After BYU’s 24-21 loss at Utah on Saturday night and subsequent 7-6 loss at Boise State on Thursday night, I believe it’s finally time for Cougar Nation to concede that Utah and Boise St. are a class above BYU. Truthfully, we should have conceded it five years ago.
It’s not an easy thing to do for the once proud football juggernaut that dominated the headlines in the Intermountain West.
While Utah and Boise St. have enjoyed multiple BCS seasons, it seems BYU has been busy trying to figure out which color of uniform to wear, and where exactly they fit into the college football landscape as an independent.
The only constant has been a football team stuck in mediocrity.
It’s not a new thing, the slide has been happening for over two decades, right around the end of the Ty Detmer era.
There have been bright spots during the slide, such as the Steve Sarkisian Cotton Bowl, the Beck to Harline miracle, and the Max Hall stunner against Oklahoma, but those types of moments have become extremely rare.
What Cougar Nation has become familiar with is tons of wins over lowly WAC opponents, and a never-ending string of beat downs to western rivals Utah, Boise State, and TCU.
The last decade has been literally owned by the above-mentioned football programs, all playing in BCS bowl games.
Not only did Utah, TCU, and Boise State play in them, but they won in style.
Heck, even Hawaii has been to the BCS Sugar Bowl.
As for BYU?
Nothing. Just one big game loss after another.
And while Utah, TCU, and Boise State have been rewarded with BCS conference invites, BYU has been left to an independent road to irrelevance.
Independence wouldn’t be so bad if BYU had a football program that won big games, but you simply can’t be an independent and lose every big game opportunity.
Look, facts are stubborn things, and the data shows that BYU can’t perform at a level that even warrants being considered a good national football program, or deserving of a BCS conference invite.
Over the past 20 years, Utah owns BYU 13-7, in fact, BYU hasn’t beaten Utah by more than a touchdown since 1996. Yes, you read that right, 1996!
When BYU does win, it’s such a dramatic miracle, whether it’s Beck to Harline, Max Hall to Austin Collie “magic happens,” or Brandon Doman’s miracle win that sent LaVell Edwards out a winner.
Come on, BYU hasn’t beat Utah convincingly in nearly 20 years. That’s an astounding fact!
You would think that at some point, BYU would be able to grab a convincing home win against Utah in the past 17 years. After all, we are talking about Utah, not Florida or Auburn.
But they can’t. They have been outplayed and out-coached consistently for over two decades in the Holy War.
On the national scene, it only gets worse. Since 1999, BYU is a woeful 5-18 against ranked opponents, and many of those losses are against TCU, Utah, and Boise St.
So what am I getting at?
Something is seriously wrong with the program. The competitiveness is gone.
Even though we are spoon-fed 10 win seasons by Bronco Mendenhall, it’s an illusion, not success.
What good are wins over teams like New Mexico State and Weber State when you can’t beat Utah?
What good are wins over Washington State and Ole Miss when you can’t even win a quarter of your games against top 25 opponents?
I know BYU is faced with its share of competitive disadvantages, such as recruiting players to uphold the honor code, and players coming and going through the revolving door called missions.
They are heckled for their religious beliefs at nearly every venue they travel. They are under extreme pressure from fans who want so badly to see them overcome the above mentioned challenges.
Maybe the success fans want so badly is the true illusion?
Maybe the self-imposed restrictions placed on the program are too much to overcome for the coaches and players they are able to recruit?
Maybe wins over Washington State and Ole Miss are serious achievements and to ask more of BYU is unrealistic?
Or maybe there really is something wrong with the competitiveness of the BYU football program?
I can say with certainty that BYU has been totally unprepared to play the Holy War against Utah in the Mendenhall era. They are just mentally unprepared. It makes you wonder what is happening in practice in the lead up. You would think that after a hundred years of experience they would prepare the offensive line for the noise of Rice-Eccles Stadium, or that they would prepare for the energy that Utah ALWAYS brings.
Every rivalry game in the Mendenhall era is a never ending game of catch up for BYU, that usually ends with a lack of execution, or a mental blunder.
BYU is always in punt-first or play-for-overtime mode.
Bronco then spends the entire post game telling the media how proud he is of his young men for coming back and competing.
What ever happened to just kicking your rival’s backside once every few years?
No apologies or comebacks needed.
But for nearly two decades BYU has been unable to win convincingly in the rivalry game.
And to me that is the convincing evidence I need to realize that BYU has lost the competitive edge that defined them in the 1980’s and put the program on the map.
Look, I like Mendenhall, he no doubt saved the program for the train wreck that was Gary Crowton. He has restored integrity to the program, and that is first and foremost.
But he hasn’t delivered any on field success on the national scale, and has delivered very minimal success in the Holy War.
So maybe it’s time to entertain the thought that somebody other than Mendenhall could deliver that long lost success, I don’t know?
One thing we do know is that Mendenhall can coach defense. He proved that again in the 7-6 loss to Boise St.
I saw more passion from Mendenhall after BYU stopped Boise St on the BYU one yard line than I’ve seen in Bronco’s entire tenure at BYU.
He has a passion for the defensive side of the ball. But as a head coach, he has been erratic.
Even last night when he chose to be aggressive and go for two points to win the game, it was a bizarre decision. Here was a Boise team that hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown all night, or had any confidence in their field goal kicker, yet Bronco, who usually does play for overtime, takes the game out of his defense’s hands and goes for two with a freshman QB?
Taysom Hill had just proven he could move the ball with his previous touchdown drive, the defense was lights out, Boise didn’t even have a kicker, and Bronco hangs the game on one play?
Yet against Utah last Saturday, he punts with six minutes to go trailing by 10?
In the end, whether he is aggressive or passive, the result has been the same against top 25 competition.
As I stated earlier, maybe BCS type of success is just and impossibility, an illusion?
Maybe the unique circumstances at BYU are too much to overcome in the modern era.
I’m still trying to figure that one out.
But one thing is for certain, under Mendenhall, BYU is 4-10 against top 25 teams, and 3-5 against Utah.
Not in my book.
In the meantime, Utah has scoreboard once again, as does Boise St.
And yes Bronco, both Utah and Boise St. fans are telling you, and all of us about it, daily!