Another BYU loss to Utah is a hard pill to swallow.
No Cougar—fan, booster, player or coach—likes losing to the Utes. Especially since it is the fourth in a row, watching the time slip away in a 20-13 outcome stung more than most.
We learned a lot about this Cougar team on Saturday. Some things are big, others are not. But any good program has to make adjustments to become better than they were the week before.
Here are five lessons to be learned from Saturday's Holy War.
Running the ball was crucial in the Cougars' win over Texas, and struggling with it hurt them against Utah. With only 183 rushing yards in the Utes game (Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill both had individual performances higher than that against the Longhorns), it became apparent that running is an essential factor in Robert Anae's offense.
The lone bright spots in the ground attack came off of a pair of long Hill runs—15 and 40 yards—and toughness shown from Williams, Paul Lasike and Michael Alisa. BYU will need to adjust their rushing game and improve by Friday, even if they are without Williams.
BYU's biggest weakness thus far has been extending drives on third down, and it showed against Utah. The Cougs are ranked 97th nationally in third down conversion percentage, and converted on less than 24 percent of their third downs against Utah.
But their lack of execution could be the result of sloppy first—and second—down plays. As Greg Wrubell noted, the offense's setup for third down plays a big role:
BYU, when throwing on 3rd-and-7 or longer this season, has completed 1-of-24 passes (Mitch Mathews' 18-yard catch v. Utah on 3rd-and-13).— Greg Wrubelll (@gregwrubell) September 23, 2013
Of course, this only applies to when BYU passes on 3rd-and-7 or longer. Running on 3rd-and-long in the fourth quarter is not factored in.
If it wasn't obvious before, it is now.
BYU has a very, very inexperienced secondary.
Too many times we have seen big plays given up on defense because of a simple lack of communication. Especially when Skye PoVey is pulled to blitz, the more inexperienced players aren't reacting in time to stop the screen or short routes.
In the end, it will take time for this unit to become better, and in-game experience will help with that.
Michael Alisa was the hidden gem in the Utah game, and although his numbers weren't flashy, he showed up to play. The senior running back ran six times for only 12 yards, but scored a touchdown to bring BYU back in the game.
Also, he recovered a muffed punt and ran it into the end zone, and although it was called back, Alisa's ability to anticipate the bounce and recover the ball was impressive. Props to you, Mr. Alisa.
A week before the annual rivalry game, I mentioned to a friend, "If BYU loses their fourth straight game to Utah, Bronco doesn't deserve to stay at BYU".
Well, the Cougars did lose, and I am standing by my former statement.
It is unbelievable that BYU should lose yet another game to Utah, and no matter whom you blame, it all comes back to the head coach.
Mendenhall's clock management was just as bad as any other year, and although the team limited turnovers, they still looked unprepared. I'm in no position to call for anyone's head, but if it were my decision, Bronco's time in blue would be running out.