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September 18, 2012Could the cards be stacked in BYU's favor any more than they were for Saturday's game? Out for Utah: Second team all Pac 12 RB John White IV, starting QB Jordan Wynn, starting SS Brian Blechen, and starting FS Eric Rowe. Calling the shots on offense, a 25 year old first year offensive coordinator. 25 years old! Just this last February he finally got a break on his car insurance for no longer being a youthful driver! Farmers Insurance barely trusts him to drive but he can be trusted to orchestrate drives against Mendenhall's best senior laden BYU defense?
BYU also has a senior starting quarterback, with total continuity in the coaching staff from last year. Utah lost to a tough Utah State team the week before while BYU enjoyed a scrimmage with Weber State. Utah had two advantages that proved more valuable than all of BYU's advantages combined, the services of Kyle Whittingham, and a very raucous home crowd.
Whitt's best is just plain better than Bronco's best. Bronco's best season in 2006 was an 11-2 finish and a trouncing of Oregon (before they were Oregon) in the Las Vegas Bowl, Whittingham's best season in 2008 was a two touchdown Sugar Bowl victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Whittingham always brings his A game in rivalry games and he is now 5-3 against Bronco, having won 3 straight. The good news for BYU fans is that there is a chance for victory in the future. All Bronco needs is an NFL-bound QB for a 60% chance of winning! When Bronco has an NFL bound quarterback at the helm he is 3-2 against Whitt, 2-0 when those quarterbacks are seniors. So you're saying there's a chance!? There is hope that BYU can get back to its winning ways against Utah next year when Taysom Hill is under center, although they won't be playing each other in Taysom's senior season, so no guarantees.
Watching the game was so frustrating for BYU fans, it was easy to want to blame Riley, although in hind sight it's hard to assign much blame to any individual. Riley's interception that he threw would have been catch-able for Hoffman, but right as Riley threw it Hoffman broke off the route to cut it back to the outside. Him and Riley just weren't on the same page there, so Riley threw the slant and got picked off. You just have to credit Utah's defense on that play, Riley needed to get rid of the ball because of the pressure they were putting on him, and the coverage was too tight so Hoffman tried a double move to shake the defender. As Criddle and Alema covered on 960am The Zone in their segment with Jake Kuresa and Lance Reynolds Jr, the missed shotgun snap that may have been the single most important play in the game was mostly Riley's fault. At that point in the game, BYU was using a silent cadence because of how totally disruptive the crowd noise was, and the signal that Riley was ready for the snap was for him to move his foot. He moved his foot while he was signaling the audible to his receivers, so Tushaus snapped the ball. It's hard to swallow that a mistake as small as Riley unconsciously moving his foot would likely cost BYU the game, which is why it might be a good idea for the coaching staff to adjust the silent count signal as Lance Reynolds Jr pointed out. Riley's completion percentage of 48.6% is terrible, but a large part of that was passes being batted at the line of scrimmage and his arm being hit while throwing it. Really the biggest gripe about Riley's play would just be that he needed to get the ball out sooner and make his reads quicker, but it didn't look like he had very many open receivers to throw to other than Hoffman.
Hoffman is and always will be open. 8 catches, 120 yards receiving and a touchdown. I had heard the debate as to who is better out of him and Devonte Christopher before the season started, and there is no debate there. Devonte isn't anywhere close to as good as Hoffman. I wouldn't be surprised if Hoffman left for the NFL after this season. I thought that the other wide receivers might have a hard time getting open, but I didn't think it would be as bad as it was. Apo should have had a catch, but I don't know if I've ever seen a quarterback have as hard of a time throwing the bubble screen as Riley does. Falslev's one catch for 3 yards was the only other catch by a wide receiver, if you can call him that as a slot receiver. Friel had five catches and Wilson had one, and I wonder if Riley should have targeted the tight ends even more. Alisa had two catches, he might have been another target that Riley could have looked to more to get the ball out of his hands faster.
