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October 8, 2012A win is a win. Even when it starts and ends with bad news for the rest of the season. The night started off with the news that Famika Anae is done for his career after he helped jump start a struggling offensive line last week against Hawaii, then ended with the unnecessary injury of Taysom Hill. It was another huge error by the coaches, and it is certainly the saddest to date.
BYU fans everywhere are sick to their stomach knowing that Taysom Hill was injured on a quarterback draw that just as easily could have been a kneel down. No wonder the SEC won't accept online math classes. Math matters, and this was probably Bronco and Doman's biggest math blunder of their careers. We don't know yet how bad the injury is, but it is so unfortunate when a player gets injured, and it is just a tragedy when it could have been easily avoided by a little attention to detail from the coaches.
There has been a lot of talk about how 19 carries is too much for a quarterback, but a smaller Braxton Miller at Ohio State ran it 27 times against UCF earlier this season and 23 times against Michigan State a few weeks ago. The difference is how they run it. I think that there are very few instances where a quarterback draw should be called by the offensive coordinator. If the other team is leaving it wide open play after play then go ahead and call it. Three yards and a cloud of dust however is not wide open. If they are occasionally leaving it open then let your quarterback audible into it when it is open, but don't call it in from the booth. Certainly don't call it as one of your staple run plays. The quarterback himself will keep the defense honest just by his mobility on called pass plays, if the receivers aren't open but the middle of the field is then he will run it himself, and get you a lot more yards than if you have the quarterback draw as one of your go-to play calls.
I had a fever Friday night, and the only cure was more option. The option was really good against Utah State in the very few times it was called. The draw wasn't effective, but the option was, so the logical choice was to call more draw plays right? It must be some kind of reverse psychology that is way over my head. Not only would the option have gained BYU a lot more yards than those draw plays, but Taysom would have only gotten hit half the time while still maintaining his threat as a runner. Not to mention that when he does get hit it is usually a lot less of a blow than he would take by running right at the middle linebackers and lowering his shoulders for an extra yard. This is all a moot point now this season anyway, because Taysom is probably done for the year, and Riley isn't fast enough to run the option effectively.
Taysom looked much better throwing the ball on Friday night than he did against Hawaii, against a better defense as well. He was a little late/behind Hoffman on their two deeper connections, but Hoffman made it happen. The fade route to Hoffman that was borderline pass interference was just a little too far inside, if that's a yard closer to the sideline than Hoffman would have had it. That was quite the interesting strategy taken by the Utah State cornerbacks, to avoid a face guarding pass interference call they would turn and locate the ball then turn back to the receiver and play the receiver instead of the ball. As a referee I would have still called it because it is still face guarding, the defender just turned and looked up a couple of steps ago.
There is criticism that despite Taysom looking so good throwing and distributing the ball that he's only as good as the number of points that BYU puts on the board. In an offense like BYU's right now where the goal is to get manageable 3rd down situations and move the chains slowly but surely any penalty is a killer. Looking at BYU's drives, the first one was killed by Paul Lasike's fumble on 4th and 1, and the second one was killed by Friel's rare drop that would have moved the chains. Speaking of drops, Utah State's Chuck Jacobs was terrible catching the ball, he wasn't as bad as BYU's field goal blocking and kicking though. The third drive was a punt, fourth drive was a blocked field goal, and the fifth drive was killed by a false start that put BYU at 1st and 15. The sixth drive was a thing of beauty, I loved the post corner call by Doman, Hoffman got open, adjusted to the late ball and made a nice grab on the sideline. Another great call by Doman on the second play of delaying Hoffman across a wide open middle while Utah State was playing prevent. And a third great call to have Falslev pivot to the outside while the corner vacated the flat following Hoffman across the middle.
BYU got the ball on the 9 yard line on the following drive because this BYU defense is ridiculous, but Braden Brown was called for holding because this offensive line is also ridiculous. The most ridiculous of all is the field goal kicking unit, so BYU faked the field goal and managed to lose 16 yards on the play and not put any points on the board despite the defense gift wrapping points for them. The next drive was killed by another holding penalty by Braden Brown, followed by a punt on the next drive, then Taysom threw his interception. Taysom was a little bit late on the throw and probably didn't put enough mustard on it to get it to Friel who was open initially, but Taysom was late on the throw and the linebacker made a great play. Another punt on the ensuing possession, then BYU was able to run the clock out thanks to Doman figuring out the effectiveness of Hill running the option. Better late than never. So that is only 3 punts when a penalty or drop didn't kill a drive, as this offense was able to gain 380 yards, 235 through the air and 145 on the ground against the toughest defense BYU has faced thus far this year.
It was puzzling to see Hill struggle to find somebody open downfield so frequently when he rolled out of the pocket. The chances of Utah State being able to cover all of BYU's receivers for that long is really unlikely, so I think Hill does decide to run sooner than he should, and I think he missed opportunities to make plays with his arm when there really wasn't anything to be gained with his legs. Utah State did a really good job of limiting Hill's running lanes when he rolled out of the pocket.
BYU's running game mostly struggled outside of running the option. Utah State was better laterally than I thought they would be, and I think this O-Line missed Famika Anae's contribution up front. There were some holes made in between the tackles, so that was encouraging, and once again I don't recall a single tackle for a loss in BYU's backfield. BYU didn't give up any sacks either, which is so important to what BYU is trying to do offensively. I think that moving Hansen to center has been the primary factor in BYU's ability to not give up any tackles for a loss on any run plays the last two games, it was killing this BYU run game before that and it has been a big improvement.
Bronco Mendenhall's defense is top flight SEC good. Ziggy sniffed out a screen pass in one of Utah State's first drives and that pretty well summed up Utah State's night offensively. These guys hit so hard, and fly around, and they didn't give Utah State anything. Utah State ran for 41 yards on BYU, they ran for three times that against Wisconsin and four times that against Utah. On that fumble Sorenson played it very well and Keeton spun inside and got lit up by Spencer Hadley. Van Noy on one play stopped both the quarterback and the pitch man, and on another play absolutely laid into Keeton and prevented a first down. He is unreal. Preston Hadley played really well and Ziggy showed his crazy athleticism on a number of plays. I thought that Keeton played well, he showed excellent patience on a number of plays and was about as effective as he could be. His patience in the pocket whenever BYU's pass rush wasn't there helped Utah State make some plays, but even when you thought Utah State would make a play somebody on this defense would usually come up big. I think that the new-found athleticism at free safety for BYU has been the biggest difference in this defense. There are a number of constants in this BYU defense from last year, yet last year's defense isn't anywhere near as good as this year's defense. A lot of the players are one year older and more experienced but they also lost Hebron Fangupo and Jordan Pendleton, and have now lost Manumaleuna. Preston Hadley is a better player this year and Jordan Johnson is looking like he is probably an upgrade from Corby Eason, so the difference between great and greatest ever at BYU appears to be in the secondary. The good news is that this secondary is going to be just as good next year. I expect to see SEC level defenses at BYU for as long as Bronco Mendenhall is here, which will be as long as he wants it to be.
BYU kept the Wagon Wheel at home and they appear to me to be the best team in the state. This offense however has been the worst in the state, and with the bad news from the last play of the game, it looks to me like this offense just got worse.
Follow me on Twitter: @lancewarchibald