College Football: What We Learned from the BYU—Utah Game

Sam YoshidaContributor ISeptember 19, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 22:  DeVonte Christopher #15 and Greg Bird #49 of the Utah Utes run onto the field before the game against the BYU Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

 Many discussions are being created by the Utah Valley about Saturday’s game between the Cougars and the Utes. Utah dominated BYU in Provo by a score of 54-10. Utah forced BYU to commit seven turnovers in the rout. Jake Heaps himself had two fumbles and one interception.

Now there are many Cougar fans arguing that without the turnovers BYU would have won the game. Many Ute fans are arguing that it was more than the turnovers and that the Utes would have won by the same amount either way.

Being a BYU student, I’m one of the very few people who doesn’t feel a strong loyalty towards either school. I’m from Idaho so my loyalty rests with Boise State. I was cheering for BYU, but I didn’t feel too heartbroken after the disappointing loss. My opinion on the game is more accurate than most other fans, and I’m here to tell you that we’ll never know what would have happened if BYU hadn’t committed seven turnovers. That’s why you play the game. One play can affect an entire game into changing the outcome. It’s hard to really gauge how good a team is when one team commits seven turnovers, so from what I saw here’s what we learned:



BYU is overrated. Leading up to the beginning of the season, there was so much praise from BYU students, local sports reporters and even national sports reporters about how this team could make a run at the BCS this year. Jake Heaps finished his season strong, while the Cougars ended the season winning six of their last eight games. This was their first year of independence which got the BYU fanbase excited. Many starters were returning, and they were only going to get better. Many of them failed to recognize was that their six wins included victories over San Diego State, Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado State, New Mexico and UTEP. BYU finished the season beating up on the basement of the Mountain West Conference. They didn’t prove anything with that so we couldn’t necessarily be convinced that they were going to be an excellent team this year.



Utah is good enough to capitalize on mistakes. While Utah either scored or started in the red zone after four of the seven BYU turnovers, Utah did a good job in executing. Utah scored 31 points off the turnovers. Utah made sure that BYU paid for their mistakes; proof enough that if BYU hadn’t turned the ball over so much the score would have been a little closer. The icing on the cake was when backup quarterback Riley Nelson fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter which was returned for a touchdown. Utah brought the killer instinct, and it blew the game open very early.



BYU was clearly outcoached by Utah. How did Kyle Whittingham respond after barely leading 14-10 at halftime? We all know about the turnovers, but besides that, Utah was moving the ball very effectively on the BYU defense while the BYU offense couldn’t get anything going against the defense. The Utes were able to pound the ball in the third quarter with John White IV and the defensive line of the Cougars couldn’t get any pressure on Jordan Wynn. I don’t know whether Brandon Doman doesn’t trust Heaps enough yet or what, but Heaps became too predictable in the second half. All of his passes were short out or curl routes. Utah expected that and started to call more cover-2 defenses. This eliminated Heaps’ reads and he had nowhere to go with the football. JJ Di Luigi became ineffective with the running game because BYU went strictly to passing after getting down. This all comes down to coaching. Whittingham adapted while Mendenhall and Doman looked flustered. That’s why if the game would have gone differently, and BYU didn’t commit all those turnovers, Utah still would have the game by a 10 to 14 point margin.



We’re still not quite sure how good Utah is. We definitely know how bad BYU is, but how good is Utah really? They still struggled on offense against Montana State and USC as well as in the first half of BYU. It was only after BYU’s defense had nearly given up that Utah was able to start moving on offense. How will they play against more composed offenses like Arizona or Arizona State? We’ll see how it plays out, but I wouldn’t be jumping on the Ute bandwagon just yet.

I’m not sure whether you can predict how the rest of the season will go for both teams by just this one game. I’m sure BYU will learn to fix its mistakes and start to get better. I don’t think they’ll get their 10 wins like everyone thinks they will, but I do know they’ll make it to a bowl game for the same reason they made it last year. I’m sure Utah will learn to get better. They do have some hope in winning their division in their first year in the Pac-12, but the loss to USC will make it more difficult.