I liked the way that Doman called the game in the running game. I didn't like all of the option plays that he ran with Riley, those were so terribly ineffective, I would have preferred to see that called only when Hill was in the game. BYU fans did get a glimpse of how good of an option combo Hill and Williams will be in the future, which is definitely an explosive duo. Williams and Alisa both ran really well, and it looks like Williams is the second string running back from here on out. I did like how Doman only called run plays off tackle and outside the tackle. Doman knew there was nothing there for BYU up the middle, so don't waste a down trying to run it there. If you would have told me before the game that BYU's primary backs would average 3.7 ypc and Utah would average only 2.3 ypc, then I would have told you that BYU wins. BYU had more than 100 yards rushing to Utah's 49 yards rushing, the running game for BYU was more effective than I thought it would be, but there were just too many mistakes made to sustain drives.
The sacks and penalties called on the offensive line were very costly against a defense like Utah's where every yard and down counts. The O-line was improved from the week before in their run blocking, and their pass blocking was okay considering the front four they were lined up against. I think that Riley might have just had a hard time adjusting his inner clock to match their pass rush. He has had so much time to throw the ball in the previous two games, I think playing against a defense like Utah's was a big adjustment for him. This was the best defense he has ever faced, other than maybe Florida State who he played a quarter against back in 2010. The incredible thing about Utah's defense is how good they are at forcing turnovers, without missing tackles or giving up too many big plays. It could have been a lot worse than it was, BYU put the ball on the ground a lot, and were very fortunate to recover so many of their own fumbles.
The BYU defense played well. They didn't force any turnovers like I thought they would, but they really stuffed the run game. They only gave up a total of 245 yards and 14 first downs. They put a ton of pressure on Jon Hays, sacking him 4 times and hurrying him a number of other times. This BYU pass rush is light years ahead of where it was last year. Ziggy really did well rushing the quarterback, and again Manumaleuna's athleticism stood out to me. I think Manumaleuna might have a good shot to play in the NFL next year, and I will be shocked if Van Noy doesn't leave for the NFL after this season. Kaveinga made a violent tackle that stopped Lucky Radley in his tracks so fast I was surprised to see Radley get up. Along those same lines BYU seemed to struggle at points in the game with missed tackles because they were too amped up for the rivalry game. Instead of breaking down and wrapping up, there were a lot of BYU tacklers leaving their feet to try to make a big hit and missing the ball carrier in the open field. The run defense was great, I was a little concerned because of how Weber State was able to run the ball against BYU, but the defense came out and really stuffed the run. There were only two pass plays I can think of that weren't defended well, the bubble screen to Reggie Dunn that he took across the field laterally for a big gain, and the ever so costly touchdown pass to Dres Anderson. Jordan Johnson didn't seem to be on his game, he was late reacting to short passes early in the game, then gave up that touchdown pass later in the game. He did make some good plays, but if he just would have turned his head to see the ball on that touchdown pass I think he could have made a play on it. Hays under threw the receiver quite a bit and Jordan was right there. That had to be Hays' best game of his career. He was the player of the game, and it wasn't because he was exploiting any BYU weaknesses. The pass rush was great, and the coverage was usually very tight. He was just putting the ball on the money, with a defender right on the receiver, and delivering the ball with pressure in his face. I kept on waiting for him to make a mistake because I was sure that he couldn't keep it up all game, and the only thing that slowed him down was Utah calling running plays to try to run the clock down in the 4th quarter.
My what a 4th quarter. When Utah went up 24-7 with two touchdowns in a 5 minute span toward the end of the 3rd quarter BYU fans got that terrible feeling in their stomachs that only the memory of 54-10 can produce. For this BYU team to score 14 unanswered points and get into field goal range for the game tying attempt was really impressive. The first three quarters were so ugly, and so frustrating, it was good to get the momentum in the 4th quarter and make a very suspenseful game of it. With how much momentum BYU had you have to believe that they would have had the edge going into OT if that kick goes in. I said earlier that Hays was the player of the game, it might have been the Ute fan base for how disruptive they were the previous 3 quarters. But man did that fan base choke in critical moments in the 4th quarter. Even the Utah players on the sideline ran onto the field and started celebrating before the game was over, which is surprising given that these are student-athletes at the research institution that is the University of Utah in the ever so educated Pac 12 conference. Everybody makes mistakes though, even Einstein made a miscalculation or two during the course of his research. Fortunately for Utah, their mistake didn't end up costing them. Bronco's biggest concern coming out of fall camp was the kicking game. He may not have known how to keep the Utes from beating them, but at least he had a good idea of how they would beat his team. That's a step in the right direction isn't it?