Now we all know what Brandon Ogletree meant when he said that Ziggy Ansah didn't dominate games. Ziggy doesn't dominate games to the degree that Kyle Van Noy did last night. Kyle Van Noy single handedly outscored the BYU offense, and doubled San Diego State's point total.
The defense was incredible, and true to form for this entire year BYU's defense was unreal in the second half. This BYU Cougar defense is probably the best second half defense in the country, and it would be really interesting to see where they fit in history in the second half of games. That can be attributed to Bronco Mendenhall's in game adjustments and the defensive players' ability to execute the change because of their knowledge of the game from all of the film study they have done throughout the week.
I still remember thinking just a few years ago that Bronco and Anae were too stubborn to make any second half adjustments. Bronco however wasn't the defensive coordinator at that time, and he is without a doubt one of the premier defensive minds in college football. Losing Van Noy (If he stays, he is a much more loyal man than myself. After a game like that I would have declared my eligibility for the draft right then and there) and Ansah will hurt BYU's ability to make big plays for turnovers and stops behind the line scrimmage next year, but the culture at BYU has been established. As long as Bronco is around and the defensive players study the game as intently as this unit did, the Cougar defense is going to be a mainstay in the top 15 nationally. They have been close to that in the past, but this isn't the Mountain West Conference anymore. BYU, against a top 40 caliber schedule is going to face some prolific offenses, and the defense will keep them right there with a chance to win in every single game.
Bronco is loving life right now, if he isn't surfing at this very moment, he will be shortly. His defense won the bowl game against his mentor's team and James Lark struggled so Bronco looks like less of an offensive moron for keeping him on the bench his entire career. Every bowl season it is brought up that the Cougars don't use all of their allotted bowl practice sessions. Bronco has an excellent bowl resume, so you can't argue with his results. You can argue with his team's performance at the beginning of most seasons however, so I believe that the correct formula is to rest your starters but use the extra 7 unused practice sessions to help develop the youth on the team for future seasons. Also on the team that could have used the extra practice time was senior quarterback James Lark.
Not only has Lark only started one game in his career and only had a few weeks of reps with the starting offense, but Doman had just installed a spread offense exclusively run from the shotgun that mostly employs four wide receivers. Give the man some reps! No wonder Lark struggled and the offense spurted! Let the starting defensive unit rest, they're incredible and do not need the practice time right now. The offense really needed the practice time, and the second team defense could have used the work for next year.
Regarding the offense, I love the fact that Doman is going in the direction of this same pass first offense in the future. The last two recruiting classes have been full of outstanding receivers, and Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum are licking their chops right now. I still believe that the future is very bright on offense at BYU.
I didn't like Doman's play calling at the beginning of the game. He was far too conservative calling way too many bubble screens when Lark was deadly accurate throwing short routes in middle of the field. Lark had only missed the receiver on 3 throws and was 4 for 6 throwing on 3rd downs for 4 first downs when Bronco pulled him in the second quarter. The offense wasn't scoring because Doman hadn't opened it up until the previous series when Lark did well, but missed Apo on a fade route and took a sack on a blind side corner blitz to force the punt.
Riley had a nice run for a first down but obviously was struggling with his accuracy. Hopefully this season is the last time BYU fans find themselves wishing that a Cougar player would get knocked out of the game so that his backup can play instead. Riley begged and lobbied to have himself put in very bad situations for him and his team this year by playing hurt, and Bronco did him and the program a huge disservice by playing him hurt and giving him no chance to succeed. 0 for 2 with 1 INT and 13 yards rushing while playing hurt really sums up this season for Riley.
I did find a new appreciation for Riley while watching SDSU's QB Adam Dingwell against this Cougar defense. He accounted for 5 turnovers and gave up twice as many points to the defense as he did his team. The fumble in the endzone was hardly his fault, Kyle Van Noy owned that right tackle. The interception to Ziggy also wasn't necessarily his fault, but the other 2 interceptions were painfully bad. I can't explain it. I have no idea why he threw those passes. When he did happen to throw the ball well the chances were slim that his receivers would catch it anyway, I think that they kept having flashbacks of Craig Bills' monster hit on their poor unsuspecting teammate. He had never been hit that hard in his life, and his teammates didn't want to experience it for themselves.
Almost as puzzling as to why Dingwell threw the passes that he threw, was why he was passing the ball in the first place. Muema was so good for SDSU, if there was a crease there he was going to find it and hit it for 8+ yards. He had 26 carries in the first three quarters for 103 yards and one catch and run for 34 yards that made him look unstoppable. At the end of the third quarter San Diego State was up 6-3, and it looked like SDSU was going to try to keep running the ball and let their defense win the game for them. They probably would have kept with that strategy if it wasn't for the one and only Riley Stephenson.
Stephenson had already pinned the Aztecs inside the 5 yard line 3 times, when he pinned them on the one yard line. The previous three times that they were pinned inside the 5, the Aztecs ran the ball with Muema. The first two series with their heels on the goalline he ended up running for a first down, but in the third series in this situation Muema was stopped for no gain and SDSU had to pass the ball on 3rd and 10 from the 2 yard line. This is what led to the decision to pass the ball on 1st and 10 from the 3, and a demonstration by Van Noy of how he owns everybody in an Aztec uniform. If he didn't have one already, Riley Stephenson just earned himself a spot on an NFL roster.
Why didn't Lark own everybody in an Aztec uniform? I thought that the play calling was good the series before he was replaced by Riley, and the play calling seemed good to me from then on. Lark struggled throwing the same out route that he earned his living on against New Mexico State. He was great throwing to the middle of the field all game, except for when he threw it behind Hoffman at the goal line and was intercepted. San Diego State brought a ton of pressure, but Lark just missed throws that I fully expected him to make. I do think that all of the hits that he took played with his mind and affected his performance.
On both interceptions that he threw he was going to take a big hit from a blitzing linebacker, and it directly affected his throw. The double move that was intercepted was thrown off his back foot to try to lessen the blow, and he didn't have nearly enough on the ball because of it. He had time to throw the ball, it just would have hurt a lot. The slant route that was intercepted at the goalline was behind Hoffman because of where Lark's feet and off shoulder were aiming. He stepped to the left instead of toward Hoffman so that he wasn't stepping into the hit. Lark's a tough guy, he just hadn't been hit like this before, and this is something he could have focused on in the next game, if there was one.
James Lark went out on top. He stuck with it over the years and managed to lead his team to a much needed bowl victory. Kyle Van Noy, Cody Hoffman, Spencer Hadley, Brandon Ogletree and Ziggy Ansah finished the season with a great game, and only time will tell whether Van Noy and Hoffman are back in Cougar blue next year. Either way, Cougar nation is already counting down the days till their team is back in action.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial