What a weekend to be a BYU women's soccer fan! For everybody else, including the droves of BYU fans at the San Jose State game, just know that BYU is one game closer to the Bronco-Riley man-crush never affecting another one your weekends. New Mexico State is the worst team in FBS football, so Bronco could crush on me to start at quarterback and BYU would still win that game comfortably. BYU fans, you only need to endure one more potentially embarrassing game before the 2013 season begins and a real BYU offense is marched onto the field led by a real BYU quarterback.
If you just got back from your mission, and this was the first game you saw all season, then you just saw BYU's season condensed into 60 minutes of game time. Saturday nights game against San Jose State perfectly summed up the season for BYU fans. The secondary struggled to cover the deep ball at times and the offensive line struggled to open up holes for Jamaal. Riley brushed logic and proper decision making to the side, tried to make heroic plays, was very inaccurate, made a few big plays with pure grit and determination, played hurt, and came close but lost.
The good news is that Bronco called an excellent game on the defensive side of the ball. The defense got shredded in the first half, but it wasn't due to Bronco being overly conservative. He consistently had 4 or 5 guys rushing the quarterback, but they just had a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback early in the game. I don't know what happened to the SJSU offensive line from when Utah State sacked Fales 13 times to when BYU couldn't get much pressure on him on Saturday, but that O-Line was a totally different unit. When that SJSU offensive line plays well, that offense is very good, but Bronco made some adjustments at half time and SJSU was held to zero points and under 100 yards in the second half. As a matter of fact, SJSU only drove into BYU territory once in the entire second half, and that drive only got them to the BYU 46 yard line after gaining 9 yards on a 3rd and 23. Very, very impressive defensive performance by the players in the second half and excellent coaching job by Bronco on the defensive side of the ball.
That side of the ball is precisely where Bronco's coaching greatness ends. Bronco played Riley hurt again! Losing to Utah and Boise State wasn't painful enough for him, he wanted to lose again, this time to SJSU! Why!? Why would you ever play Riley while he is hurt when Lark is just as good as a healthy Riley!? Not that a healthy Riley would have necessarily won the game for BYU anyway.
People are pointing at the offensive line right now, and they had their struggles, but Riley's disregard for making good decisions with the ball was really bad. On his pre-snap reads before the first fumble that he lost (This is the play after his first fumble that he recovered himself. The good thing about fumbling the ball so often is that he's gotten a lot of practice at recovering fumbles, and he's now one of the best quarterbacks in the country at recovering his own fumble), he would have seen 4 down linemen and 2 blitzing linebackers. That's 6 rushing defenders to his 5 offensive linemen, with no runningbacks in his empty backfield. Somebody is going to be coming in untouched so you need to get rid of the ball right away. It's as simple as that. If your quick route on your first read isn't open then just throw it at his feet and live to play another down. Once again it was his idea that he needs to be a hero that turned the ball over for the Cougars. He didn't care that somebody was coming in untouched, he was going defy all odds and get a first down on that play anyway, that is until he got sacked and fumbled the ball away to the other team. Lesson learned.
While we are on the topic of sacks that result in fumbles that cost BYU the game, let's talk about his second fumble that he lost. On BYU's last offensive play of the game, SJSU was bringing a blitz up the middle and briging a blitzing outside linebacker on Riley's right side. This time there was a running back in to help with pass protection, so nobody was coming in untouched, but you still have to know that you don't have much time. Riley had combo routes on each side, 5 yard hitches by the receivers and corner routes by the tight end and the slot receiver. On his left is Hoffman and Friel, and on his right is Falslev and Apo. The blitz is coming from the right side, so where do you make your first read? The right side! But Hoffman is on Riley's left so obviously Riley is going to key in on Hoffman, and the blitzing linebacker hurdles a poor block by Williams and the game is over. The problem is that the cornerback on the left side had safety help over the top, and he knows that Riley's not going to have much time to throw so the corner played the short route on Hoffman. If Riley would have looked where he was supposed to, to the side vacated by the blitzing linebacker, he would have seen that the blitzing outside linebacker left man to man coverage on Apo with the safety covering Falslev man to man. That cornerback didn't have safety help so he gave Apo a big cushion and the 5 yard hitch was wide open.
Hoffman was incredible. Talk about man-crushes, I haven't crushed on any man this hard since Steve Young was throwing touchdowns to Jerry Rice with the 49ers. He is one of the best wide receivers in the country, and certainly one of the best in Cougar history, so he's a good guy to key in on. I actually think that Heaps would have been a lot more successful and might still be at BYU if he would have keyed in on Hoffman instead of Apo in 2011. It's a much better idea to not key in on anybody however, and just make your reads and deliver the ball to the open receiver. On Riley's very costly interception that he threw, he had a combo route with Ridley wide open on his short route underneath, while Hoffman ran a corner route over the top. The cornerback knew that Riley was going to Hoffman, so he left Ridley wide open underneath (Ridley was Riley's first read on that play but he never even looked at him) and double teamed Hoffman on the corner route, which Riley underthrew to make it that much easier of an interception.
As I said earlier, a lot of fingers are being pointed at the offensive line, as it seemed as though they really digressed from when they man-handled Georgia Tech a few weeks earlier. But I'm not so sure that wasn't San Jose State daring Riley to throw the ball. San Jose State was very aggressive, on a lot of the runs in between the tackles there were a lot more SJSU hats in the box than there were BYU big fellas up front. One good example was the play action bootleg where Riley hit Wilson for a nice gain, they really bit hard on that play action fake, Wilson was open, and Riley had plenty of time to make the throw on the bootleg. SJSU was bound and determined to stop the run at all costs and Williams still managed to somehow still average 4 yards per carry. I don't think that it was necessarily Weber or the O-Line's fault that BYU couldn't establish a good run game in between the tackles. I think that Doman was a little bit slow in seeing what the defense was giving him.
I liked the option calls later in the game, I would have liked to have seen more of those earlier, and BYU really needed more toss sweeps. I also would have liked more shovel passes and screen passes to Williams in the flats to help counter SJSU's aggressiveness. Doman really wanted to establish the line of scrimmage on offense, and he kept at it for too long. SJSU brought a good game-plan, and Doman had a hard time adjusting to it, but called a very good game in the second half and BYU was able to put up a ton of yards. Jamaal's run on the option touchdown was really nice, and he showed some great hands on some of those late pitches by Riley. Austin Collie knows the game of football pretty well, and he tweeted out that "Jamaal Williams will be the best player to ever come to BYU." I wouldn't go that far, but that is certainly some pretty high praise from one of BYU's greatest himself.
There were some gutty and clutch plays made by Riley, and lots nice throws to Hoffman, to get to the Cougars into those positions in the first place, but there were also a lot of missed throws that would have really helped to keep them from having to play from behind. The clutchest of them all was one of BYU's plays of the year where Riley breaks two tackles to avoid the sack and threw a strike to Foote for the touchdown. I also thought that Riley had more zip on his balls than he usually does, but he struggled with accuracy, only completing 55% of his passes. With how committed SJSU was to over-playing the run, BYU was right to throw the ball 51 times, but they needed better than a 112.6 QB rating and 3 turnovers from their senior quarterback to win this game.
P.S. Awesome onside kick by Justin Sorenson, great punting by Riley Stephenson, and Russell Tialavea's blocked extra point put BYU in position to win the game if the offense could have just made one less mistake.
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