everything on Riley, though. In the second half he contributed to more fumbles and an interception. Worst of all, however, were his poor choices in passing, desperate passes, poor audibles misunderstanding of how to run the hurry up offense.
Combine that with poor running and BYU didn't have a chance to win the game. The offensive line didn’t help him in the game with five false starts in the first half. In the second, more false starts added to their problems.
Hurry Up Too Slow
The hurry up offense was poorly prepared and executed. But you can’t blame this all on Riley Nelson—he was calling the plays from the box Brandon Doman sat in. It would have helped if BYU had actually scouted Utah before the game.
It seemed like BYU was prepared to play Idaho State, not Utah.
The team wins, the team loses. But you have to wonder what were the coaches thinking? The most successful plays of the night for BYU were throwing to the tight ends, including the last touchdown that made the score 21-24, and yet that seemed to be a play that came up at random, not by design.
The Failed Option
The option was so poorly run they looked like it was drawn up on the sidelines during a time out. Even the commentators at ESPN asked with an open mike the question of why BYU kept running it. The only good thing that came from it was Taysom Hill running it pitching to Jamaal Williams for a touchdown.
And he ran that play only once all game. Why?
No Running Game
There was no running game for BYU. Michael Alisa was a non-factor, and besides Jamaal Williams' touchdown, the running game looked like someone at BYU faxed over their game plan to someone at Utah.
Now, I’m not saying they did, or implicating that they did, I’m saying Utah was so prepared for BYU’s running game “it looked like it.” Perhaps that was because of the presence of Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. No one should know the running game better than a man who practiced against it for four years and has coached against it for seven years.
BYU's running game is dull, boring, predictable and poorly prepared.
Who Are Those Guys?
The game was not lost totally because BYU played poorly and was coached poorly. There was, after all, another team on the field and a set of coaches on the sidelines. It was apparent for all of the intensity of the BYU players, they were just not prepared for the game. The coaches had not prepared the right plays on offense or defense to be able to win the game.
The criticism from last year of not being in shape once again was evident. Players were overweight for their height, which made them slow next to Utah. Utah looked faster and in better shape. They hustled and pursued.
You have to give it to them, they worked for the win.
The sad part to me about the game is it is the eighth time out of their last 11 meetings that Utah has beaten BYU. I remember the days at BYU when the saying was, “it’ll be a successful season if we can just beat Utah.”
Unfortunately it seems that the BYU program under Bronco Mendenhall is back to that level.
Is This Bad Coaching?
Mendenhall’s decision to punt with eight minutes left showed a distinct lack of confidence in his offense and a lack preparation. It also showed that he had at that point already thrown in the towel. He was playing out the game at that point, that is all. The way timeouts and the two minute drill was handled was atrocious.
High school teams do it better in Texas.
If BYU wants to ascend to the ranks of teams like Notre Dame, they are going to have to beat teams like Utah on a regular basis, not lose to them. They are going to need to get a better coach who has a better offensive plan to use the talent BYU has, and wants to have.
Another example of that is the ineffective use of Taysom Hill. He was brought in for one play at a time running him in a quarterback option over and over.
One has to wonder: Is that the only play they have taught him?
If there was such a thing as men sitting around the proverbial pot belly stove in the corner drug store, it would be easy for them to become extremely critical of BYU coaching. Suffice it to say, however, now is the time fans must begin to demand a change in coaching at BYU, starting with the head coach.
The buck stops there.
Time for Fans to Demand Excellence
The end of the game, if you missed it, was just one more example of how poor play-calling, poor team preparation and poor player special teams play contributed to the loss. There is no major football team in America that is so poorly coached as to not have a player on the team that can kick a 37-yard field goal.
Missing a field goal is understandable, but not having a qualified special teams player that is capable of it regularly is inexcusable.
Look for the same outcome next week in Boise. And the way Utah State played Utah and Wisconsin, this season may get ugly.